Ideally, the tourism industry is a win-win situation. While travelers escape their normal routines to frolic and explore, they enhance the quality of life for the community by creating employment, generating tax dollars and attracting facilities and events that appeal to both visitors and locals.
To draw in visitors, tourism operators have realized the unlimited potential of social media. Research shows that travelers are increasingly using the internet to learn about destinations, and that they trust the reviews and recommendations from other travelers more than traditional media. User-generated photos, videos and opinions give travelers the quick, current information they need, from anywhere in the world, in a highly emotional and attractive way.
But despite the importance of these technologies, many Destination Marketing Organizations (DMO’s) haven’t taken the time to learn them.
DMO’s are the local, regional and provincial tourism associations (ie Tourism Victoria, Tourism Vancouver Island and Tourism British Columbia) that assist tourism operators with marketing their products. They create original advertising and promotional campaigns and provide research, education and training opportunities. Acting as a collective, they develop the future of tourism.
Because their existence depends entirely on tourism operators, DMO’s need to maintain the flow of destination information and stay connected to these businesses. If a traveler finds a whitewater rafting company with an amazing social media presence and decide to book a trip, they’ll want to find out more about the region. Instinct tells them to wander over to the local tourism association’s website, where all the info is bundled into a neat package. But when they look at the accommodation page, it’s just a list of participating businesses—something they could have Googled. By not jumping on the social media bus, DMO’s put themselves, and their tourism operators, at a major disadvantage.
Vancouver Island Tourism is a great example of an informed DMO. Their website has virtual guides, monthly travel specials, free travel information and links to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Flickr. On both the website and the social media sites, it’s easy to find the latest promotions, contests and information relating to specific businesses on Vancouver Island.
In order to be valuable, DMO’s need to keep up with the online presence of their tourism operators. It enhances the shared vision of the region, makes it easier for tourists to find information and keeps your website regularly updated with fresh, fun content. You can increase your revenue by reaching a worldwide audience while fostering local relationships. And because it’s free, it’s also an effective use of government money.