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Can You Help Tourism Operators Self-Promote?

The evolving role of Destination Marketers

Do you sometimes wonder about the role of municipal destination marketers in the Web 2.0 era? You might, if you think of your destination marketing organization in the traditional way as an intermediary between tourism operators and their markets.

Intermediaries in many industries have become less needed, and even outmoded, as customers have found their own preferred products and services and become accustomed to conducting their own transactions on the web. Travel agents can tell you something about what web self-service means.

The traditional DMO role of tourism industry intermediary, promoting a region’s collective tourism brand to the world at large, is becoming less effective because in today’s “customer-to-customer” marketplace tourists are using the web to define for themselves what the value of a given brand is.

There is still a role for professionals but it has changed. The DMO’s role today in relation to the regional tourist industry is not to intermediate, but to enable – to make your region’s tourism products best fit to compete and to assist them to build the largest volume of activity they can handle. By using web technologies effectively, municipal destination marketers can fulfill an indispensable role of making their tourism region stronger than the sum of its parts.

Giving Tourism Operators Tools to Self-Promote

The first step is to increase tourism visits and evaluations by giving local operators more tools to self-promote. Your website should offer multiple gateways for tourists to find out about events and tourism products under a variety of categories appropriate to the region – such as agri-tourism, heritage tours, sports events, festivals, wine tours and the like, in addition to standard products such as accommodations and restaurants. Using simple web tools you can offer your operators the ability to promote their events and their offerings, update the information themselves and directly benefit from the traffic generated to your website.

Then actively engage in search engine optimization, social media and advertising to promote the entire region, reaching a broader audience than your operators can reach independently.

One organization that functions very effectively as an enabler is the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation. This year the GPTMC has launched a new website and a related marketing campaign with the clear intention of working collaboratively with tourism operators to maximize their competitiveness.

At visitphilly.com, travelers can book hotels, flights, rental cars and attraction tickets for Philadelphia and its surrounding five-county region, find all of GPTMC’s social media accounts in one place and obtain photos, videos and descriptions of attractions, restaurants, shops, outdoor offerings, events and more. Drop-down interactive menus and vibrant photography are designed to keep visitors on the site longer, reflecting GPTMC research showing that the longer a person stays, the more likely he or she is to book a trip.

Moving the brand name to VisitPhilly from the previous longstanding site, www.GoPhila.com, was done specifically for search-engine optimization. In 2009, almost 75 per cent of GoPhila.com’s traffic came from search engines, according to a GPTMC release The name visitphilly.com was adopted to improve the website’s searchability. People type “visit,” “Philly” and “Philadelphia” when searching for travel information more than “go” or “Phila.”

The site is integrated with a $1.6-million advertising campaign that GPTMC launched May 30 including television, print and web ads banner ads. The campaign expresses affection for the city by playing on its nickname — “The City of Brotherly Love” — with the theme “With Love, Philadelphia XOXO.”

The ads can be viewed – and shared through social media channels – on www.visitphilly.com, and the site also offers travel deals that can be booked at visitphilly.com/withlove.

Integrated, web-centered tourism marketing

This integrated, web-centered marketing strategy shows that the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation is a leading example of how a DMO can assume a role that makes its regional tourism brand more than the sum of its parts. Of course many communities do not have comparable resources. But the ideas within www.visitphilly.com can be emulated in affordable and creative ways, such as partnerships.

Look, for example, at Philly Homegrown, a niche site that the GPTMC launched in June to promote Philadelphia’s foodshed. At http://food.visitphilly.com visitors can not only find food establishments by category but can see profiles and photographs of cheese makers, chefs, farmers and so on in the “Meet the Makers” section.

This appealing site has been conceived and executed as a partnership with companies in a particular industry segment. Smaller DMOs can take a similar approach through membership programs. The DMO website can provide operators with multiple listing levels, including niche sites, depending on the category of membership so that those who join have more options with more advertising opportunities.

Enabling Tourism Operators with Web Technologies

Using the innovative collaborative opportunities made possible by today’s web technologies, DMOs can give tourism operators a wider variety of channels to promote themselves. Thereby you can help the tourism sector to succeed and grow, by serving as its enabler.

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