2024 Destination Marketing Predictions Part 2: What’s a DMO to do?
January 2, 2024
Looking into the year ahead, we asked a few of our experts to weigh in on what DMOs could expect in 2024. No crystal balls were used, but instead pulling from data, experience, and a firm understanding of the industry, the following are our predictions for destination marketing in 2024.
Our first blog in this two-part series focuses on our predictions of what will be impacting and motivating travel in 2024. The following is the second part in the series and centers around the technology and trends DMOs will be tapping into in the new year.
What’s a dmo to do?
With everything from politics to escapism influencing travel in 2024, it can feel like a lot to wrap your arms around, so to speak, to create a marketing strategy that is intentional and effective on all fronts. Fortunately, as we move into 2024 there are a number of avenues to which destinations can turn to for insights to guide their marketing.
“Beyond hearing the sentiment and seeing it on social listening channels, destinations should be doubling down on working with their strategic partners to look at things like search intent trends, directional visitation insights, as well be willing to survey their targeted audiences to get a direct grasp on if and how deeply these factors are impacting the end result of someone visiting a destination or choosing not to,” said Insights Director Heather Molina.
“Strategies should be increasingly more data-informed, connecting the dots between online user content consumption behaviors with what’s happening with user behavior on their website and a competitor’s websites to further drive a measurable strategy,” Molina continued.
While data tools will be playing an increasingly important role throughout 2024, other technologies will also help drive success for DMOs, such as the continued use of artificial intelligence (AI). AI was a hot topic throughout 2023 and now that many across the industry have incorporated it into their workflow, we will see the use of it evolve at an astounding rate.
“Products that were once unthinkable will be off-the-shelf and cost $25 a month,” said Senior Vice President of Technology Curtis Thompson. “There will continue to be evolution in the space, but consumer demand will likely lag a bit behind. As the products prove to be valuable, people will begin to take notice and start to use them.”
“This will be a year where we see increasing adoption of AI, to fine tune automated tasks, such as reporting and optimizations.This will enable marketers to focus resources on uncovering insights to develop new strategies, testing opportunities such as content, copy and creative, to engage target audiences and further improve performance,” explained Glenn Pena, Senior Media Director.
But even with its increased use and evolution, AI will still continue to play a supporting role. “It’s designed to take creative input from a human being, accelerate and scale the ‘making’ and let a human then refine, correct, guide it to the imagined solution. It’s not so much an ‘originator’ as it is a ‘generator,” said Matt Stiker, Senior Vice President of Brand Strategy.
Augmented reality (AR) will be another major player in 2024 as a way for creating easier and more approachable ways for consumers to interact with an immersive digital experience.
“AR activations will continue to roll out to push consumer adoption at scale,” predicted Pena.“We will see more opening doors to brand partnerships with expanding activations such as the in-stadium experiences. at LA Rams and Tennessee Titans stadiums.”
While technology is always driving destination marketing forward, DMOs will have to pay close attention to the stories they are telling about their destination, especially in the midst of the political narratives that are expected to overshadow much of 2024.
“Messages and content that can focus on compassion, uniting together, a feeling of security, and prioritizing mental health will likely rise to the forefront,” said Senior Vice President Kristin Dialessi. “More so than ever, destinations should lean into positive and uplifting messages. I also think that perceptions around safety will be more prominent than ever in 2024.”
This type of storytelling will require DMOs to take a good look in the proverbial mirror to hone into who they are as a destination and to create sincere messaging that reflects that.
“Destination authenticity — an understanding not only of what the destination is and who they attract, but WHY they exist,” said Stiker. “Destinations HAVE to be willing to be REAL, be TRUE to who they are, and not try to be everything to everybody. Those messages are increasingly transparent, read as, “If you’re everything to everyone, then you’re not for ME.”
Additionally, it’s predicted that as meetings and group audiences continue to grow in 2024, more destinations, not just major metro areas, will leverage creative storytelling to position their destination as prime for these events. “It’s a more predictable and measurable segment of business that can be directly credited to the CVB/DMO. You no longer have to be a Tier 1 city to play in this space,” said Dialessi.
“Building on…with unique storytelling and positioning, Tier 2 destinations can build exposure to appeal to travelers seeking premium experiences that are more cost effective than a Tier 1,” said Pena.
Getting the story out there
DMOs have more options than ever before to deliver their messaging to target audiences. With consumers hit by thousands of brand messages everyday, we will see more brand partnerships emerging in an effort to strengthen each brand’s reach.
“We’ll continue to see the line blurred between travel brands and other products/brands/services,” said Senior Director of Creative Services Ashley Dowgwillo. “Brands are seeing the benefits of the hospitality and tourism space and will expand in those areas. For example, we can look to Taco Bell’s widely successful experiential hotel pop-up and fashion brand FILA’s partnership with Hyatt to open FILA House. Delta’s launch of the Window Seat Shop–a retail store that enables shoppers to start earning 2025 elite status–is reflective of the need for travel brands to innovate.”
Echoing this, Stiker points out, “Destinations will continue to explore interesting and brand-relevant ways to physically bring their story to other destinations, whether via pop-up activations or interactive experiences. They’re looking for things that HAVEN’T yet been done, activities that will get the most earned media amplification.”
While visitors guides and websites aren’t “new” ways of sharing a destination’s story, 2024 will require that DMOs look at them through a new lens. For guides, Stiker said that will look like higher quality editorial and imagery, extending the story via digital through the use of QR codes, and finally relinquishing the member listings to the cutting room floor. Guides that get noticed in the new year will look more like high-end magazines and held onto like a souvenir after the trip has ended.
As for websites, personalization that gives users an intuitive experience on a site by serving them content recommendations related to their existing behavior on the site will become increasingly important for boosting site engagement and time spent on site.
But bringing users to the site in the first place will require more and more effort. “Keep the content discoverable and consumable. This means by SEO, AI, and all the other channels along with humans,” said Curtis Thompson. “The message has to now come at people on multiple fronts, and waiting for them to come to you will not work.”
“The SEO game has been aggressively changing over the past two years, and it has sped up even more in the past few months,” agreed Molina. “This is the result of the AI experience in the search results page as well as more competitors taking a visual approach to content on their site and tying things together across platforms. So the time is NOW to know what your SEO experience is like for search engines as well as users. Content strategy is where I would be investing in 2024 just to stay competitive with the changes happening in Google.”
With podcast usage on the rise, we will also see more destinations turning to these partnerships to reach their target audiences. Future Partners reports that 38% of Americans say they listen to podcasts on a regular basis, up 11 points in the last year alone. The genres American travelers tune into most include health/fitness, pop culture, sports, comedy and news/politics, creating varied opportunities for destinations to hone into and talk to their target travelers.
Travel is for everyone
One of the biggest roles DMOs will play in 2024, especially amid the divisiveness of an election year, will be ensuring that travel is for everyone and that we are creating sustainable tourism for communities.
“The industry still receives low marks for its efforts, not only for reflecting diverse talent in marketing and communications, but also scores poorly on ‘I see myself’ in the tourism industry for people of diverse backgrounds,” said Stiker.
This extends to accessible travel and ensuring that being inclusive also means embracing individuals with disabilities in marketing and in destination.
“There are still so few ads, campaigns, imagery, messaging, support, or much for people with limited mobility,” said Thompson. “Travel is for everyone, yet we still seem to gravitate to what society says is what people want to look at when they look at marketing.“
Finally, 2024 will see more DMOs stepping more actively into “destination management”versus. just destination marketing.” A number of DMOs are taking the lead (versus their city official counterparts) in building the destinations their visitors (and residents) want, explained Stiker. Taking this into their own hands ensures that tourism will continue to work in concert with their communities, while protecting or preserving the resources that make the destination unique.
“Sustainability and regenerative tourism will continue to be a buzzword that destinations will work to curate into actionable items. It’s no longer enough to say you’re sustainable, you have to prove it,” said PR Director Brianna Francis.
As 2024 races ahead, there is no doubt the travel industry will be influenced by factors from both within and outside the industry — from politics to technology. But as DMOs weather and adapt to what is to come one thing remains certain. That is our ability to build bridges, inspire connections, and promote learning. As Mark Twain once said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” May we use these new technologies, tools, and opportunities to continue forging connections between people, places, and communities.