The Great Debate: Print vs. Digital

When it comes to visitor guides, we hear the question of print vs. digital all too often. While many of these conversations are fueled by budget constraints, there’s still certainly a place for both mediums—and a way that they strategically work to enhance one another. 

What does this mean for the future of print? It’s all good news for publishers who are willing to follow in the footsteps of retailers and take an omnichannel approach to engaging readers. Millennials and Gen Z may be digital natives, but they’re also aware of the need to unplug and look up from their mobile screens. Therefore, just as retailers have learned to do, publishers should be prepared to engage them at every touchpoint in the online and offline worlds.

In print efforts, we’ve made the transition from directory-heavy visitor guides to publications that drive inspiration to travel. We rely on clean, concise design to present a magazine-style look and feel to the publication with detailed and engaging stories to fulfill the need of inspirational content. 

The most successful digital presentations are built specifically for that purpose, rather than just being re-created from a direct replication of its print form. The power of digital allows us to create custom curated experiences for the consumer to deliver deeper and more immersive content at their fingertips. 

How do these two mediums work together?

The best collaborations create something bigger than the sum of what each person can create on their own. Madden strategically creates print and digital components to work together in unique ways. 

In print, calls-to-action drive readers to the destination website for even more inspiration. High-quality imagery enhances the consumer magazine look and feel. 

When we transition to digital, we utilize a fully responsive integration of the guide to allow for a mobile-friendly experience with the stories found within the guide. The use of video provides added depth for the consumer and encourages increased site engagement. The addition of regularly released digital-exclusive content helps to increase site traffic and identifies audience interests with your overall content. We can also look to the success of digital-exclusive stories to help inform content to be featured in future iterations of a printed guide.

When we integrate our print and digital efforts, we see a much stronger engagement that results in a more seamless experience for the visitor.

Madden Media announces new Managing Partner

Madden Media, a leading destination marketing agency, today announced Matt Clement will join the company as a Managing Partner. In this new role, Matt will lead Madden’s growing strategic consulting practice, and guide solution development for the company’s research, data, and analytics capabilities to help destinations. Matt will also drive the continued evolution of the Madden Voyage platform, the company’s custom dashboard provided at no cost to track campaign performance, measure ROI, and connect the various data sources to make insightful decisions.

Prior to joining Madden, Matt was Senior Vice President of Marketing at Arrivalist, where he played a key strategic role working with a variety of clients including many state tourism offices, destination marketing organizations, attractions, and airports. Matt accelerated growth and influenced product development of the Arrivalist platform through his deep expertise of the tourism industry. 

“We are excited to welcome Matt who brings extensive knowledge and experience in destination marketing, research, and media attribution. The tourism industry was hit the hardest through this pandemic, and Matt’s work across the industry will help us bring strategy and stakeholders closer together to strengthen communities.”

Dan Janes, CEO of Madden Media.

Previously, Matt held a number of roles within the tourism industry including working with Visit Fort Worth, Experience Fayetteville, and Adara. Matt’s hiring adds to Madden’s growing list of team members with deep experience in the destination marketing industry from across the country: Kaitie Burger (Pennsylvania), Ryan Callison (Texas), Brian Hayden (New York), Lauren Hartog (Florida), Pierce Hicks (Georgia), Lesley Rowbal (Wyoming), Jake Sillavan (Texas), and Cassandra Vasquez (Missouri). 

“The growth of our team reflects the changing environment of the industry. The need for experienced destination marketing professionals to navigate a path forward will be important to the long-term success of the industry. Like everyone, the past several months have been challenging and only made better by the people whom we surround ourselves and could not be more appreciative of the entire Madden team navigating the path to the future with our partners.”

Dan Janes, CEO of Madden Media

About Madden Media

Madden is a full-service destination marketing agency on a mission to spark imagination, nurture curiosity, and connect consumers to communities. Our diverse team creates industry-leading collaborative, creative-driven solutions for destinations that open minds, removes biases, helps strengthen communities, and leads to a vision of a better future.

Helping DMOs Recover from COVID-19: Part Two

The pandemic has impacted DMOs and the people in their destinations who rely on tourism for their livelihoods. Because of COVID-19, these people are suffering and they will look to their DMOs for solutions as we move out of quarantine and seek “normalcy.”

Continual change is the only constant we see as a destination marketing agency. Never has the need for our Agile and adaptable marketing planning been more clear than in the time of COVID-19. Our dynamic approach to marketing plans will provide flexibility to adapt our tactics in real-time to the changing world around us.

As travelers consider booking trips, it’s important that destinations stay top of mind while showcasing safety measures that are in place. Check out some work that we’ve been doing with our clients as we begin the road to recovery. 

Idaho Tourism

In early April, the team at Idaho Tourism shifted their focus to encourage people to stay safe at home, but with tactics that would still keep travel to Idaho top-of-mind when the time was right. 

A section of the website was launched that focused on activities such as coloring pages, crossword puzzles, and more. With these, prospective travelers could still engage with the destination even without physically being there.

As we progress through the summer and into the fall months with more flexibility in travel, the content will shift to focus on road trips, encouraging people to explore different regions of the state. Content themes include activities that visitors can enjoy while practicing safe social distancing such as outdoor recreation, admiring fall foliage, and more.

The Results

Throughout the campaign, the team saw increases YOY across site traffic measures including users (+227%), sessions (+231%), and pageviews (+148%). On Facebook, the campaign saw 1.1M impressions with 373k clicks.

Travel guide requests saw an increase of 49% for requests by mail and 195% increase in digital views, confirming that the campaign helped travel to Idaho stay top-of-mind. Data from Arrivalist was leveraged to track where visitors were coming from. As expected, strength was seen in drive markets.

One Idaho

In partnership with the Governor’s Office, the team worked with the Idaho Department of Commerce to conceptualize, build, and deploy a statewide campaign focused on reopening the economy safely. The broadcast, radio, and digital campaign is targeting business owners, employees, and consumers through the end of the year with public health messaging.

Check out the commercials we created with Idaho residents for this campaign HERE.

The project was funded by the CARES Act. It was launched in June 2020 and is still actively running. 

The Microsite

With the development of the One Idaho microsite, the campaign focused on the goal of reopening safely for business owners, employees, and consumers. Here, residents and businesses are encouraged to take the One Idaho Pledge, ensuring safe practices for reopening. 

A video series was produced that showcases individuals such as the governor and football coaches from across the state promoting public health and awareness. Additional videos will be produced that showcase healthcare workers and other front-line employees. These content highlights all work together to promote mask-wearing and other public health tactics to benefit the greater community.

Grand Canyon West

The team at Grand Canyon West made the difficult decision to temporarily close their main site in mid-March and since then, Grand Canyon West and Madden have been hard at work. 


We’ve analyzed traveler data and trends to first focus on short-term drive markets and then expand into national markets when the time is right. The website continues to be updated with helpful content for organic and paid visitors, and a multi-channel approach that hits all steps of travel planning from display banners to search ads and video campaigns ready for multiple platforms is in motion.

Planning Ahead

While we took a short pause from paid media briefly during the temporary closure, it was important that Madden help shape our marketing efforts to plan a response and adjust strategy for recovery. 

Search Engine Marketing and Remarketing resumed with national targeting but ad dollars were migrated from Hualapai River Runners to Skywalk and ticket-purchase ad groups.

We know that COVID-19 hit some households harder than others and our drive market ads were tailored to invite those who are close by to get out of their homes and come to Grand Canyon West to clear their heads and start fresh without breaking the bank.

Inspirational Video

To kick-off the campaign, Madden developed a video to capture viewers’ imaginations while inspiring hope in the future. We sought to acknowledge the collective hardship everyone is going through while they stay home while reassuring audiences that Grand Canyon West is with them now and will be with them when this passes. This inspirational messaging created emotional connections to the Grand Canyon that elicits an increase in travel intent.

A 30-second version video was created to run in ad spots on multiple channels including YouTube’s TrueView and ConnectedTV. Madden also made 15-second cuts of the video so it could be more easily consumed on social media and encouraged viewers to click-through to relevant content on

Reopening Safely

With new safety measures in place, Grand Canyon West reopened on June 1. To welcome visitors back and encourage them to “Reclaim Adventure,” Madden produced two more videos announcing the opening and detailing the plan to keep visitors safe and healthy. For the first time, we decided to buy traditional TV ad spots as well as local cable ads—the reopening video is broadcast on stations such as NBC, CBS, FOX, and CNN.

Helping DMOs Recover from COVID-19: Part One

The pandemic has impacted DMOs and the people in their destinations who rely on tourism for their livelihoods. Because of COVID-19, these people are suffering and they will look to their DMOs for solutions as we move out of quarantine and seek “normalcy.”

Continual change is the only constant we see as a destination marketing agency. Never has the need for our Agile and adaptable marketing planning been more clear than in the time of COVID-19. Our dynamic approach to marketing plans will provide flexibility to adapt our tactics in real-time to the changing world around us.

As travelers consider booking trips, it’s important that destinations stay top of mind while showcasing safety measures that are in place. Check out some work that we’ve been doing with our clients as we begin the road to recovery. 

Traverse City Tourism

While many DMOs worried about future budgeting, the Traverse City team saw an opportunity to double-down with an aggressive recovery campaign. In a time where travelers dreamed of getting out of their homes and searched for positivity in the content they consumed, Madden promoted Traverse City’s “My Happy Place” campaign, starting in May 2020.


A custom logo, display ads, video vignettes, and other creative assets were developed to showcase fun and safe activities people could do in the Traverse City area, including enjoying sunsets at the beach, golf, paddleboarding, and other outdoor adventures. We utilized Connected TV and Samsung Smart TV video ads in addition to display ads on Google and Online Travel Agency sites such as Expedia and Priceline.

Ads included a Conversant pixel which allowed us to track credit card transactions and tie visitors and their in-market spending dollars to our advertising efforts. We used credit card transaction data to reach past visitors to Traverse City from the last two years and invite them to return to the idyllic destination. 

Another targeting tactic included consumers within the drive market who had purchased cruise packages or international flights that had been canceled and invited them to stay closer to home and visit Traverse City instead.

Throughout the campaign, it has been crucial to be responsible marketers and encourage a safe reopening. COVID-related content was added to their website to help visitors learn about what to expect on their trip, what businesses are open, and where they can find handwashing stations to maintain good hygiene habits. Traverse City Tourism also ran a contest through Instagram that encouraged travelers to take selfies with their masks on and use the hashtag #staysafetc to enter to win gift cards.

The Results

Across Display & Video tactics, over 332k clicks and 51.5M impressions were delivered. These numbers translated to 5,700 room nights, totaling $1.2M in gross revenue. 

Explore St. Louis

The team at Explore St. Louis looked at their COVID-19 Recovery efforts in a three-tiered process— modeling after much of the country’s approach to reopening. Each phase lasted for approximately two weeks with the target audience expanding each week. 

The Creative

When it came time to decide what imagery would be represented across media campaigns, the team opted to showcase mask-wearing as responsible and safe travel was a main goal of the campaign. This set the destination at the forefront of promoting safety, solidifying to prospective visitors that St. Louis was taking active precautions and following social distancing measures. 

In addition to staged photo shoots for use across media, user-generated content was collected to showcase real people masking up while out exploring St. Louis. The team also created “Yes We’re Open” signs that attractions, shops, restaurants, and hotels could utilize in their promotions. 

The Results

The main goal of this recovery campaign was to drive traffic to, generating awareness of their “Passport to STL” offerings. Within the first week of the campaign, over a million impressions were delivered to the site, and it only increased from there. In Phase 2, the team saw an average of 5.5M impressions in the first week, skyrocketing to nearly 7M impressions in week two. 

In the first three weeks of the COVID-19 recovery efforts, traffic to the site that was directed from the campaign made up 15% of total site traffic. In Phase 3, that breakdown has grown to more than 60% of total site traffic.

Ask the Expert: Official Visitors Guides

The Madden team is no stranger to producing visitor guides. In fact, that’s how we got our start in 1982. Over the 38 years we’ve been in business, we’ve finessed our ability to tell and showcase brand stories that inspire travelers to explore, work, and live in new destinations. We’ve produced more than 200 city, state, and regional guides for DMOs across the United States, including some pieces that have been in production with Madden for 25+ years.

Recently, two of our experts joined Solimar International’s Chris Seek to chat about the role of visitor guides for destinations. You can check out the full interview with Ronda Thiem, SVP of Business Development, and Katy Spining, Content Strategist, HERE.

A few key takeaways from Ronda and Katy’s session:

  • A good visitor guide uses authentic destination experiences to inspire travel amongst readers. You want the reader to feel as if he or she is there, in the destination, with the writer—using descriptive text and colorful imagery can help paint a more full picture. 
  • It’s very important that information is accurate and data-driven, pulling from what you know visitors want or need to know about your destination. Successful content plans are informed by digital analytics, building off of themes that perform well in other settings and responding to frequently asked questions and search terms.
  • Avoid filling your pages with blatant branding or marketing material. A good visitor guide should look like a component of your marketing materials, but it should not feel like a 40-page advertisement for your destination.
  • Typically, guides can be funded in three ways: advertising support, budget pays outright, or via sponsorship or grant funding. Our team has extensive experience working in all three situations and can help discuss which option is best for your destination.
  • The success of a visitor guide is often gauged through total distribution numbers, awards for content or creative, website visits, and economic impact.

Creating Purposeful Print

With budgets being watched closer than ever, it’s vital that your organization is making smart decisions when it comes to print. We like to consider this purposeful print—ensuring that content is created and fine-tuned specifically for consumption in this medium. But that doesn’t mean that a story created for your visitor guide should only be used in one format. 

When transitioning your visitor guide content to digital, successful pieces do more than just a simple flipbook. Consider our content hubs, for example. With this digital integration, users find an interactive experience that is filled with engaging imagery and designed specifically for a website or mobile interaction. 

The data analytics from your website can also help you understand how your viewers are using the guide: how long they interact with it and which pages are the most popular. When all is said and done, the goal should always be to reach the right visitor at the right time on the platform that is best suited for their current position in the consumer journey.

Madden Voyage: Solving Reporting & Data Challenges

Responsible marketing within the tourism industry includes proving the impact of your promotion. Your campaigns must drive visitation and positively impact your community. Now more than ever, DMOs have a fiduciary duty to report on the success of campaigns to community members, stakeholders, board members, and partners. Voyage, Madden’s business intelligence platform, is a solution designed to support these efforts through transparent, data-driven reporting.

Solution 1: Data Aggregation

One of the reporting and data challenges our clients face is having an overwhelming amount of data to sort through. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some DMOs don’t have enough data and struggle to communicate ROI. No matter which problem you encounter, the core challenge is not having actionable insights to guide your campaign strategy. Voyage is a complete solution to gather, integrate, and analyze your data—increasing your ability to share, innovate, and collaborate. Using Voyage, we can connect to over 1,000+ data connectors, including: 

  • Google Analytics and Microsoft Advertising
  • Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter
  • HubSpot, Salesforce, and Basecamp
  • AirDNA, Adara, Arrivalist, Conversant, Sojern, and STR

Solution 2: Visualization of Impact

If analytics don’t make sense or tell a story, is your data truly valuable? Ensuring you and your stakeholders can easily understand, interpret, and communicate the value and success of your marketing efforts is crucial. As a solution for this problem, our data scientists create customized reporting dashboards. Partnering with Madden means you’ll never have to dig for the data you need the most. We ensure the KPIs you’re most interested in are front and center in your reporting dashboard. However, we don’t just show you what’s going on with your data. Madden’s solution provides actionable insights to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your campaign to maximize your budget. The best part? Your data is delivered on-demand—no more waiting for a monthly report to measure your campaign’s performance.

Key Takeaway: Voyage is a Solution for Reporting and Data Challenges

Voyage allows you to view every element of your campaign in one place. This means we can eliminate media duplication, make strategic recommendations, and get a fuller picture of how each marketing piece is working together to positively impact your community. This powerful platform is a solution for reporting and data challenges DMOs and CVBs face year after year.

A Commitment to Inclusion for the Travel Industry

As an industry, we have led initiatives to make travel for those with disabilities more accessible, we have led inclusion efforts for LGBTQ+ travelers, and we have one of the most diverse workforces when compared to almost any sector.

We all know discrimination has no place in our industry, and we should not accept it in the form of racism, sexism, and beyond. We also believe it is our responsibility as leaders in the industry to not be silent. We must provide a voice to others, and we must take action to stand up for inclusion.

From a leadership standpoint, our actions and the representation on our industry boards do not necessarily match who we are as an industry. We can do better, and we as industry partners, sponsors, corporations, and members are asking others to stand with us. Together, we must do more than state our support for inclusion. We hope to inspire the silent majority to not only serve as allies but as advocates for inclusion.

As organizations, many of us are looking inwardly at how we can be more inclusive within our own policies, hiring practices, board representation, and many other activities. We all find ourselves at various points in our own efforts and actions that we hope will lead to positive, systemic change.

Many corporations and individuals are providing charitable contributions to support underrepresented communities and equality initiatives. While these actions are one step of social responsibility, there are larger budget line items that we can use to affect change. Specifically, our sponsorship and marketing efforts.

We believe those organizations we sponsor should have views that align with not just our industry, but our values towards inclusion. Together, we are asking all organizations that receive sponsorships from our organizations to make their board composition more inclusive. Generally, we would like boards to be composed of 50% females and 20% from minority groups. We know this is not something that can be done overnight, so, we would ask those that do not meet these levels to craft objectives that will make meaningful improvements towards improving the diversity of their qualified board members.

Our industry has the ability to not just make travel more inclusive, we have the opportunity to make the work and the leadership of our industry more inclusive. We would ask corporate partners, vendors, and DMOs to join us in making this commitment.


Dan Janes, CEO, Madden Media
Ryan George, CEO, Simpleview
Santiago C. Corrada, President and CEO, Visit Tampa Bay
Brent DeRaad, President and CEO, Visit Tucson
Andrew Fischer, CEO, Choozle
Marc Garcia, President and CEO, Visit Mesa
Nelson Gumm, CEO, AJR Media Group
Patrick Kaler, President and CEO, Visit Buffalo Niagara
Gladys Kong, CEO, UberMedia
Cree Lawson, CEO, Arrivalist
Sarah Lehman, CEO, Entrada Insights
Anand Patel, President and CEO, Visit Fairfield

If you are an organizational leader that would like to add your organization, please reach out to Dan Janes, CEO,

Industry Supporters for this Initiative

Name Company

Please show your support for inclusion by adding your name here

We will not use your contact information provided here for any marketing purposes, nor will we sell or redistribute this information to any third parties.

Race, Media, and Allyship

Standing United Webinar Recording HERE and Presentation Deck HERE

How often do you publicly talk about Love? Compassion? Failure? Race? It always seems so much easier to talk about “emotions” without getting to the part where there is real emotion and feeling. When we think about the workplace, it is often thought of as a place without such emotion.

As a company, Madden has begun having difficult, vulnerable discussions to determine where we have failed, where we have succeeded, and determine how we will become a better company, partner, and ally. 

Madden is using this moment to reflect on our values as a company and as individuals, to have difficult discussions, and to evolve ourselves as allies in our community and the communities we serve. As we start this conversation, we invite our partners, friends, and allies to both join us and keep us accountable.

Read our recent blog post with Destinations International regarding the importance of growing more inclusive boards.

Continued, Sustained Progress

We can proudly say that half of Madden’s creative directors and managers are female, compared to 11% of the national average. We have been vocal and active to support inclusive travel, especially within the LGBTQ+ community. However, when it comes to being inclusive of all races and backgrounds in employment and management roles, we fall short. We must improve.

It’s not enough to verbalize support. Madden and others across our industry, communities, and beyond need to make commitments and implement actions for consistent, meaningful change. Our first commitment is to craft intentional plans and goals that we will be incorporating into company policies, culture, and marketing efforts. 

If we seek perfection, we will never get started. We can, however, make consistent, sustained action to move forward together. We want to be transparent about this to give others confidence to act and to provide a public, transparent way to be held accountable by our current and future employees and partners. Madden is taking action by:

  • Leading an Industry Effort to increase Board diversity: We have drafted and asked many of our colleagues in the industry to join us in calling for greater diversity on boards whom we provide sponsorship. See the letter and provide your support here
  • Continued Education and Discussions: Madden has begun inviting guest speakers to discuss diversity and inclusion not less than once a month. Our employee engagement team (HR) and all managers will undergo bias training by the end of Q3 in addition to the work they are already doing personally and professionally.
  • Creating a Diversity Review Panel: The panel will assess major campaigns and creative investments by our partners to help review and improve the inclusion of underrepresented groups in media, visitor guides, websites, etc.
  • Increasing Diverse Talent Recruitment: We are expanding our job postings to gather a more diverse population of candidates.
  • Eliminating Our Referral Bonus Program: We will continue to ask our team to refer people to the company, but we also want to ensure we are not only looking at candidates that look and act like us. We will reallocate this budget to the creation of the internship program below.
  • Strengthening Diverse Internship Programs: For the past three years we have participated in various internship programs, including TIMESTEP, that focus on providing relevant industry experience to minority engineers. We will be adding additional internship programs focused towards underrepresented populations. 
  • Growing Through Reading: Madden’s book club will shift focus by allowing every employee in the company to select a book that can help us all grow and be more culturally responsive through study and discussion. Some books you may want to consider are on this list.
  • Continued Salary Audits for Our Team: We completed a diversity wages audit across the company and found that salaries are very much based on experience. We looked at the combinations of gender (male/female), ethnicity (white/non-white), and experience. Across all combinations of those groups, except one, experience was the predominant factor in each group with the exception of Creative where age was nominally different and salaries were higher for non-white employees. As we look at the averages globally, 40% of the departments’ women make more than men and 60% of the departments’ non-white salaries exceed those of white employees. We will continue to monitor this, but the overall view looks to align towards experience where we would expect.

How Will Your Team Take Action?

It can be difficult knowing where to get started. Here are a few quick ways DMOs can start becoming better ally organizations today:

  • Audit Content, Photo Assets, & UGC: Take an open-minded look at the content used in your marketing. Look for opportunities to showcase a wider variety of people in your imagery. Evaluate your website content, blog, and social media efforts and audit for staff bias.
  • Talk About Inclusion With Your Partners: Your teams know your destination best. Brainstorm ways you can work together to be more inclusive and hold one another accountable.
  • Review Partner Listings: Are you featuring Black-owned business in your partner listings? Are there ways to highlight diverse businesses in a way you haven’t done before? Help your partners update their Google My Business listings.

Taking actions today, this week, this month, this year, and every year after will help us evolve and elevate ourselves to be a better company and better individuals. Madden is committed to transforming the way we think and act as a company and as individuals to improve the world around us.

2020 STS Marketing College Scholarships

Take your career to the next level with #STSMC20!

Madden is now accepting applications for two scholarships to attend the Southeast Tourism Society Marketing College®. Two scholarships will be awarded to tourism industry professionals working in one of the 14 STS member regions (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, Missouri, and Washington DC).  The deadline to apply for this scholarship is June 30, 2020 at 5pm EST.  Please click HERE to apply. 

STS Marketing College® provides this unique continuing education program for travel and tourism professionals annually. Students participate in an in-depth one-week curriculum designed to teach marketing techniques from all facets of the tourism industry.

Marketing College® professors are highly experienced and industry-related professionals from across the U.S. They are viewed as experts in their field who bring a working-knowledge of current trends, data, and implementation for tourism and travel straight to the classroom. These courses will be held at Mercer University in Macon, GA.

During the week at #STSMC20, students will attend lectures, be part of discussion groups, and have one-of-a-kind networking opportunities. Courses are designed for all levels of professionals and cover a variety of industry specific topics such as research, economic impact, advocacy, branding, and more. Watch this video if you need a little more convincing!

Not only will students be immersed in learning and having a great time with other travel professionals, but those who complete all three years of Marketing College® will receive and be presented with a Travel Marketing Professional (TMP) certification at a special graduation ceremony at the STS annual meeting, STS Connections.The scholarship covers tuition, dorm room accommodations, and course materials. Applications are due by June 30, 2020, at 5pm EST, and recipients will be announced by Friday, July 3, 2020. Applications can be submitted HERE.

Meetings Recovery Plan

Road trips, drive markets, and previous visitors are all good targets for the leisure travel market, but what about business travel and meetings? We know leisure travel accounts for over 70% of the total travel spending with business travel accounting for the other 30%. For some destinations, this balance shifts significantly one way or another. (U.S. Travel)

As we look at the 30% of travel for business, specifically the meetings and events industry in a post-COVID world, destinations need to start planning now to ensure their pipelines are full in 6-12 months. We are already seeing several destinations leaning into booking for strength into 2021 and 2022. 

For those that are actively working their meetings pipeline, there is success with 1 in 3 planners sourcing and booking future business. For those that are not actively booking, about 40% are researching for the future. Note, fewer than 10% are not planning events for the future. (Pulse Report, Northstar

Meetings planners are currently scheduling new meetings starting in September with most looking into Q1/Q2 of 2021. With meetings being scheduled about 180 days into the future, destinations need to ensure they are providing the resources needed for planners, especially as many DMOs and hotels have reduced their sales staff. We have provided some recommendations on how destinations should consider moving forward with planning for future meetings.

What do planners see when they come to your website?

While citywide festivals and massive trade shows are going to occur again in the future, planners expect to see fewer of them. The first groups they expect to see return include Association, Government, SMERF (Social, Military, Education, Religious, Fraternal), and Sports. Our first recommendation: ensure you have a landing page that speaks to each of these audiences you want to recruit to your destination. 

We know segmentation works across all spectrums of marketing—people need to be able to envision themselves in a destination. For these smaller groups, they often do not have a professional meeting planner assisting them and need additional help to envision their event in a specific venue. With DMO sales staff and hotel sales teams also being reduced, providing these pages with a variety of imagery of events and not just empty rooms will be fundamental to a good user experience. While you cannot show all venues in your destination, we recommend prioritizing resorts, boutique hotels, flat-field sports, and your major brands ahead of conference and convention centers, gaming facilities, and large sports facilities.

What action do you want planners to take?

As your planners engage with your content, we must think about what happens next—do you want them to pick up the phone to call your team, submit a RFP, reserve space immediately? While any option is available, we recommend a strong CTA to have them submit a RFP or provide a guided request for information about their event. This allows you to capture key information and share it with your respective hotel partners. 

Just requesting information is not always enough. Destinations need to lead consumers to make a decision, and in a time of uncertainty they will be looking to the DMO for answers. This provides an opportunity for you to work with your partners to create a “safe” planning experience offering cancellation or postponement windows for 2020, technology solutions for added value, packages for attendees, or other creative solutions. 

While six months ago planners wanted to see all of the fun activities they could do outside of the event, today they will be incredibly focused on the attendees’ experience at a post-pandemic event. They will want to mitigate risk and ensure their attendees have a healthy experience as well. Consider having your partners make commitments like Connect has provided in their Safe Space 2020 plan

How are you nurturing your existing relationships?

Keep in mind that many more planners will be working independently, have fewer resources, and will be seeking more assistance from DMOs and partners. With fewer staff members, DMOs need to make CRMs and MarTech solutions work for them. Those long-hated CRMs that “got in the way of relationships” are going to be gold for DMOs who have maintained them and understand how they can help, especially with those third-party planners who have a consistent pipeline. Here is where we recommend you activate MarTech solutions to bring your existing relationships back for in-person and virtual fam tours.

We know in the near future, fam tours may be difficult to do. In the meantime, work with your partners to capture photos, video, 360-degree experiences. If you do not have those, schedule virtual meetings, grab a phone or iPad and FaceTime them or have yet another Zoom meeting walking around your properties. It is that kind of commitment to planners that is going to land a single contract for an extra 100, 200, 500 room nights.

If you are looking for a more tangible touch-point for planners, we recommend looking into IP-mapping technologies that allow for sending direct mail pieces, hand written notes, or custom “planner kits” to planners who you know have been engaged with your content or your destination in the past.

What’s next?

So, you’ve built your landing pages, optimized a great user experience and connected it to your MarTech solutions—so now you’re done, right? Maybe. 

Those organic tools are the bread and butter of DMOs and are built on years of personal relationships and experience of planners with your destination. If your pipeline looks a bit light then it’s time to work through putting together marketing assets to improve prospecting and growing that audience of meetings planners. With your newly optimized website experience, you can measure the cost of each RFP or RFI submission through conversion tracking and innovative marketing solutions. 

As you look at your marketing plans, recent research shows that smaller local and regional events will thrive before national and international groups gather. Much like your leisure marketing, look at industries and potential targets in your region ahead of looking towards the larger and more national or international events. (PCMA) You know how to attract visitors to your destination—make sure you share those best practices with your meetings planners who need to monetize attendees. Also, look at best practices from others that improve the user experience. You have built tremendous relationships with your partners, now is a great time to translate those relationships into Attendee Passports that can be a value-add for attendees and also brings revenue into your local partners.

In summary, our recommendations include:

  • Ensure you have a landing page that speaks to each of the meeting planner audiences you want to recruit to your destination. 
  • Create strong CTAs to have planners submit a RFP or provide a guided request for information about their event
  • Activate your MarTech solutions to bring your existing relationships with planners back for in-person and virtual fam tours
  • Create marketing assets to improve prospecting and grow that audience of meetings planners for your destination

At Madden, we are committed to the recovery and growth of the travel industry. For nearly 40 years, we have created and delivered innovative solutions for our partners in the best of times and the most challenging of times. Our team stands with the tourism industry to help lead the recovery alongside our amazing partners.