Madden Media Promotes Sarah Hupp Foster to Chief Operating Officer

Madden Media has promoted Sarah Hupp Foster to Chief Operating Officer.

Over the last decade, Sarah has helped shape Madden into a top destination marketing agency. As the VP of Destination Strategy, she and her team led the development of marketing solutions that drove economic impact for communities and positioned destinations to be placemakers. As the Director of Content, she pioneered a new content marketing department to elevate Madden’s core speciality as destination storytellers. 

Sarah Hupp Foster, COO at Madden Media

Sarah has collaborated with destinations across the U.S. to tell the story of how travel is an experience, a feeling, and creates a true transformation for people and communities. She holds an MBA with a concentration in Marketing from the University of Arizona and has served as the President of Ad2 Tucson of the American Advertising Federation. She has led Madden teams and partners in creating national award-winning campaigns featuring brands such as Visit Tampa Bay, Discover Atlanta, Visit Oakland, and Discover Crystal River

With Sarah’s promotion to COO, Grady Colson will take on the role of Chief of Staff. Grady has filled many roles in his 20-year history with Madden and will use his experience to ensure Madden continues to deliver a great environment and culture for all its employees well into the future.

“As Madden continues to grow, we constantly look for opportunities for our team to build a career and ensure we are delivering outstanding results for our clients. Sarah’s and Grady’s combined experience having worked with each of the marketing disciplines across the company will continue to improve our ability to deliver a rich portfolio of solutions for our clients and a great environment for our team,” said Dan Janes, CEO at Madden Media.

Madden Media is a full-service destination marketing agency on a mission to spark imagination, nurture curiosity, and connect people to communities. Our diverse team creates collaborative, creative-driven solutions that improve economies and lead to a vision for a better world.

Unique Destination Creative: Reimagine Your Marketing Assets

Looking for a creative shot in the arm? Tired of your cookie-cutter creative assets? Madden is constantly working with our destination partners to create new ways to spark imagination. To build a lasting connection with travelers, DMOs must rethink their marketing assets and leverage unique destination creative to differentiate themselves from their competitors and make an impression on their target travelers. 

Destinations have to deploy unique creative if they are going to stick out from the crowd. By leveraging a different creative strategy, coming up with out-of-the-box concepts, or using different design techniques, DMOs can level up their marketing campaigns with stunning creative. 

Here are some examples of how Madden is helping our destination partners reimagine their marketing assets with unique destination creative.

Emphasize People Over Product

Too many destinations focus on themselves when developing creative assets. Ads should highlight people’s experiences at a destination rather than what is in the destination. By emphasizing inspiration over information, DMOs can spark travelers’ imaginations with their creative assets. 

Visit Tampa Bay wanted to deploy a new campaign to compel people ages 20-30 to visit their community. Previous campaigns had focused on the destination’s attractions, beaches, and competitor differentiation. The new “Unlock Your Inner Pirate” campaign focused on how the target audience can live out the reasons why they choose to travel to Tampa Bay.

The campaign featured video assets tailored to resonate with 20-30-year-old adults. The videos featured young people having fun and experiencing the things they aim to do when on vacation, such as drinking by the pool, exploring and taking selfies in the city, eating out, and doing photo-worthy activities like zip lining. Everything about the video was aligned with this target audience’s interests, down to the background music emulating their well-loved music genres. Compared to traditional DMO advertising with wide shots of the destination and narrative voice-over, these videos are a stark contrast and a great example of outside-the-box destination creative assets.

Look Outside the Industry for Inspiration

There’s no one way to develop destination creative assets. Despite years of DMOs sticking to the traditional creative formula, there are different ways of getting people interested in visiting a destination. DMOs should look for inspiration in different types of media their target audience enjoys and bring elements into their own creative assets. 

Visit Independence created a Paranormal Path tour in its destination, showcasing three allegedly haunted locations. The campaign was developed to attract new target audiences that the DMO had not previously targeted. To promote the campaign, they created video assets that highlighted each paranormal building by emulating modern psychological horror movie trailers popular with young adults.

The eerie, cinematic videos paired spooky visuals from the properties with creepy voice-overs from the perspective of the ghosts that some believe haunt the locations. The captured imagery uses practical effects to cause movement or shadows, and modern horror movies inspired the music, camera work, and editing techniques.

While these videos marked a departure from previous Visit Independence creative assets, we ensured they stayed true to the overall brand by working with local historians to gain an understanding of each building’s history. This knowledge helped us craft videos authentic to each building’s feel and write voice-overs that were accurate to the period in which the ghost stories originated.

Leverage New Technologies

Some DMOs believe the channel used to deliver their ads limits creativity. Many think video is the only way to bring unique creative ideas to life and stick to traditional creative concepts for their display ads. However, advertising technology to make engaging display ads exists and should be leveraged by destinations looking to stand out.

Willamette Valley Visitors Association worked with Madden to create dynamic banner ads with MobileFuse. The banner ads drop down to a full-screen interactive ad that features both video and animation. The clickable map highlighted the different regions in Willamette Valley and gave descriptions and images of each.

Strategic Destination Creative Partner

More than being unique, creative assets must be effective. They must speak to your target audience’s interests and get them to imagine themselves in your destination. Madden ensures our partner’s creative assets do this by prioritizing data analysis and leveraging our full-service capabilities. Your creative assets will be more effective when you combine the creative expertise of our designers and copywriters with the domain expertise of our strategy, media, and MarTech teams.

Meetings Marketing: Be Ready for the Business Travel Boom

It’s time to start developing your meetings marketing strategy. While business travel recovery lags behind leisure travel, a projected spending boom is coming. While the segment’s recovery will take awhile and Delta variant concerns are rising, the segment’s long sales cycle means that now is the time to start planning and deploying your meetings marketing campaigns. 

Business Travel Recovery

The travel industry is experiencing a bounceback year. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) traveler throughput data shows air travel is approaching pre-pandemic levels. However, segments of the industry are recovering differently. A Tourism Economics analysis released in June by the U.S. Travel Association projects domestic leisure travel spending to reach pre-pandemic levels by 2023, but business travel will take until 2024. 

Data from Transportation Security Administration

There is a bright spot in the analysis for business travel. Domestic business travel spending experienced a decrease nearly three times larger than domestic leisure travel spending. This means domestic business travel spending needs a sharper year-over-year growth to reach pre-pandemic levels only a year later than domestic leisure travel spending. The U.S. Travel Association forecasts a 34% average YOY growth over the next four years for domestic business travel spending compared to just 8.2% average YOY growth over the next four years for domestic leisure travel spending. 

Data from U.S. Travel Association

And while domestic leisure travel represents a larger share of total travel spending, business travel is forecasted to have more new spending from 2022 through 2025. 

Data from U.S. Travel Association

Meeting Marketing Strategy

The road to business travel recovery will be long, but due to the long sales cycle, destination need to start their journey now. There are a few things DMOs can do to set themselves up for meetings marketing success and plan for the coming business travel boom. 

Push-Pull Approach

Madden recommends deploying an integrated sales and marketing approach — combining traditional marketing to push leads down the sales funnel and account-based marketing to pull leads up the sales funnel. This approach converges sales and marketing strategies and maximizes conversions. 

Hone In on Target Audiences

Instead of targeting broad meeting planning audiences, Madden recommends developing ideal customer profiles. 

By analyzing your destination’s economy, talent, and meeting facilities, you can:

  • Identify the top target industries, conferences, and events that fit your destination
  • Emphasize quality over quantity and increase conversions
  • Establish better long-term relationships with sponsors in relevant industries.

Creative Collateral and Advertising

Providing your sales team with unique collateral that pairs inspirational and educational content will help them grow leads. Additionally, we recommend deploying traditional and digital advertisements that raise awareness of your destination’s amazing experiences and creating engaging content that shows off your unique meeting settings and attractions. The help decision makers see themselves holding a meeting in your destination. 

Map the Decision-Making Journey

Use smart marketing tactics to deliver key messaging to decision makers where they are during key stages of their meeting planning. 

  • Geofencing and remarketing attendees of meeting planner conferences 
  • Partnering with vendors that enable you to target people based on their job title
  • Develop automated drip campaigns based on lead interaction with your emails and website
  • Deploy citywide experiences and activations during conferences 

Measure Success

To track the success of your meetings marketing campaigns, Madden provides Voyage, our destination intelligence platform, to track your success and communicate impact. With its customizable dashboards, you can track the number of attendees, ADR, ticket sales, and more to capture the economic impact of your meeting marketing efforts. We can also help run post-meetings surveys to help answer economic questions and forecast future events.

True Business Tourism Partner

Bringing conferences and events into your community will boost your local economy and generate a collective impact. As part of our full-service capabilities and holistic destination marketing partnership, we are standing by to develop meetings marketing campaigns to help clients capture their share of the growing market.

Marketing-Driven Websites: Invest in Your Online Presence

We’ve seen it too often. DMOs invest a large amount of money into developing a new website, only for that website to stagnate for years. Then, DMOs make another large investment to build a new website because their existing site isn’t meeting their needs. It’s a vicious cycle. We break that cycle with our Marketing-Driven Websites philosophy. In this process, we analyze the performance of your website and make continual, incremental enhancements to optimize its ability to achieve your marketing goals—creating next-generation destination websites

The internet is an ever-changing place. With constant updates to different platforms, search engines, and browsers, how people find information is always evolving. More importantly, people’s interests and information consumption behaviors change as well. So, why do DMOs keep their websites rigid and fixed as the world changes around them? 

To maximize the impact of their websites, destinations should embrace a Marketing-Driven Website approach.

Marketing-Driven Website Approach

During a traditional website build, developers craft a plan up front, follow it, and call the site finished when it’s launched. Madden believes your website should never be finished. We develop our websites in three stages to ensure maximum performance and KPI achievement. 

Madden's Marketing-Driven Website philosophy helps our partners optimize their sites.

Stage One: Core Website

First, we design and develop your core website. This site will be launched and available to the public quickly—delivering your new website faster to market than a traditional build. But we don’t stop there. 

Stage Two: Evaluation and Enhancement

After your core website is launched, we evaluate its performance and make enhancements to optimize its KPI achievement. These enhancements can include placements of buttons, different lead generation tactics, CTA messaging, and more. 

Stage Three: Innovation to Maintain Growth

Because we believe your website is never finished, this stage remains ongoing. By identifying incremental improvements for your website, such as new immersive content, itinerary builders, landing pages, destination maps, or content recommendation technology, you can keep your website fresh and aligned with your marketing objectives. This approach also saves money, as making incremental investments in your site improves your ROI and costs less money in the long run. 

Marketing-Driven Website Benefits

Inspiration Over Information

Over the past few years as the industry has changed, the purpose a DMO website needs to fulfill has changed as well. Visitors no longer look to individual websites for facts and information. 

In the modern landscape of search capabilities, answers are at the tip of visitors’ fingers in a quarter of a second thanks to robust, intent-based, intelligent search platforms like Google. Consumers are searching “cool things to do this weekend” and navigating directly from the search platform to Google Maps to get them there. There are reviews, hours, addresses, pictures, information—literally everything a visitor needs before they even click through to your site.

So what is your role if not to educate and inform visitors? Inspiration. That may seem like a simple concept, but we encourage our clients to really consider what consumers see on your site and what they should see on your site. So many DMOs fixate on using their websites to inform rather than inspire, and Madden’s experts are on a mission to change that.

Maximize Impact and KPI Achievement

Just like with your creative and media strategy, if you’re not achieving the desired results you make adjustments and optimize. With our Marketing-Driven Website Approach, your core website will be put to the test to evaluate site performance after launch. We recommend looking at adjustments and enhancements to different elements of your website in an ongoing manner. 

As your marketing needs and goals change, site adjustments based on data-driven research will

help keep the most vital and relevant information in front of your site visitors to ensure maximum engagement. Constantly optimizing your site towards your desired results will maximize your KPI achievement. 

Incremental Improvement (and Investment)

We believe that a successful website should evolve and grow with your marketing program. As a full-service agency, we view your website through a holistic lens. It’s a key cog in your integrated marketing strategy and should, like the rest of your marketing tactics, dynamically evolve to maximize visitations.

As your budget allows, we recommend investing to continually enhance your site. This approach is vital to destination marketing success. You wouldn’t “set-and-forget” any of your other marketing elements. Why would you do it with your website? By consistently improving your website over time, you continue to move your marketing program forward and save money over the long-term by eliminating the need to rebuild every few years. 

Integrated Destination Marketing

As part of our full-service capabilities and destination marketing partnership, we believe it’s our job to help DMOs break the destination website mold. By embracing a new website philosophy, you save money and gain a better-performing website. Our MarTech experts are standing by to discuss integrating a Marketing-Driven approach to your website. 

Google Analytics Update: What You Need to Know

Google has updated their website metrics tracking platform and released Google Analytics 4. This new version of Google Analytics brings some big changes. Here’s everything you need to know about the update. 

What’s Changed?

Events vs. Sessions

The Google Analytics update shifts emphasize user engagement over user awareness. This approach is led by a new event-based data model, which is a shift from the previous version’s session-based data-model. This change means Google Analytics 4 properties will focus on what users are doing on your site rather than how often or how long they visit your site. 

Cross-Device and Cross-Platform Reporting

The previous Google Analytics versions had limited cross-device and cross-platform reporting. The recent Google Analytics update now includes full cross-device and cross-platform reporting. This means you will be able to capture a specific user’s activity on your site when they are visiting from a laptop, mobile browser, or application rather than measuring that user’s activity as separate sessions. 


The new Google Analytics update includes machine learning throughout the platform to improve data visualization and insight discovery. The new tools make it easy to navigate the platform and get the most value of how you organize your data. 

What’s the Impact?

  • The event-based data model allows Google Analytics to measure web traffic quality and offer more flexible and custom calculations
  • The cross-device and cross-platform captures better insights into user journeys and decreases duplicate users in tracking
  • The flexibility in the platform gives more options for custom analysis and audience segmentation

What DMOs Should Do?

Create a Google Analytics 4 Property

DMOs should set up new property with Google Analytics 4 in parallel to their current Google Analytics properties. Use this time to familiarize yourself with the platform and the differences between your existing Google Analytics. The change will affect everyone differently, and it’s important to use this time to learn how your current tracking will need to adjust. 

Identify Top Events and Establish Triggers

Utilizing the new event-based data model in the Google Analytics update, determine what user events you care about and create event triggers to track the user activity that matters most to your organization. Doing this early also means you will be banking historical data that you can analyze as time passes to track improvements. 

Make Plans to Optimize Your Website and Evolve KPIs

With the shift towards an event-based data model, DMOs should use this time to understand how the Google Analytics update should lead to changes in other elements of their marketing program. Organizations should analyze their existing website and digital KPIs and determine changes need to be made to optimize their websites towards events and if their measurement programs would benefit from prioritizing user engagement rather than user awareness. 

Integrated Destination Marketing

As part of our full-service capabilities and destination marketing partnership, we believe it’s our job to help destinations understand how changes in the industry will affect their marketing programs. Madden’s MarTech and Media experts are standing by to help DMOs understand how the Google Analytics update will affect their website metric tracking and plan for any necessary adjustments. 

Pride Month: Why Representative Storytelling Matters

Happy Pride Month! Each June, cities across the country celebrate the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals have made on communities across the country. This month provides DMOs an opportunity to reflect on their marketing programs’ inclusion and ensure their campaigns are representing the diversity of the country through representative storytelling.  

To mark Pride Month, we wanted to highlight the importance of inclusive creative assets. Diverse stories and voices resonate with more people and show people that your destination is a place where everyone can live, work, and explore.  

Showcase LGBTQ+ Voices

The best way to tell LGBTQ+ stories is to hand over the microphone. Working with queer writers adds credibility to a DMO’s commitment to inclusion and reveals destination stories that might not otherwise be heard. 

For example, we worked with a gay writer to chronicle his trip to Triangle Inn Palm Springs, a clothing-optional, men-only resort. The personal account showcased the resort while also creating an emotional connection between the writer and reader. 

A first-hand, immersive story like this shows commitment to prioritizing diversity and inclusion while also inspiring people to visit your destination. A recent panel from Destination Analysts highlighted this key point about normalizing travel experiences and lifting up authentic diverse voices through representative storytelling. 

Market to Travel Intents

Targeting consumers by demographics reinforces societal biases and misses many people who would be interested in visiting your destination. Madden leverages visitation data to develop intent-based personas based on our clients. This allows us to tailor campaigns around WHY people travel rather than WHO they are. By focusing on why people travel, we cut across gender, race, and age to reach more people.

This approach enables us to create ads and content that feature LGBTQ+ individuals authentically, while also appealing to travelers who are not LGBTQ+. For example, we planned, shot, and produced a video for that prominently featured LGBTQ+ couples. By first grounding our production plan in Atlanta CVB’s target travel intents, we were able to craft different narratives to showcase in the video. These stories were then brought to life by talented individuals of different races, ages, genders, and sexualities. 

See our video greet users on the homepage

The video highlights the different reasons people travel to Atlanta, not just the demographics Atlanta CVB envisions would want to visit. Users greeted on the website with this video – no matter their race, age, gender, or sexuality – know that Atlanta has something for them. We worked with real-life couples to make the video as authentic and relatable as possible. All of these choices led to an inclusive video that represents Atlanta and resonates with more people. 

Highlight Local Diversity

Communities across the country celebrate their diversity throughout the year. By showcasing their destinations’ culture through representative storytelling, DMOs tell a holistic story of their communities and bring all local stakeholders into the fold. Highlighting different experiences that celebrate diversity creates content that resonates with travelers who prioritize a destination’s inclusivity when deciding where to travel. 

As part of our work with Visit Tampa Bay and Explore St. Louis, we wrote stories for their Visitor Guides that highlighted their commitment to diversity and inclusion. Our story “All are Welcome” for Visit Tampa Bay’s guide cast a spotlight on the mult-cultural mosaic of the city, including Tampa’s annual pride parade, latino music and dancing, and handicap-accessible Super Bowl experience. For St. Louis’ guide, we wrote several stories that focused on local Pride Month celebrations, LGBTQ+ organizations in the city, and community partners that celebrate diversity, including the “Show Your Pride” feature in this edition. 

Pride 365

It’s commendable when DMOs celebrate their communities’ LGBTQ+ stories, partners, and residents as part of Pride Month. We encourage all our clients to do so. It’s not only the right thing to do – travelers care! People strongly prioritize traveling to places that actively promote diversity and inclusion. 

To accomplish this, DMOs should revisit their diversity and inclusion initiatives during Pride Month and make plans to carry over their LGBTQ+ allyship throughout the year. Some of the examples above are a great start, and our destination strategy experts are standing by to discuss other ways DMOs can showcase representative storytelling year round. 

Talent Recruitment: Destination Marketing for Economic Development

Communities are looking to recover from a difficult financial year. Investing in destination marketing can attract both tourists and new residents—boosting local economies. Most destination marketers understand the collective impact DMOs, CVBs, and CTBs have on local economies. Tourism brings with it spending from travelers and creates jobs. However, destination marketing also boosts economies through talent recruitment and business relocations—turning visitors into residents. 

2020 Economic Impact Stats

Tourism has a ripple effect through communities. Visitors shopping at main street businesses boost local economies. Public funding generated by tourism-related revenue ensures a community’s children have safe places to play. The impact of tourism delivers lifelong value to residents. 

But in 2020, many communities experienced what happens when tourism dries up. Consumer spending dropped 3.9% last year as travel sentiment reached an all-time low. Last year, the percentage of Americans planning a vacation within the country decreased by 40%. Americans with travel plans in the next six months decreased by 32%. These drops in travel sent shockwaves through communities. Since January 2020, cumulative travel spending has decreased by over $590 billion. Though the economy is on the upswing, more than eight million people who lost their jobs last year are still out of work. This includes three million people in the leisure and hospitality industry. 

Getting Back on Track

There are signs of hope. Traveler sentiment metrics are increasing as the percentage of Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 climbs. In April 2021, 87% of travelers noted that they have travel plans in the next six months—matching pre-pandemic levels. As travel increases, destinations have an opportunity to boost their local economy, not just through tourism, but through talent recruitment as well. According to a survey from, 20% of respondents moved in 2020. Of those respondents, 52% relocated to a new city or state, and 36% said their move was work-related.   

The Halo Effect

Tourism can serve as a key catalyst for long-term economic sustainability. A Longwoods International study found that consumers who were exposed to destination marketing and visited a destination were nearly twice as likely to choose to live, start a business, start a career, attend college, retire, and purchase a vacation home in that destination. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is halo.jpg

This Halo Effect can serve as the foundation for destinations’ economic development and talent recruitment strategy. Investing in destination marketing now will attract talent and lead to the establishment of local businesses. As travelers are drawn into the marketing funnel, destinations should keep travelers engaged with tactics that highlight emerging economic opportunities, quality of life value propositions, and proximity to major markets. 

Visitors will experience a destination’s attractions, things to do, and sense of community. This gives people a “I could see myself living here!” feeling.  When this feeling is paired with DMO-created content about career and education opportunities in the community—visitations turn into relocations.

Talent Recruitment & Retention

Destination marketing offers the opportunity to highlight the top leisure experiences in communities. However, it also gives destinations the chance to promote their communities’ quality of life benefits.

The Madden team worked with Visit Lubbock and Lubbock Economic Development Alliance (LEDA) to build campaigns that targeted people likely to visit and relocate. We dug into data to develop intent-based personas. These personas were segmented by the reasons they choose to travel and live somewhere. These included young professionals who had lived in the region during their college years, people who enjoy cities with vibrant downtown districts, wine lovers, and people who love live music and events. 

We developed immersive stories that highlighted Lubbock not just as a great place to visit, but also a fantastic place to live with great employment opportunities. Stories spotlighted local entrepreneurs, regional innovation hubs, the vibrant downtown, local craft shops, and the many quality of life and business-friendly aspects of the destination. We positioned Lubbock as a hub city—a place that has the experiences and attractions of a big city while also being a place where people know each other with work and play close by.

In addition to building out talent recruitment focused content, we deploy specific marketing tactics that align with economic development campaigns. LinkedIn offers destinations the opportunity to targeting people based on their job title, career industry, or where they went to college. As part of our work with Lubbock, we used InMail to target young professionals who had studied at Texas Tech. 

Business Relocation & Investment

As you think about your own organization and community, collaborate with economic development offices in your efforts. Those partnerships are key to creating a lasting impact. Visit Tampa Bay and the Tampa Economic Development Commision (TEDC) did just this as they worked with the Madden team to combine tourism and economic development into a holistic campaign. We collaborated to craft an integrated destination marketing strategy and brand that positioned Tampa as the ideal city to relocate for your career and business. 

While the leisure side is all about attractions and things to do, economic development efforts highlighted why Tampa Bay is a great place to live, work, and run a business. We developed the Make It Tampa Bay brand to encourage target audiences to make Tampa Bay their city to live, work, and thrive. 

We developed a custom website that welcomed users with a bold, vibrant voice and design that aligned with the core Tampa brand of “Unlock Adventure.” Immersive destination stories included tools like cost of living calculators and job searches to increase engagement and get users thinking about relocating to the destination. Additionally, we developed an influencer campaign that leveraged local career makers and business owners to share their professional success in an authentic and inspirational way. 

Building an Economy

Examples like our work with Visit Lubbock & LEDA and Visit Tampa Bay & TEDC show how destination marketing and economic development can perfectly align. At its core, destination marketing sparks a person’s imagination and emotionally connects them to a place. Once that connection has been made, destinations can engage their target audiences with messaging that highlights quality of life benefits and career opportunities. As the Halo Effect shows, combining these marketing touch points on top of visitations will make sure that when people visit your community, they never leave. 

As communities look to recover from a difficult financial year, investing in destination marketing to attract both tourists and new residents will boost local economies. Most destination marketers understand the collective impact DMOs, CVBs, and CTBs have on local economies. Tourism brings with it spending from travelers and creates jobs. However, destination marketing also boosts economies through talent recruitment and business relocations—turning visitors into residents. 

Traveler Insights: Get in the Mind of a Traveler

At Madden, we pride ourselves on data-driven insights. This is why our team analyzes data to reveal actionable insights into traveler behavior and attitudes. Sometimes, these observations are in mobile device data and human movement data that reveal insights on visitations, origin markets, average length of stay, and points of interest. At other times, it’s hotel and lodging tax revenue to measure ROI. And in some instances, the best insights into what travelers are thinking can be revealed in search engine data. 

We analyzed the top questions users are asking on Google to put a finger on the pulse of travelers’ attitudes as the tourism industry looks to bounce back from the pandemic. Here are the most asked questions and some high-level recommendations for destinations. 

Is it safe to travel? 

The top question, and several variations of this question, focused on safety. People want to travel again, but they don’t want to take any unnecessary risks. For this reason, it’s vital for destinations to include COVID-19 public health information. By including resources on your website and working with partners to ensure public health is prioritized, you give travelers peace of mind. Providing assurances that visiting is safe and reinforcing that message with in-destination public health advocacy will encourage people to pack their bags. 

Is it safe to fly right now?

Targeting drive markets is still a great option for destinations as air travel continues to lag. However, seeing people ask this question means people are starting to consider flying. We’ve seen search interests in flights increase, and are beginning to near pre-pandemic levels. Flight data should be monitored and targeting fly markets looks to be potentially promising as we enter the summer. Similar to providing resources to show visiting your community is safe, you should also provide safe travel tips and information to inform your visitors how to travel safely.

How to travel cheap?

While a version of this question seems to always pop up on the top searched questions, it’s not lost on us that 2020 was a tough year financially for many people. Destinations should be mindful of this. We recommend creating content that highlights affordable experiences or build itineraries that can be used by people traveling on a budget. 

How to plan a destination wedding?

Weddings are the top group event being searched right now. Many couples were forced to put their marriage plans on hold while big gatherings were unsafe. Now that there is light at the end of the tunnel as 2021 progresses, people are looking to finally host their big day. Destinations should work with their community partners to create content that highlights potential wedding spots. This approach provides planning resources for those looking to plan a destination wedding (and guests potentially attending one). 

Importance of Data Analysis 

We believe the traveler insights provided above are valuable, but data-driven insights are time sensitive; the value of the information decreases as time passes. For example, travelers’ attitudes and behaviors will change as the pandemic recedes. The above questions won’t always be top of mind for people. This is why it’s vital for destinations to invest in ongoing data analysis to continually analyze travel interests and ensure your messaging aligns with your visitors’ intents to travel.

National Travel & Tourism Week: Unlock the Power of Travel

May 2-8, 2021

Destination marketing organizations will play a key role in bringing vibrancy back to their communities. By inspiring responsible visitations, destinations can generate a collective impact that restores local economies, rebuilds workforces, and reconnects people. To celebrate National Travel & Tourism Week, here are ways destinations can unlock the power of travel. 

Pandemic Pain

Tourism will drive recoveries for communities across the country and define the path forward. Prior to the pandemic, tourism was a significant contributor to countless towns and cities—supporting people whose livelihoods relied on visitors. The pandemic ravaged millions of those hard-working people, resulting in the loss of six million travel-supported jobs. This number represents a 34% decrease compared to 2019. Devastating impacts like these proved how critical tourism is to the wellbeing of communities across the country. 

Learn more about National Travel & Tourism Week.

Data-Driven Insights

Travelers’ behaviors and attitudes are going to ebb and flow. We worked with destinations through 9/11 and the ‘08 recession. These events caused a sudden decrease in travel similar to the pandemic. Those recoveries were steady once the disruptions were in the rearview mirror. However, COVID-19 is different. The virus could persist in hotspots around the world, and variants might cause future outbreaks. Scenarios like these could create variance in travel trends. People’s confidence in traveling will change with the rising and falling COVID-19 metrics. 

Destinations must invest in destination intelligence tools that provide real-time traveler behavior data. Without a line of sight into the attitudes of travelers, destinations would be flying blind. They could potentially be creating campaigns that fall flat. For this reason, it’s vital for destinations to continually analyze travel data trends. This approach enables destinations to take advantage of opportunities and shift plans as things change. 

Responsible Marketing

All destinations should ground their strategies in responsible marketing to maximize the power of travel. Tactics grounded in respect for communities are not just the right thing to do, but are more effective. In addition to the pandemic, last summer also saw nationwide calls for social justice and equal protection under the law for all people. This spirit of equality and inclusiveness is vital in marketing. Travelers want to visit communities that align with their values. Destination must showcase their communities’ diversity. We work with partners to develop representative storytelling that demonstrates everyone can live, work, and play in their region.

Sustainable Tourism

Destinations should execute their campaigns in concert with their communities’ resources to protect from overtourism. For example, driving too many visitors into a destination could have a negative impact. Collaborating with key partners and stakeholders to monitor visitor data will ensure destinations are maintaining a healthy level of visitation and not overwhelming public spaces and services. 

It’s also important for destinations to safeguard their community and promote healthy travel. Working with partners to amplify public health messages and connecting travelers with COVID-19 safety resources will ensure that when people visit they will do so in a safe manner that doesn’t negatively impact a destination. 

Leading the Recovery

The pandemic turned tourism on its head. This National Travel & Tourism Week, destinations must commit to supporting their communities’ economic development. Tourism impacts so many people: visitors shopping at main street businesses boost the local economy, tourism-related revenue gives children a quality education and safe places to play, service industry workers put food on the table and give their family a place to call home, and so much more. We are working with partners across the country to do this by leveraging data-driven insights, using responsible marketing tactics, and cultivating sustainable tourism. Together, we can unlock the power of travel, generating a collective impact that ripples through communities for generations.

Google Algorithm Updates: What You Need to Know

Google will update their search engine algorithm beginning in mid-June. Sometimes, the internet giant makes unannounced small tweaks under the hood to their search algorithm. But this time, Google has announced some details and it’s a pretty significant update. We are taking advantage of the heads up and working with our partners to optimize their SEO for the new Google updates. 

What’s New in the Google Algorithm?

Google is changing the way they analyze core web vitals, and how they measure them for their algorithm. There are three core web vitals:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
  • First Input Delay (FID)
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

We will go over each in detail to define each, describe how Google is analyzing each within their algorithm, and provide recommendations to optimize them on your website. 

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

This measures how long it takes for the largest piece of content to appear on screen. This could be a large video, image, or advertisement. Essentially, it’s a way to define the loading speed of a website. Google defines a good user experience as one where the LCP occurs within two and a half seconds from when the page first starts to load. If the LCP takes longer than four seconds, Google deems it a bad user experience. 

Madden recommends caching or resizing images, optimizing images for web loading, and ensuring the images are sized appropriately for the displaying device to improve your LCP. Additionally, double check all CSS and javascript files your site loads are are actually necessary.

First Input Delay (FID)

This measures how long it takes for the site to react to the first user action. This could include clicking on a link or button, but does not include scrolling of changing the browser’s zoom. The FID acts as a measuring stick for a website’s level of interactivity. The Google Algorithm sets parameters for the FID to be less than 100 milliseconds for a good user experience. Anything longer than 300 milliseconds is a bad user experience. 

To improve your FID, Madden recommends that loading any non-critical javascript be deferred when possible. Additionally, make sure third-party code is only loaded when necessary.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

This measures the visual stability of a website. For example, do items move around the screen while it’s loading? The Google Algorithm uses a custom methodology to define CLS, with the benchmark for a good user experience falling at less than 0.1. Anything scoring higher than 0.25 is considered a bad user experience. 

To avoid a high CLS, Madden recommends you avoid embedding ads that shift items on a page. Additionally, you should not be inserting content via javascript or inserting iframes. Apply font styles early in the page load to avoid size changes later on. Setting image dimensions for all images is also a great way to reduce any layout shifts.

Why This Matters

Your website’s performance against the Google Algorithm matters for numerous reasons. For better or worse, these are the rules of the road for the internet. Achieving these parameters and scoring well against the algorithm positions your website to appear higher in organic search rankings. Google also requires good core web vitals scores for a website’s content to appear in “Google Top Stories.” 

It’s also important to note that Google didn’t just pull these numbers out of the air. Their user experience data shows these core web vitals are necessary for users to remain on a website. Poor page performance has a severe effect on bounce rate. If page load time increases from one second to three seconds, the bounce rate increases 32%. If page load time increases from one second to six seconds, the bounce rate increases 106%.

Read more about the importance of SEO.

Moving Forward

While the recommendations mentioned above will improve your SEO, it’s only one part of a successful SEO strategy. Strong scores in core web vitals are not the only determining factor in performance against the Google Algorithm. They work in tandem with Google’s other user experience ranking factors which include HTTPS, lack of interstitial pop-ups, and mobile-friendliness. The algorithm has over 200 ranking factors, so while core web vitals are important, destinations must have a holistic SEO approach to succeed. 

This is why SEO management must be an always-on part of any successful integrated destination marketing strategy. As we mentioned previously, Google doesn’t always announce changes to their algorithm, and destinations can be left flying blind. You can view a list of all the historical updates here to see how often things change. 

Remember that SEO is more than just updating metatags or ensuring SEO best practices during website construction. It’s a constant effort to optimize and manage your website for peak performance and Google Algorithm parameters. If you’re not already, you should devote ongoing resources to your website’s SEO to ensure it is in the best position to appear at the top of search results when users are looking for their next trip.