Skip to content Madden Media

Protect. Plan. Recover.

Updated 4/28/20

The evolving role of Destination Marketing Organizations into Destination Management Organizations has never been more evident than in recent weeks. We’ve developed the following framework to provide you and your partners with a helpful guide to thinking about not just short-term actions, but preparing and planning for the recovery of your marketing efforts for your destination.


While our hotel partners are experiencing a downturn like never before—one that some may not recover from—we know your destinations provide much more than room nights. Each of you hosts your own unique offering of coffee shops, breweries, museums, events, and so much more. While we cannot promote immediate travel, we can promote those assets and the stories and people behind them through social media and local earned media. More than ever, you will need to activate your local residents for the duration of this COVID-19 crisis to help fill the massive gap left by the mitigation measures currently being put in place.

As destinations begin to open up the gates to responsible marketing, the current message should be “Don’t travel now, but we are looking forward to having you back when the time is right and we want you to be dreaming about us, too.” This sentiment is reflected back in comments on social media as past visitors are expressing nostalgia and the desire to visit again soon.

Now is the time to adjust SEM plans for those in the planning phase and shift keywords and ad groups to outdoor spaces or promotions for curbside pickup and other ways to support local economies. Beyond organic posts on social feeds, numerous cities across the country are running display, video, and paid social campaigns for inspiration.

As you look forward, look at the collective impact models that exist to bring together diverse organizations and groups with a common agenda. Collective impact models bring people and organizations together in a structured way to achieve social change with a common goal. We have the opportunity as an industry to advocate for our communities and lead toward this future.

Some immediate measures you can take to support your community broadly include:

Everyone is seeking assistance from all levels, and you likely have reduced resources either through furloughs or new budget constraints. You already know your most critical assets through your existing destination development plans, visitor profile studies, and research data; use these studies or get the historical pattern of life tracking data, so you know where to prioritize your resources. While you may have significant leisure data, do not forget to review the pattern of life data of visitors to your convention centers to see what enriches the experience for event attendees. Work with your board to move some of your media efforts to support these key partners.

Whether you’re a government entity or a non-profit organization, you are going to have to protect and defend your budgets. Right now, you need to protect your organization and resources and, like your partners, look for recovery funds and loans to protect your team and efforts. Seek board approval to take on debt that might include potential payroll protection loans and economic stimulus benefits. Like your partners, you have also been adversely affected, and your non-profit should be seeking SBA assistance and working with your political leaders to ensure 501(c)6 organizations can qualify. Programs like these will be helpful to ensure that you have your full team to help you prepare and respond. U.S. Travel has established a guide to review options and your potential eligibility.

Lastly, keep in mind that there are still bookings for meetings going on for the future. These will easily be 6-18 months in the future, making short-term cuts for payroll could have long-term consequences. The relief programs should help to minimize the short-term pain and help mitigate the longer-term impact.


The world has just hit the pause button and we can’t expect that travel and tourism will suddenly go back to normal once the doors are open. Still, we all need to be working towards growing your destination and returning your hotel partners to a sustainable occupancy level. First, identify where you are on your curve. We are seeing a 15-30 day bell curve from the time community spread reaches a destination—this is within a metro region or state, not the data we will see from the country. As we review industry news, trends, and considerable research provided by Tourism Economics, we see booking interest start to return at 30-45 days from community spread. The result is that those areas which are most likely to be hit first will also be the first to recover, but will continue to suffer the longer-term PR concerns about safety. 

As the virus settles into pockets, some destinations will be better suited to handle visitors sooner rather than others. All of us know from our experience working within the traveler’s journey that leisure travelers will dream about a type of trip well before they start considering your destination. It is imperative to meet them where they are in the journey. Right now, people are home either not working or working remotely; they are looking for distractions and are online in droves. Keep those who are showing interest and intent to travel inside of your funnel by maintaining some limited media through the duration of the crisis since leisure travelers generally take 40+ days to decide to book. Bear in mind, 76% of travelers stated they planned to travel in the next six months, as recently surveyed by Longwoods.

When travel does pick up again, there will still be significant segments of the population that are reluctant to travel—whether due to financial instability or lingering health and wellness concerns. For those who do travel, find ways to highlight the affordability of your destination. The first people to travel will likely be drive-markets looking for budget-conscious short stays, day trips, and potentially weekends. Rather than lowering base prices (which can create complications around raising them in the future), increase value for these travelers with special packages and incentives.

Travelers will also take a particular interest in what your community, your restaurants, and your attractions are implementing to ensure their safety. Collaborate with your partners to create and communicate plans that address health and safety.

What you can do to ensure your message and assets continue to be seen and considered by your future travelers:

What you can do to improve the performance of your organization and marketing assets:


Your office, your partners, residents, and visitors all want to get to the other side of this crisis. The future will look different, but the core roles and responsibilities of DMOs will remain the same and will likely be that much more appreciated by your stakeholders. You will be the ones to help lead your destinations through the recovery. Whereas your hotel and attractions partners currently have messaging driving bookings, you are there to inspire the dream and brand of your destination for the consumer.

This year, the focus will be on occupancy over ADR, opening the doors of your hotels and attractions again, and a continued emphasis on social distancing. Consumers will want to see your inspiration-focused imagery or videos. However, it is wise to limit videos and images with numerous people in them due to social distancing concerns for the intermediate future. 

Use your social media channels and email marketing campaigns to let people know which of your partners are open for business. Media budgets have been paused, so when your destination is cleared to receive travelers, you will need to start ramping media up to peak levels while still seeking to control costs per conversion. Continue to focus on media channels that supply the highest return on investment, focusing on conversion actions that meet the strategy that you developed during the planning phase.

Be positive. There are more challenges to come as this virus affects your communities and individuals whom you know personally, and there will be more difficult decisions ahead. There is no crisis our industry has not rallied together to find a way through; because we know travel is a necessary part of the human condition. We have always been drawn to explore, to not sit in one place for too long, and to seek out the unknown. We are curious, social, and insta-worthy travelers that want your destination to be part of our story.

Get in Touch Today to Learn More!