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Turning the Page on OVGs: Why DMOs Need to Let Go of Listings

There’s nothing quite like the excitement of turning the pages of a visitors guide and making plans to take in the views, taste the flavors, and experience the fun sprawled out in front of you. The pictures and stories pique your interest, move you to learn more, to make the reservation, and to take the trip. While the internet and online booking platforms play a hand in travel planning, official visitors guides (OVGs) hold an equally integral role in the traveler’s journey. That role, however, is shifting and industry experts say DMOs have to rethink what’s on the pages to keep their publications relevant.

Print is not dead

With so much information accessible with the tap of a screen or the click of a mouse, some may claim that print media is on its way out and the need for a printed visitors guide is declining. But that couldn’t be further from the truth…print is growing in popularity.

Print has stood out as a trusted option for consumers among fears of data collection, hacks, and disinformation on social media. A 2019 study by Kanter found that 78% of Americans surveyed agreed that print publications “provide news and information I can trust,” but that consumer trust drops for both websites and social media.

Print is also a tangible object that grounds us in the real world and cuts through the so-called “digital clutter” we all encounter daily. With an endless array of choices, online users skim more and retain less. While digital media may be the most popular and accessible medium, print still reaches all ages, with Gen Z reading print at a comparable rate to previous generations. What’s more, 92% of young adults who were surveyed said that they find print easier to read.

Propelling print forward

While there is room for print in a digital world, guide creators need to look closely at what they are offering consumers. In addition to inspiring travelers, visitor guides are increasingly retained as souvenirs, lasting long after the trip has ended. With nearby dining, attraction information, and hotel booking more easily accessible online, print publications are increasingly shifting toward timeless, inspirational, and experience-oriented content instead.

“The most effective way to create a visitor guide that inspires in-market action and leads to lifelong memories is by letting go of listings and ads to make room for more editorial and design,” said Marissa Selby, a content strategist at Madden Media. “This step can turn the guide into a publication more like a premium travel magazine.”

But what about partners?

Partners or member businesses are a large part of traditional DMOs and business listings in printed guides can be a major selling point when signing on new members. So how do you still offer the guide as a partner benefit, while still swapping the listings for more content?

Madden has been helping clients make the switch by leaning into QR codes. Instead of pages of small-type business listings, the pages can be filled with quality photos and stories with a QR code sending readers to a corresponding page on a DMO website. This, said Selby, is making the most of a limited number of pages to motivate travelers.

There are other benefits to the QR code listings too. For instance, if a partner moves, closes, or changes their website, it can be easily updated online. The use of QR codes also leads to increased web traffic on the DMO website and offers a better visitor experience for users who are searching for a specific category or location. QR codes also open the door for real-time marketing. By collecting visitors’ data while they’re in-market, interest-targeting and remarketing campaigns can be launched when it’s most impactful. What’s more is that QR codes can go beyond linking travelers to business listings, they can link to tips, deals or even audio walking tours. The options are endless, but all help the user better connect to the destination.

Travel and tourism is an ever-changing industry and over the years OVGs have remained a reliable marketing tool. Printed publications will continue to inspire visitors, so long as they change with the traveler and work in sync with their digital counterparts.

Want to see more?

Here’s a small peek at some of the work Madden has done helping clients upgrade their content by letting go of listings:

Visit Phoenix
Visit Alexandria
Visit Bellevue
Travel Wisconsin

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