This Just In: AdWeek Highlights DMOs That Partner With Social Influencers for Big Results

follow your nola2

Unlike regular consumer products, selling travel is the art of converting sales for an intangible collection of experiences. What’s more, these targeted consumers need to journey away from their home to obtain the value of their purchase, providing an added challenge for destination marketers to overcome.

Social media has allowed destination marketers an engaging channel to entice potential travelers by harnessing the power of virtual word-of-mouth. DMOs have found success developing creative socially driven campaigns to engage and attract visitors.

For example, The Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board’s “What’s Your L.A. Story?” campaign, showcases the city in 15-second video vignettes, highlighting true visitor stories such as a father and son visiting the venue where The Doors debuted. Instagram Influencers were also courted to visit the destination and tag  posted photos with #LAStory. This accounted for half the campaign’s 25 million social media impressions.

New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp. used a similar tactic with their “Follow Your NOLA,” inviting a dozen digital story tellers to the city. To date, the “Follow Your NOLA” campaign has generated 600 million total impressions and drove a 20 percent increase in traffic to

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Social Media Challenges in Destination Marketing

This article was re-posted from the Business 2 Community blog on August 2, 2014.

Earlier this year, we celebrated Facebook’s 10th anniversary, LinkedIn boasted more than 300 million active users while TripAdvisor now has more than 175 million reviews. We have come to expect seeing travel & hospitality stakeholders managing accounts on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter or even Google+. In other words, social media marketing has moved beyond bells and whistles and is now the mainstay of a sound digital strategy, along with having a transactional, mobile-optimized website and a clean database for frequent, automated emails and/or newsletters. But while social media is now recognized as important, in particular within the travel vertical, managing it remains a constant challenge.


During its most recent annual summit in Vegas, DMAI (Destination Marketing Association International) shared the results from a recent study conducted by Development Counsellors International, surveying more than 100 individuals responsible for social media marketing at destination marketing organizations across North America. Some findings were real eye-openers, confirming what many observers suspected: while social media are considered important for a majority, budget allocation remains marginal, at best.

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This chart shows that 71% of destinations surveyed must deal with a social media marketing budget of less than 25,000$. Perhaps even more surprisingly, 99% of organizations have a digital marketing budget, yet only 60% have a dedicated envelope for social media activities.

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This second chart demonstrates beyond any doubt how social media are under-represented in the big picture of digital marketing budgets. Roughly 76% of destinations allocate less than 10% of their total marketing budgets to social media, regardless of the size of the digital marketing budget to being with!

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So how are social media budgets spent? Some very interesting findings here, shedding light on some best practices by destinations in their social media efforts. According to the survey, most popular budget allocations are:

  • 39% in paid promotion: promoted tweets, Facebook ads and promoted posts, etc.
  • 29% in content development: graphics, writing, photos and videos, apps.
  • 28% invest in Human Resources for engagement.
  • 18% spend on contest initiatives.
  • 13% spend their budget on monitoring tools such as Radian6, VocusSocial, Sysomos, etc.

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One eye-opening finding is that destination brands with intermediate social media marketing budgets seem to be the ones outsourcing this function the most. In particular organizations with budgets within the 25,000-50,000$ bracket, 83% of which outsource their social media activities, handing it over to agencies and/or freelance experts. We are not so surprised to see that destinations with the smallest budgets tend to keep activities in-house, since budgets are scarce to being with. Nevertheless, it is somewhat surprising to find out that virtually one out of every three DMO outsources its social media activities.

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Finally, when surveying what are today’s top social media challenges face by DMOs, again I was somewhat surprised not to see some concerns rank higher, i.e. maintaining engagement, or budget constraints. In fact, the biggest challenge seems to be one shared by many industries alike, and not just in marketing: time, or a lack therof. Over 30% of destination marketing managers identified time as a key challenge, specially with new social networks and mobile apps creeping up all the time and despite of softwares that help managing it all.

It’s no wonder the second biggest challenge is to stay abreast of new trends and technologies that can help making sense of it all. In fact, attending industry events, conferences and participating in various training and webinars is a key component of staying on top of evolving trends and finding out the tools and tech to help managers in their everyday chores handling social media activities.

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One last word. Return on investment (ROI) is almost always a key performance indicator in most organizations, yet it remains elusive in particular in destination marketing, where direct sales are not core to their business model (compared, say, to a hotel, restaurant or transportation). Nevertheless, it’s surprising to see only 8.1% of respondents identifying this challenge as key. Does it make it less important to measure? Of course not, but it does reflect how difficult it remains to “prove” social media campaigns, and that destination marketing organizations have integrated different ways to address this concern in some shape or form.

Do any of the above results surprise you? I would love to hear your comments in the section below.

Click here for more on this DMAI report


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Four Tips To Overcome The Digital Travel Marketing Disruptors

This article published on Skift one year ago, The Destination Marketing Organization Model in Tourism Is Broken, challenged DMOs to re-examine their marketing model to remain effective in the fast-evolving digital landscape. Skift identified four disruptors to DMOs: the rise of the collaborative economy, user generated content, OTAs and mobile platforms.

To not just survive, but to thrive in today’s destination and travel marketing environment, here are four actionable ways to overcome each disruptor.

1. Leveraging Aggregate Travel Audiences

  • Disruptor: The collaborative economy
  • Don’t view the peer-to-peer (P2P) movement as a threat, but as an expanded community with niche audiences to leverage. If AirBnB is becoming popular in your destination, what can your destination do to capitalize on the consumers visiting the site to book a place to stay? Explore advertising opportunities to push to your booking engine or accommodation partners. Participate in social media chats sponsored by other travel aggregators like the #Expediachat Twitter chat or the Travelocity Gnome’s #gosmelltheroses twitter chat. Show that your destination understands this new travel ecosystem and how to be an active player in this evolving space.

2. Instagram and Vine Are The Little Black Dress of Travel Marketing

  • Disruptor: The rising importance of UGC and social platforms
  • The ability to create and curate user generated content (UGC) is imperative for any destination’s marketing plan.  Research continues to show that consumers trust the opinions of other consumers, travel bloggers, friends and family over brand advertising. Work with popular digital influencers across Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to promote your destination. For DMOs, curating content is more valuable than creating content. So leveraging visually-driven  UGC on Instagram or Vine can be a time saving way to publish more personal content. Vine, the video-only social platform, is exploding right now. According to Mashable, five Vine videos are tweeted every second and the platform has 40 million users. DMOs can regram a picture or video on Instagram or revine a video on Vine to share third-party content with their followers.

3. Be Visual

  • Disruptor: The dominance of OTAs in the distribution system
  • DMO websites still play a vital role in inspirational travel, even though OTAs are dominating the consumer search and buying process.  OTAs are most often used to search for the best deals once a specific destination has been shortlisted. However, DMO digital platforms offer inspiration when consumers are still selecting which locations to shortlist. To be effective, make sure your website plays into the aspirational values and experiences for which your target audience is looking. Be visual!  For cost-effective imagery, create a promotion to drive image content creation. For example, HotelTonight created the “Snap Your Stay” campaign to encourage users to take pictures and upload shots of their hotel rooms to receive credits ranging from $5 to $10. As a DMO, you could partner with a hotel, city coupon service like CityPASS or Entertainment Book, attractions, or restaurants to encourage travelers to generate content using specific hashtags.

4. Personalize, Personalize, Personalize

  • Disruptor: Mobile
  • By this time, responsive design in mobile is old news.  Your best bet to stand out from the clutter online is personalization. From touchdown to takeoff, every digital touch point you have should be mobile optimized. Whether you have a responsive design website, app, social channels or emails—personalize whenever possible. Personalization can be achieved on a website or in an email by asking consumers their interests in a pop-up, then customizing the content consumers receive. The more custom content you can deliver—the  better.

When mapping out your digital strategy, use the traveler expectation infographic to identify gaps in your current marketing and ways to optimize.

travel infographic3

What else have you done to ensure your DMO evolves with the dynamic travel marketing industry?

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Top Eight Digital Influencers for Travel

We live in the era of digital influencers — individuals with loyal social media followings whose words and images can motivate an army of consumers to book a vacation. Travel is a visual experience, so photo-driven social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest have become the perfect fit for showcasing a destination’s attributes.

For DMOs, creating relationships with these online opinion leaders has become one of the most effective ways to tell your destination’s authentic story and drive awareness as well as bookings. Influencer Marketing is now big business in North America, with the latest estimate valued at $240 million.

These personality powerhouses have established consumer followings in a broad range of niches including travel, diving, food and sailing to name a few.

So who are these elusive digital story tellers and how can DMOs reach them to leverage their influence on target audiences? Here are our recommended top eight that you should get to know…

For Pinterest

ordinary traveler3 Christy and Scott from Ordinary Traveler. These two photographers travel the world for a living and share stunning photography along the way to their 29,000 followers on Pinterest. They regularly partner with companies, hotels and destinations.
the cultureist2 The Cultureist is an online magazine that covers small businesses, food trends, travel and culture. This digital outlet has 2,016 engaged followers on Pinterest with 46 boards to browse. Much of the content is derived from its contributors taking assisted press trips from DMOs which is also featured on the outlet’s website.


For Instagram

Kirsten Alana3 Kirsten Alana is an Instagram influencerwith more than 42,000 followers.  She specializes in luxury travel, cultural aspects and green tourism on her blog. Visit her website to learn more how she works with destinations. 

cole rise3 Cole Rise’s Instagram account has 956,000 eager followers with an average of 9-12k likes for each picture. This self-professed ‘escape artist’ shoots dramatic landscapes taken on his global travels. He’s open to working with destinations on assisted visits. His recent travels have included Iceland, Norway and Mauritius. 

ken2 Ken Kaminesky’s 9,700 Instagram followers love his distinctive shots all taken and edited on an iPhone—not a professional camera. To find out how to work with Ken, visit his website.
zach glassman2 Zach Glassman shares his wonderful imagery with 128,000 followers in Instagram. He is open to working with destinations. For more details, email him at
colby brown2 Colby Brown is an international photographer specializing in landscape, travel and humanitarian photography with more than 39,800 Instagram followers. View his online portfolio on his website. More information is there on how to work with him.
Brendan van Son2 Brendan van Son has a sharp eye for photography that is appreciated by his 9,200 Instagram followers. He is open to taking assisted trips to assist in content creation for his blog and Instagram feed. Brandan’s areas of interest include adventure travel, solo travel, group travel, photography and luxury travel. Check out his website for more information and his travel schedule.

These are just a few of our favorites. Who has your DMO worked with recently that you can recommend?

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The ABCs of Travel Marketing

Ready to soak up the sun this summer? See the latest trends in travel marketing. From gamification to fun filters to Prezi presentations to unexpected experiences—DCI spells it out one letter at a time. Download the full PDF here.  Augmented Reality and Apps Back to basics, don’t forget the essentials travelers often look for, helpful […]

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Gamification: How Destinations Are Jumping On Board

Move over social media badges, gamification is getting more sophisticated and DMOs are jumping on board. Social media badges are the Super Mario’s of the Nintendo gaming world. Simply put, badges are the first iteration of a fast evolving complex mechanism. We’re entering the Xbox360 and PlayStation high stakes era. In fact, a Gartner Study […]

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The Future of E-commerce and Online Travel Booking

On Monday, Amazon announced a new shopping feature for Twitter.  When consumers see products or gear in promoted tweets, they can respond to the ad and include the #AmazonCart hashtag to have those items automatically added in their Amazon shopping carts. This innovative e-commerce idea transitions Twitter from a simple publishing platform to an e-commerce […]

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It’s all in the details: Driving social media engagement with photos

We know it’s cliché—a picture speaks 1,000 words—but it’s also true. For a DMO, photos are key to driving engagement on social media channels. Consider this: photos on Facebook receive 53 percent more likes, 104 percent more comments and 84 percent more click-throughs than text alone according to Kissmetrics.   On Twitter, users are engaged […]

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Email Marketing Best Practices for Tourism

After waking up, what’s the first thing you do in the morning? Brush your teeth? Make coffee? If you answered check email on your phone, you’re not alone. According to SOASTA, 67 percent of smartphone users who check apps look at email first thing in the morning. That means one of the most effective means of […]

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The Tweet that Started it All

Have you been following the Super Bowl-bound Broncos recently?  If you have, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear how Broncos Quarterback Peyton Manning’s famous snap call of “Omaha” has garnered national media attention and interest in Omaha, Neb. as a city. And while Peyton’s snap call has announcers speculating what plays he’s calling, the mystery […]

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