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. Snapshot

  • Augmented Reality and Apps
  • Back to basics, don’t forget the essentials travelers often look for, helpful maps, authentic pictures and inspiring video
  • Culinary trips and foodie tourism
  • Digital is king – mobile friendly sites, clear navigation, ease of website use, viewable travel resources and engaging social media
  • Engage not only your target consumers, but internal team, stakeholders and civic leaders on key decisions and successes
  • Filters. Pick the best filter on Facebook or Instagram to showcase your destination
  • Gamification
  • High season is an opportunity to harness the buzz, capturing video, social engagement and the excitement in your destination
  • Influencers. Let digital influencers help tell your story as a powerful third-party endorsement
  • Jobs are a crucial part of what makes your job as a travel marketer so important. Never forget the importance of what you do for so many others
  • Killer content. Content marketing is king right now
  • Live like a local. AirB&B and other travel sites let travelers live like a local
  • Mobile marketing
  • Notable bloggers. Reach out to influencers for press trips or sponsored content
  • Online ads. Banner ads still have a good ROI and low overall cost
  • Prezi. Make sure your marketing materials come to life with a Presi video and presentation
  • Quick responses. If you’re on social media, consumers expect a response in 1-2 hours to questions and complaints
  • Research is key. Research and audit your offerings, the competition’s and develop smart strategies based on your findings
  • Social media (Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare)
  • Training and professional development are important in an ever-changing world of media, technology and best practices in tourism
  • Unexpected experiences. Surprising facts or activities in your region
  • Voice. Real and authentic voice for digital. Consumers expect a more personal, informal voice
  • Website. Keep your website current with helpful content and pictures
  • Xi, X…People love numbered lists. Top 10 lists always perform well.
  • You. Selfies are hot right now. How can you encourage people to take photos in your destination?
  • Zealousness about your destination or place drives great ideas and helps convey a sense of passion about why you are distinct
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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. 0711 Catch the Kid iPhone App Screen Gra2 (2)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 predicts that by 2015, gamification will be the primary mechanism used by 40 percent of Fortune 1000 companies to transform business operations.

Gamification combines non-game applications with game play mechanics and provides rewards to motivate customers and increase engagement.

  • Sighter is an urban treasure hunt app for different destinations and cities. Trails are created by consumers and companies. Once you get close to the spot, it’s a game of ‘hot and cold’ to capture the sight/object from the right angle on your phone. It’s a Hungarian startup app and features places all over the world.
  • I Spy Denton is a digital scavenger hunt in Denton, Texas. In 2012, the scavenger hunt involved 100 people uploading photos for prizes. Half spent $20 or more downtown. In 2013, the team received more than 450 posts to Twitter and Instagram in two hours.
  • Catch the Kid was created by the New Mexico Tourism Department (NMTD) n 2011. Travelers checked-in at various locations to unlock clues about where to find iconic outlaw Billy the Kid. Consumers could earn travel deals and a grand prize of $10,000 for participating. More than 15,000 visitors participated in the effort which generated $4 million in direct economic impact to New Mexico.

For DMOs new to gamification, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Leverage tools and platforms that people already know how to use such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Badgeville or apps for iPhone/Android users.
  2. Snap it. Tag. Upload. Don’t overcomplicate things. Keep social games or apps easy to use and intuitive.
  3. Have multiple levels, prizes or bragging rights.
  4. Make sure the game still achieves your goals as a DMO—such as dispersal of travelers—and educates them about your destination.
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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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Top Social Media Conferences for 2014

Did you just miss NMX (originally BlogWorld) or are you looking for more robust and innovative social media conferences to attend in 2014? Here are our ‘Best in Show’ awards for digital and social media conferences for DMOs and CVBS: And the winners are… Best for showcasing CVB and DMO case studies: Social Media Tourism Symposium […]

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Why Mobile Matters for DMOs: 6 Tips

TNOOZ recently posted this infographic about how travelers are increasingly using mobile devices when researching, buying and experiencing a travel destination. In fact, these days, 88% of leisure travelers identify their smartphones as the top must-have device when on vacation! What does this mean for DMOs? Mobile has transformed into an integral travel marketing platform […]

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