Fresh Strategies for Destination Marketing & Management

(Straight from Destinations International’s Annual Convention).

Back from Dallas after the Destinations International 2023 Annual Convention, our Digital Edge team has some fresh takes and strategies for destination marketing, management and stewardship. 

Discussions buzzing around DI Annual included:

  • What’s next for travel and tourism
  • The next generation of tourism leaders
  • Destination stewardship and sustainability
  • Applying data insights for marketing decisions


Some Save-for-Laters

During Annual, our team led micro-sessions that unveiled what makes meeting planners tick and what they need from destination organizations. Here’s the webinar link to that.

And don’t sleep on last year’s recap. The publish date may be from 2022, but the takeaways from it are just as relevant (if not more) today.   

One thing’s for sure, the landscape of destination marketing and management has undergone a transformation, and many destination organizations have shifted roles, values and focus. Here’s the recap.


Strategy: Lean into varying viewpoints for additional insights to take back to your organization.

The session — “Hot Takes: What’s Next for Travel and Tourism?” — involved differing opinions and interesting takes on questions like: Will the metaverse replace real-world travel? Can AI advance destination marketing? Are politics destroying travel? And will business travel return to pre-pandemic levels? Rarely did a question get a unanimous answer, but that was the beauty of it. Our team left with some shifted perspectives about these topics. Here are some takeaways from the panel: 


Is traveling a contributor to waste and a planet destroyer?

The takes:

  • Overall, any sustainable marketing your organization can do is a benefit. Don’t default to greenwashing — but make efforts to make travel as sustainable as possible.


Will younger generations use the metaverse to replace real-world travel?

The takes:

  • Nothing can replace actual experiences. 
  • The price of the technology would need to become more affordable to make it another option.
  • It’s beneficial — and another way to experience a destination.
  • It can be another tool to help inform travelers about their experiences to come.


Is AI a friend or foe to destination marketers?

The takes:

  • Organizations need to embrace it; tools like AI can make us better.
  • It can be used to jumpstart an RFP.
  • It can be unreliable and provide misinformation.


Will politics destroy travel as we know it?

The takes:

  • People will only visit places they perceive as accepting/practicing of their personal beliefs.
  • It’s a concern.
  • When others end up boycotting places, it can end up hurting the wrong people in the destination, affecting the local economy.
  • People, in general, will travel regardless of the destination’s perception.


Will business travel return to pre-pandemic levels?

The takes:

  • Business travel is back up and growing quarter over quarter.
  • Organizations need to angle marketing to bleisure to entice travel.


Credit to Sandee Jordan from Simpleview, Laura Fernandez from SXM Media, Zeek Coleman from Tourism Economics, Andrew Wilson from Atlanta CVB and Myha Gallagher from Destination Analysts for the insights.


Strategy: Reach back into your community to build and sustain the next generation of tourism leaders.

Whether it’s building for advocacy, workforce or youth development, destination organizations can play an essential role in the future of travel and tourism within their communities. Many of the up-and-coming workforce in underserved communities and locals throughout your community aren’t aware of the future opportunities within the hospitality, travel and tourism industry.   

  • Look at ways your team can connect students to the industry to address future workforce challenges within the community.
  • Explore initiatives for internships, mentoring programs, career exploration trips and more.
  • Ask how your organization is advancing DEI initiatives.
  • Cultivate local relationships and build an ecosystem of opportunities.
  • Build pride within the youth and locals to grow their passion for the industry.  
  • Find out what the organizations within your destination are doing to connect tourism with the disparities of community.
  • Have discussions and seek out more ways to connect to the community in a meaningful way.


Credit to Lisa Waldschmitt from Destination DC, Mary German from Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau and Roz Stuttley from Choose Chicago for the insights.


Strategy: Look at holistic ways to employ destination stewardship and future-proof your destination. 

Destination stewardship of sustainability was woven into nearly every session at Annual. And while many organizations are still defining what it means to be stewards of the environment and their destination, this panel shed light on insights to help build out your strategies. 

  • Change and adapt now. Climate is front and center when it comes to sustainability concerns. Look at creating adaptation strategies for your organization (strategies to adapt to what’s happening right now).
  • Remember: It goes beyond destination marketing. Ask your community members what they’d like to see from tourism. Engage and then gauge the visitor experience. Then, add value that accounts for this holistic sentiment.
  • Collaborate. Focus on a range of stakeholders like governments, local communities and travelers to create innovative solutions for the future of travel and the wellbeing of your destination.
  • Be resilient. Protect your home and stay passionate about reshaping the future travel experience.  
  • Another reminder: Your destination organization has more influence than you think. Help create changes from RFPs to in-real-time initiatives.
  • Take risks. Invest in team members with nontraditional backgrounds for stewardship – those who love their destination. It will come through in your organization’s initiatives.
  • Remember to be unconventional. The pandemic magnified the power of collaboration – unconventional leads to open doors.


Credit to Sara Meaney from Corragio Group, Claude Molinari from Visit Detroit, Kiri Goulter from Regional Tourism New Zealand, Kalani Kaʻanāʻanā from Hawaii Tourism Authority and Ewout Versloot from Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions for the insights.


Strategy: Look for the storylines within your data and let them guide your marketing and inform your stakeholders.   

From marketing to stakeholder engagement to destination management, data provides invaluable insights and can be a sophisticated source for storytelling. But there are some shared challenges among destination organizations with data application and attribution: 

  • Analysis by paralysis – being able to leverage the data coming in.
  • Getting talking points – informing stakeholders on the value of the data and showing how their investment is paying off.
  • Balancing between different media – remembering the results are going to be different.
  • Not focusing on one single conversion source.
  • Having attribution numbers be incongruent with revenue numbers.


  • Let the data inform the story — and keep doing it consistently.
  • Evolve how your stakeholders are interpreting the data.
  • Look for agencies and partners that don’t just regurgitate numbers with little reason and insight. Make sure they share the story of the data they’re sharing. 


Credit to Noreen Henry from Sojern, Robin McClain from Destination DC, Janette Roush from NYC & Co, Leah Chandler from Discover Puerto Rico and Justin Bresler from Visit Denver for the insights.



All in All…

There’s a lot of work to be done in our industry. And we help destination organizations with a lot of it. Reach out to us!

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