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Mission Control / Travel

Master Class: How to Market Your Travel Destination in 2021

From the ability to shift a campaign’s course in real time to the reexamination of which travelers to target, learn how savvy DMOs have weathered the COVID storm of 2020 and how you can chart a steady course in the year ahead.

DMO Best Of

By Katie Bridges

When the world came screeching to a halt in early 2020, destination marketing organizations had no choice but to scrap their well-laid plans and learn to navigate the tumult. The DMOs that fared the best — and that continue to do so — built their strategies on the changing dynamics of travel, and on an understanding of what travelers want and need now, and in the months to come.

From the ability to shift a campaign’s course in real time to the reexamination of which travelers to target, here are a few ways savvy DMOs have weathered the storm. Consider this your master class in travel marketing during a worldwide pandemic.

1. Sell the Seasonal: Visit Idaho

With so much changing day by day, travelers are making last-minute trips, often booking the same week that they intend to travel, or even days before. Visit Idaho — which is fortunate to promote a four-seasons, year-round destination — is taking advantage of this fact by keeping the marquee content on their site hyper-seasonal. When visitors land on the Visit Idaho site, they’re immersed in photography, video and compelling content that’s sure to entice travelers to book a trip — now.

Your To-Do: Sell the aspects of your destination that appeal to the traveler right now, focusing on safe activities, outdoor adventures and wide-open spaces.

2. Foster Dreaming Moments: Visit Maine

With a second wave of the virus in full effect, it’s understandable that many are uneasy about the prospect of travel — but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t dreaming about the first trip they’ll be able to take once it’s safe to do so. Visit Maine’s stunning digital quarterly, The Maine Thing, appeals to armchair travelers via a dreamy, breezy and extremely visually appealing journey into their iconic seaside landscape.

Your To-Do: Appeal to last-minute travelers, sure — but don’t forget to speak to those who’ll be eager to stretch their travel legs in the coming year.

3. Be (Extremely) Flexible: Niagara Falls USA

Much like Visit Idaho, Niagara Falls USA is a destination that’s primed for pandemic travel: It’s a natural wonder, after all, and offers plenty of opportunity for outdoor (read: safe) exploration. The hang-up, however, is the fact that Niagara Falls is in New York, a state that was once the epicenter of the epidemic and has maintained strict restrictions as a result — and has changed who’s on the “must quarantine” list from day to day. Luckily, phased digital campaigns allow the DMO to change targeting on the quick, optimizing ads for drive markets when available and switching to a New York State-focused strategy when restrictions demand it.

Your To-Do: Have a variety of audience-focused assets on the ready, should restrictions change and require you to narrow your scope. What speaks to your typical (larger) audience might not resonate with a tighter target.

4. Appeal to Locals: Arizona Office of Tourism

Arizona’s high season is the gorgeous, sunny months of winter and early spring — which just so happened to coincide with the first lockdown and the nascent days of the pandemic. While the Arizona Office of Tourism is used to targeting folks farther afield in colder climes, they shifted completely, focusing on reenergizing desert denizens to explore their own state. Their Rediscover Arizona microsite serves as invitation to venture out, safely, into the Grand Canyon State.

Your To-Do: Your destination has plenty to offer locals, too — and many of them are likely feeling claustrophobic. Encourage them to book a staycation by offering content that reconnects them with the wonder of their own backyard.

Need a Bold Strategy to Market Your Destination?

We can help you create flexible campaigns that respond to travelers’ current mindsets.

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Katie Bridges Overlay Blue
Katie Bridges Senior Editor

Katie has almost a decade of editorial experience, spending most of those years as an editor at regional magazines. A Georgetown University grad, she helps guide digital and print content programs from concept to completion for C/A clients such as Vanderbilt Health, Niagara Falls USA and Phoenix Children’s Hospital Foundation. She has written for Garden & Gun, Washingtonian and Arkansas Life, among others.

The mother of two young girls, Katie can most often be found on a hiking trail with her family (Sedona’s a favorite). She’s a Southerner through and through, and the only member of the C/A team who uses the word “y’all” with abandon.

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