Since I arrived here in February, from the “Great North” ... Grand Junction, aside from being warmly welcomed, I have consistently been asked, “What does a destination marketing organization do? How hard can it really be to market such an amazing destination as Durango?”
First and foremost, Durango is amazing. I’ve had a love affair with Durango for many years, as have many of us in the Colorado tourism industry. As I have continued to say around town, “how many destinations do you know that have an SUV or Ralph Lauren clothing named after them?” Or a world-renowned historic train, in addition to what I call the “ings”: biking, hiking, rafting, paddle boarding, kayaking, skiing, shopping, plus the wonderful “foodie/craft beverages” and “arts/culture” scene.
To answer the first part of the question, this is one of the best definitions of a destination marketing organization that I have come across: “A destination organization, often referred to as a destination marketing or management organization, convention and visitors bureau or tourism board, is responsible for promoting a community as an attractive travel destination and enhancing its public image as a dynamic place to live and work. Through the impact of travel, they strengthen the economic position and provide opportunity for people in their community.”
As to the second part of the question, how hard can it be to market Durango? Let’s just say, destination marketing strategies used to be less complicated. The world has, in marketing terms, become much smaller. Today, destinations like Durango literally compete against the world. Think about it, within two or three plane rides from here, you can be on 6 of the 7 continents. Closer to home, how about those little destinations such as Moab, Sedona or even Telluride? Competition is fierce and it’s not like it used to be when destinations would simply advertise in magazines, receive calls, send out visitor guides and then, hopefully, people would come visit.
To this day, the No. 1 reason people travel is to visit friends and family. A DMO cannot make any destination successful without the community, so thank all of you who have continued to extend an invitation to visit Durango for leisure, business, meetings, reunions, events, etc.
Durango’s many wonderful attractions and activities businesses work on a daily basis, together with the tourism office, to attract visitors. In addition, organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, Business Improvement District, Fort Lewis College, Economic Development Alliance, Local First, Trails 2000 and many others add to the support, through their own marketing efforts. It takes a team to build a successful tourism economy.
However, as much as we would like it, the phrase “build it and they will come,” does not hold true in the destination marketing world. To be successful, the DMO must also inspire, create demand, and attract visitors through the design of a multi-layered marketing and sales campaign. Today, this campaign must include traditional marketing/sales efforts, a vibrant website, online/print advertising, public relations, social media, broadcast media, tradeshows and other creative strategies. The DMO must then be sure that the campaign is working, through data analytics and performance measures, just as any other successful business. The days of just placing an ad in Texas Monthly or AAA, then measuring inquiries has gone by the wayside.
Consider how you plan your holidays these days? Where do you get your ideas? A friend, favorite magazine, a banner ad, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram? The list goes on and on. How do you conduct your research or book your trip?
These are many of the same questions a DMO must answer as it designs an overall destination marketing strategy. They must know their destination in and out: the access, attractions, activities, lodging, dining, services, infrastructure, etc. Then, through research, they need to determine who and how many current customers there are, as well as continue to strategize on what it will take to attract new ones.
Once visitors have come, it is important to understand how their visit went. Will they return? As we all know, in business, it is more cost effective to keep an existing customer than attract a new one. The Durango Welcome Center also plays a great part in repeat visitation and overall marketing strategy by providing the most up to date information on how to best enjoy the destination and encourage increased length of stay. Your Welcome Center sees 134,000 visitors a year, which is approximately 10% of overall visitation.
How is this tourism strategy funded? In Durango, visionary leaders developed a lodging tax ordinance in the early 1980s, which resulted in a 2 percent lodging tax. This tax is paid for by visitors at the end of their stay in a hotel/motel, bed and breakfast, campground, cabin or vacation home rental.
The knowledgeable and passionate DATO team is putting all of the above best practices to use, while working together with the DATO Board, tourism industry and partners to ensure that Durango has a strong tourism economy in 2019!
Join us to learn more about Durango tourism at the Southwest Tourism Summit on April 18 and 19 at the Strater Hotel. http://www.swtourismsummit.com/register/
Barbara Bowman is the interim executive director of Visit Durango. She is a third-generation Colorado native, with Silverton roots. She recently retired after 27½ years with Visit Grand Junction. Barb can be reached at 970-261-1052 or email@example.com.