Leadership at the Durango Area Tourism Office is taking the organization “from weakness to strength,” Carrie Whitley, chairwoman of DATO’s Board of Directors, told the City Council on Tuesday in an effort to avoid losing a contract for the city’s marketing services.
City councilors said they were impressed by the specificity of goal-setting and measurements of success outlined in a presentation from DATO Interim Executive Director Barb Bowman and Visit Durango Director of Marketing Suzanne Harrison. DATO’s contract with the city came into question in December when City Councilor Chris Bettin suggested that staff seek proposals for other vendors to do the same job.
“I was interested in how are we tracking results of expenditures. We have so much more that we can look at and understand,” Bettin said Tuesday. “(DATO) has had a long-tenure history of great service. You’ve done well sharpening the tool kit.”
City Council has not sought proposals for marketing services from other vendors. City councilors said they plan to decide Monday whether to seek a new tourism marketing organization.
Bowman, whose interim position with DATO was announced in January, said the marketing company has pivoted to focus its mission as a Destination Marketing Organization with a multifaceted, measured and money-focused approach. It has plans for, and is in the process of, refreshing its brand, redesigning its website, updating its travel planner and working to increase lodgers tax revenue by 4%.
The brand will come with a new color scheme developed using the typical hues found in images of Durango on Instagram. The new color scheme, as presented Tuesday, includes red, oranges and blues to match local topography, skies and buildings. The new website will be designed with the color pallet and could launch as soon as November, Harrison said.
DATO is also investing resources to attract events like business conferences or wedding receptions to hotels in Durango and looking abroad to at least six different markets to attract international travelers. DATO already has a German-language micro-site and an Australian social media campaign advertising Durango.
The organization has also identified key demographics to target based on trends: Families tend to come from March to October and millennials and baby boomers tend to come in the shoulder months. Partnerships with Purgatory Resort, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Mesa Verde National Park are leveraged to bring more people to Durango to support those attractions.
“What I hear today is we get personalized, specific knowledge (from DATO),” said Councilor Barbara Noseworthy. “If you go outside, you’ll get the cookie-cutter response.”