Visit Durango is starting the new year with a fresh perspective on tourism and a new plan of action.
This month, the tourism office has released the 2021-2022 Destination Management & Marketing Strategic Plan. The full plan is available on our website at Durango.org/strategic-plan. The plan, in its entirety, is 87 pages. It is a comprehensive document that goes over the details of Visit Durango’s marketing-related plans for the next two years.
Why create a strategic plan?For those unfamiliar with a nonprofit’s strategic planning process, you may be curious why our team would put in so much time and effort into this lengthy document. This document is not as much for our team as it is for our stakeholders and La Plata County’s tourism community. With this document in hand, our tourism businesses will be empowered to make more informed decisions for the years to come. In the document, we define the current state of the tourism industry and our brand’s positioning, mission and guiding principles.
The plan outlines the strategic goals and objectives and our target market and audiences for advertising. This strategy will not only guide Visit Durango’s marketing and management efforts over the next two years, but it also provides a model plan template for La Plata County’s tourism stakeholders. The heart of this strategic plan is a concept I have written about in this column since the beginning of 2020: destination management.
Visit Durango is part of the movement of our industry from just destination marketing to destination management and marketing. Destination management expands our organization’s purpose beyond just advertising and traditional marketing. Destination management also entails destination leadership, community partnerships and stewardship. One example of this shift from 2020 is Visit Durango’s responsible tourism campaign, Care for Durango. You’ve seen banners above Main Avenue, “Masks Required” decals in shop windows and ski stickers on our sidewalks, reminding pedestrians to socially distance. The dissemination of COVID-19-related health and safety practices is just one-way Visit Durango is embracing stewardship of our destination.
Creating the strategic planIn the past, Visit Durango has created a simple scope-of-services document to outline our contracted commitments for our clients, the city of Durango and La Plata County. After starting with Visit Durango in November 2019, our team quickly realized a strategic plan as missing piece of the destination management roadmap. We knew from the beginning that we did not want to create this plan in a vacuum. We consulted vendors and stakeholders from the very beginning and throughout its creation. In order to make sure all relevant voices were heard, our team performed research including a local resident survey, a traveler sentiment survey and a tourism business stakeholder survey. The marketing tone adjectives that resonated with our constituents were: outdoorsy, active, authentic, laid-back, thrilling, unspoiled and friendly. From this and other feedback, we created our goals and objectives, outlined the plan, and a timeline and budget for execution.
Visit Durango uses a number of guiding statements when creating our strategy. Our positioning statement, which is an assertion used internally, by our staff and board of directors, states, “We promote Durango as an international destination for its rich culture and historic past, where the high alpine meets the high desert. We provide a positive visitor experience, drive economic impact and support our local community.” For our external, consumer-facing matters we work from our vision statement: “Promote Durango’s unique attributes in a responsible manner to foster year-round sustainable economic growth for the Durango area.”
The core of the strategic plan is six overarching goals. Each goal then expands into several objectives in the areas of marketing, public relations, sales, visitor services, advocacy and programs. The six goals identified by our team and the community are:
1. Support the tourism industry and economic recovery during COVID-19.
2. Support a more consistent, year-round economy by dispersing visitors both seasonally and geographically.
3. Attract high value, responsible travelers and steward La Plata County’s natural resources.
4. Increase the overall positive visitor experience in La Plata County.
5. Increase the quality of life and educate residents about the value of tourism.
6. Educate tourism stakeholders and advocate on their behalf.
The aim of these goals is economic recovery and sustainable tourism.
The goals identified in our plan look very different than the goals of Visit Durango’s past. We are now committed to taking a responsible approach to our county’s tourism strategy. We are no longer just focusing on hotel patrons or “heads in beds.” We care about optimizing the entire visitor experience and our tourism industry’s symbiotic relationship with the local resident community.
Visit Durango’s stakeholders were key in developing our “target personas.” In the marketing world, personas are hypothetical characters or groups of people that marketing companies create to frame the audiences they communicate with. The four key personas created for potential Durango visitors are: “Taylor & Trever – The Techy Family,” described as a connected outdoorsy family with young children, likely on a road trip; “Andy & Allison – The Adventurers,” a millennial couple with a work hard/play hard lifestyle; “Cathy – The Cultural” is a 55- to 65-year-old art and history buff. And lastly, “Tom & Tammy – Take-It-Easy,” who are a retired couple who patronize attractions like the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and enjoy “soft adventures.”
We’ve identified these four personas as the highest-value and best use of our ad spend. These groups will contribute the most to the Durango economy.
For more details about Visit Durango’s budget, our paid media and organic media channels, and our objectives for the coming years, read the full 2021-2022 Destination Management & Marketing Strategic Plan at Durango.org/strategic-plan. The Strategic Plan took over nine months to complete with input and collaboration with many members of the Durango community. While our team is using the plan as our official “playbook” for all destination marketing and management efforts moving forward, it is bound to evolve over the next two years. As you participate in your business or employer’s business’ marketing, keep Visit Durango abreast of any unique or noteworthy findings. The more informed our team is, the better informed our decisions will be.
Rachel Brown is the executive director of Visit Durango. She can be reached at 261-1052 or firstname.lastname@example.org.