Visitor economies—groups and leisure—cratered during the worst of the pandemic and are only now showing signs of recovering. Destinations International, the association for destination organizations (DMOs) and convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs), wants to help its members build back better.

Its 2021 DestinationNEXT Futures Study points the way for these destination organizations to rebuild their visitor economies while creating “more sustainable destinations and enriching their communities.”

“The data presented in this study will help guide destination organizations around the world with a roadmap that will ultimately lead to the recovery of our industry,” said Don Welsh, president and CEO of Destinations International.

The study included a comprehensive survey of 706 participants across 52 countries worldwide and identified three transformational opportunities for destination organizations.

  • Destination alignment: aligning the public, private and civic sectors to drive destination performance
  • Sustainable development: destination and product development to marry people, planet, profit and policy
  • Values-based marketing: community values, goals and energy as the new competitive advantage

“This has been an immensely challenging time for visitor economies worldwide,” said Paul Ouimet, president and CEO of MMGY NextFactor, which led the study in partnership with Destinations International. “While there’s no doubt that our industry will play a critical role in global recovery, it will be different from the one that we are accustomed to. There will be new challenges, new opportunities, and new ways of thinking…. It is fair to say the decisions made now will shape the industry for many years to come.”

AlsoDestinations International Study: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Opportunities, Now and Beyond

The 78-page report that resulted from the study identifies 100 trends and 80 strategies from six key constituencies. Here, for instance, are takeaways from the “disruptors panel.”

  • We can no longer superimpose our will on the ecologies that sustain us.
  • The exponential increase in efforts to improve equity, diversity and inclusion across the visitor economy is not just about race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, accessibility, age, etc. It leads to greater creativity, innovation and improving overall performance for the brand.
  • Effective data management is now critical for delivering business intelligence to partners.
  • With the pending loss of third-party cookies, first-party data is key to owning your audience. New website, event, social media and mobile tracking tools can optimize how local communities and global visitors work together toward shared goals, while providing more first-party data for participating organizations.
  • Travel companies and event organizations are increasingly developing subscription models to diversify and increase revenue streams.
  • Covid-19 accelerated the shift toward a cashless, on-demand society.

In addition, the study identified 25 top trends. Chief among these are the following.

  1. Greater industry, community and government alignment is driving destination competitiveness and brand.
  2. Customers are increasingly seeking a unique, authentic travel experience.
  3. Content creation and dissemination by the public across all platforms drives the destination brand and experience.
  4. Video becomes the new currency of destination marketing and storytelling.
  5. Travelers are demanding more personalized information, control and interaction.

The entire study report is free and available here.