Adapting to changing times and ever-changing technology dominated the presentations and discussions at the Education Summit hosted this week by Destination Marketing Association of the West (DMA West) at The Linq in Las Vegas.
In the opening keynote, Aaron Wodin-Schwartz, vice president for public policy at Brand USA, said the public-private organization tasked with promoting foreign travel to the United States is working to reassure the rest of the world that “the U.S.A. is as amazing as ever.” He acknowledged that the current political climate has negatively influenced many would-be visitors from other countries. Tourism from Mexico, in particular, has been sensitive to perceived unwelcoming messages from the Trump administration, he said.
Nonetheless, Wodin-Schwartz emphasized that the greatest single factor impacting decisions to travel to the U.S. is the recent strength of the U.S. dollar, which has reduced the buying power of foreign currencies and made U.S. travel more expensive.
The Trump administration has proposed defunding Brand USA. Wodin-Schwartz said his organization cannot comment or advocate on this issue, but he did imply that the local impact of $245 billion and nearly 8 million jobs supported by international visitors has increased support for Brand USA in Congress.
Use data to determine specific audience preferences. In a workshop on best practices for measuring ROI in destination marketing, two experts urged DMOs to use measurement data as a strategic tool, and not simply to gauge effectiveness of their marketing efforts. New data technology allows marketers to understand what visitors want when they come to a destination. A map of the Washington, D.C. Mall was overlaid with dots representing visits to specific sites such as the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. Using data collected from cellphones being carried by tourists, these visits can be segmented by categories of traveler, showing marketers (and the planners they share that data with) the favorite attractions for Texans versus those favored by New Yorkers, for example.
Make it quick. Shannon Gray, a cultural anthropologist and CEO of Gray Research Solutions, spoke to the importance of creating connection and trust with travelers. And she addressed challenges today’s marketers face–the average attention span of Americans, she said, is less than 8 seconds, and is declining. (It was 12 seconds in 2000.)
Take a cue from social. A keynote titled “Your Future Is Social” by Martin Stoll, president of Sparkloft Media, highlighted how best practices regarding social data from other industries can be used by DMOs and planners. He noted, for example, that Facebook targets ads to users based on data it gathers that has nothing to do with Facebook posts, including users’ store visits, offline purchases and even phone calls.
The 3-day gathering, attended by delegates from 65 destination marketing organizations (DMOs) from Alaska to Texas, was sponsored, in part, by Smart Meetings.