Destination Marketing on the Cutting Edge

How DMOs are using social media and other creative tactics to attract young planners

neighborhood events on Alberta Street

(Pictured) Live like a local: Travel Portland (Ore.) draws visitors by highlighing its food scene and neighborhood events like art walks on Alberta Street.

Like most businesses today, destination marketing organizations are keen to capture the imagination, social media influence and dollars of the younger generation of travelers and meeting professionals. Using everything from animation to virtual reality, some DMOs are pulling out all the stops in their marketing efforts to engage these targets -- as well as increasingly sophisticated and digitally savvy audiences of all ages. Following are examples of a few organizations that excel at showcasing the best their cities have to offer.

> Travel Portland (Ore.)
Portland's youthful vibe gives it a natural edge in appealing to young travelers and meeting planners. In fact, Millennials make up nearly half the total visitors to the city and remain the fastest-growing demographic likely to visit. Travel Portland can take credit for some of that success; the DMO consistently produces digital marketing that is entertaining, eye-catching and informative.

This winter the DMO premiered four web pages filled with insider recommendations: the Perfect First-Time Trip Guide, the Fourth Time Visitors Guide, the Outdoor Trailblazers Guide and the Taster's Guide. The site also houses an animated video that celebrates the city's 145 square miles as part of the "More Portland Is Happening Now" winter 2017 advertising campaign. Some 30 videos in all, highlighting different aspects of city's offerings (food, local products, art) can be found on the agency's YouTube channel.

Food is a major draw here. "Our pioneer status in the local food and craft-beverage movements resonates with the younger audience," notes Megan Conway, vice president, communications and public relations, at Travel Portland. "You'll see food messaging in the "Eat" section under We also market Portland Dining Month every March [bargains on three-course dinners at select restaurants throughout the city], and add new food/restaurant content on a monthly basis."

As for social media outreach, the DMO says Instagram has proven to be its most successful channel, drawing as many as 100,000 highly engaged followers.

"We created #PDXNOW with younger planners in mind," notes Conway. "The hashtag is a great resource, especially for attendees looking for ideas for what to do once they've arrived here. We keep up-to-date with the latest happenings and share them in real time."

> Tourism Australia
Although initially created to entice Millennials to its shores, "There's Nothing Like Australia," a social media campaign launched in 2010, has become Tourism Australia's most popular marketing tool with all types of visitors, says Jesse Desjardins, global manager, social and content marketing, for the DMO. The effort is a grassroots operation with content generated by locals. The DMO encourages Australians and tourism operators, many of them Millennials, to submit photos and videos; the social marketing team pores through the average 3,000 daily submissions and selects 10 per day to post on Instagram and Facebook. "They create better content than we can," says Desjardins.


The team often selects themes for the content. For example, they might feature an array of all wildlife photos (who can resist cuddly koalas or adorable wombats?). At other times the DMO staff might try to achieve a specific goal; for example, Desjardins says, to draw attention to the country's culinary offerings, his group curated submissions that highlighted food and wine, "such as proud farmers showing off their produce, oyster farmers shucking their catch and winemakers on-site in their vineyards."

To keep its social media community engaged, Tourism Australia often holds competitions for the best content in specific areas. Last month, it invited reps of the nation's tourism industry to submit their best social posts from 2016 for the chance to win a trip to see their content featured on the big screen at a gala in Los Angeles. When the judging was over, Symbio Wildlife Park had won for its outrageously adorable video of a butterfly and a koala. The video immediately went viral and drew an astounding 2.3 million views and more than 74,000 likes/reactions on Tourism Australia's Facebook page.

"By viewing our channels, visitors know that they can create their own stories that they'll be able to share and tell," says Desjardins.

> Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board
Anyone who's taken a virtual-reality tour can tell you it's a giddy 360-degree trip over, under and around landmarks and landscapes, and the most exhilarating journey you can have without leaving your desk.


Virtually L.A.:
A VR view of the City of Angels
Virtually L.A.: A VR view of the City of Angels

While VR is all the rage in tourism marketing, the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board took a particularly comprehensive approach to creating a platform just for meeting professionals. Virtual Discovery L.A offers immersive experiences for more than 50 venues (among them: L.A. Live, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Getty Center and the L.A. Memorial Coliseum). Along with video vignettes, specs such as capacities and square footage can easily be accessed. Planners can view the platform directly on a smartphone, desktop computer or tablet, or with a virtual-reality viewer such as Google Cardboard. The VR experiences also are available via the MeetL.A. app, which debuted last month.

"We know that younger planners are continually becoming more involved in the overall decision-making process," notes Darren K. Green, senior vice president of sales for the LATCB. "They serve as a target segment for Los Angeles, as their industries and interests align with our key offerings: entertainment, tech, music and other cutting-edge verticals that L.A. is known for."

> Greater Des Moines (Iowa) Convention & Visitors Bureau
Some old-school marketing tactics have become so quaint, they have reclaimed the mantel of cutting-edge all over again. Case in point: locally baked cookies deployed by the Greater Des Moines CVB. Event manager Christina McCoy, one of the young professionals featured in our cover story (see page 12), says she was greatly impressed by the batch the CVB sent to her a year before her group was to head to Des Moines for an annual conference. "It was very creative and personal," she says. "The CVB set the bar for how we could have a great working relationship with them. And those cookies were so good, we served them at our event!"

"Our research shows that 78 percent of Millennials value experiences over material items, ranking culinary experiences and authenticity high, which are two areas Des Moines naturally excels in," says Rachel Bolduc, the CVB's vice president of marketing.

Besides treating planners to yummy treats (instead of cookies, the bureau now sends cupcakes from the famed Cr•me Bakery), the bureau highlights acclaimed local chefs as well as non-food attributes like its 800 miles of nature trails through photos and content via Twitter chats and its website.

"Research shows us that visitors feel very welcomed by locals when in our city," says Bolduc, "and when you pair that with all of the locally owned shops and restaurants, it helps validate that our destination is eclectic and authentic. We will continue to grow engagement with young planners through social and digital media, targeting posts and creating content that speaks to the information they are seeking."