By Gary Ellis, Compass Media — The goal of a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) or a Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) is to increase vacation and business visitors by promoting a town, city, region, or country. According to Destination Marking Association International (DMAI), DMOs are responsible for supporting the long-term development of communities through travel and tourism strategies. Even over the last 20 years, while helping many in the professional vacation rental industry with their marketing and promotional efforts, I’ve observed the benefits of partnering with local DMOs/CVBs. Following are some benefits that Vacation Rental Managers (VRMs) can derive from building relationships with DMOs.
5 ways to get the most benefit from your DMO/CVB
1. Expand ways for potential guests to find you.
DMOs work with local and national organizations to drive visitor awareness in what a specific area has to offer. Alastair Morrison explained, in his 2013 book, Marketing and Managing Tourism Destinations, “A DMO has many potential partners that it can call upon for collaboration and cooperation.” Often you can find complimentary or low fee services to list your accommodations in various online and print publications that reach a variety of audiences through DMOs. You can also meet and build relationships with fellow industry partners that can benefit from discounts or referrals between your vacation rentals and local attractions.
2. Make strategic decisions for your marketing and outreach plans.
Understanding the hopes, trends, and attitudes of visitors coming to your area can help you make decisions that drive your business. DMOs often provide statistical data on their websites which can be a valuable resource to VRMs including: destination growth indicators, visitor profiles, annual reports, economic updates, presentations, tourism summit results, lodging studies, and other research. Such data can help you focus and describe your offerings that would most likely appeal to visitors when developing marketing materials. For example, on the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism website you can find the “Summer 2014 Visitor Profile Report” which vacation rental professionals can use to learn the average household income of visitors, top origin states, percent of pet owners, average number of people in travel parties, and other useful visitor demographic information. Contact your local DMO to find out what is available in your area.
3. Stay informed of local economic development plans.
Take on a holistic view in what is occurring in your area and consider how this might change your business strategies. For example, are sports complexes in the plans for your local area, if so, how will this affect the demographics of your target audience? In a recent interview, Joanie Flynn, Vice President of Marketing for Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism explained that the number one industry in the southern Alabama area is tourism, so those in the vacation rental industry can work together with their local DMO, chamber of commerce, and economic development agencies to ensure the local economy is healthy, expanding, and growing.
4. Dive into using social media.
To stay on top in the vacation rental business you must learn to transact digitally with your customers. Flynn revealed that over 60% of user traffic on the GulfShores.com website is currently from smart phones and mobile devices; therefore, her organization started a social media university to help educate industry partners in the area on best practices for using social media and responsive web design. “People can come and have a great experience with what we offer on our website, and as they click on our industry partners that same experience needs to carry over,” explained Flynn. The trend in the field is moving toward having a responsive website for cell phone users and effective social media campaigns. It is important to be up to speed with how technology is used by visitors and how audiences are changing. Such progressive initiatives offered by this CVB can benefit local rental companies by keeping them in the know on the positive impact social and digital media can have on their businesses.
5. Provide current information and get involved.
Be sure to talk with your local DMO to find out what they need from your company. “Consider what you offer to visitors to enrich their stay and get involved with meetings and events such as showcasing programs and educational opportunities outside of the main seasons,” said Flynn. Attend meetings and question DMO representatives to discover how your niche could be useful to visitors both on and off-season. I have personally observed the benefits that professionally managed vacation rental companies can offer DMOs such as timely responses in communications, increased security and safety, and fraud protection for visitors. As you connect with your local DMO/CVB, be sure to highlight such benefits and others your company offers to make your guests’ vacations more memorable.
Gone are the days of throwing ideas at the wall and hoping something sticks to bring in guests. Now, VRMs can make data driven decisions in marketing and guest service initiatives by using demographics, lifestyle factors, media habits, and visitor trends provided by DMOs. Times are changing in the vacation rental industry. To stay current, partner with your local DMO for insight into making your vacation rental business strong for the future.
Compass Media has been practicing leisure travel marketing for almost 30 years by helping clients tell their stories with innovative marketing and promotional materials including website design and development, search engine optimization, digital and print advertising, documentaries, and vacation guides.
By J. Gary Ellis, CEO of Compass Media, Inc.