Sally Berry is a tourism industry expert who helps Destination Marketing Organizations prepare their destinations to be more competitive and attractions bring in more visitors.
Sally has worked at a small family-owned attraction, a regional DMO and at the Corning Museum of Glass, a world-class museum in New York. She has spent time as a tour operator and also an adjunct college professor at Paul Smiths Travel and Tourism program. She now runs her own tourism consulting and training company.
Sally was named one of the Top Ten Most Influential Women in the Group Tour industry from Groups Today magazine, May 2016, and a Top 20 Tourism Professional in the U.S. by TourOperator.com, 2015. She served as a board member of the U.S. Travel’s Experience Network, formerly known as the Attractions Council.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, Sally and I talk about the opportunities and challenges in the international tour group space, especially the China market. Her experience gives her insight into not only the growing market in Chinese tour groups and FITs but how to nurture relationships with tour operators and guides. She also offers some great tips on using relationship-building tools and social media to connect with these markets.
It’s tempting to just cast your nets wide and hope to catch a lot of travelers to your destination. But Sally encourages attractions and destinations to use the 80/20 rule. Find out who your top market segments or top repeat tour clients are, and focus 80 percent marketing time and energy on those groups.
Narrowing your focus will sharpen your message and deepen your relationships with those groups. Sally has found that narrowing your focus actually increases traffic and dollars to your destination.
You might not think the market for Chinese tour groups is a good fit for your location. In the past, if you were beyond the “golden triangles” in the northeastern US or California in the west, the China market was a long shot. But Sally is seeing that change as more Chinese people look to travel and expand beyond those traditional areas of interest.
Sally and I discuss a hugely popular Chinese social networking platform called WeChat, a huge tool for understanding and interacting with people and groups in the China market.
There is a lot more great food for thought in this conversation. Sally suggests finding partners in the destinations guests are coming from and going to when they visit your attraction. But, also looking for partnerships with groups you might not think of at first. There is a world of co-opetition out there to explore and make use of.
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Connie Stopher serves as Executive Director of the Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization. In this role, she oversees the business and talent recruitment for a seven-county region. Since taking on the role of executive director in 2017, the southern Idaho region has experienced nearly $500 million in business expansions and nearly thousands of new jobs created.
Previously, Connie served as the executive director of the South Coast Development Council in Coos Bay, Oregon, and as the economic development specialist at Bannock Development in Pocatello, Idaho. In both of those roles, Connie enjoyed the opportunity to create new business retention and expansion programs that helped revitalize struggling communities and assist existing and new businesses.
Melissa Barry is the Executive Director of Southern Idaho Tourism. She is responsible for developing and promoting tourism and recreation in southern Idaho and helping to strike the balance between economic impact and environmental stewardship. Since taking the leadership role at Southern Idaho Tourism, lodging collections have risen from historically flat numbers to double-digit increases. Southern Idaho Tourism, has received multiple national press stories, and partner approval rating is at 94 percent.
Prior to joining Southern Idaho Tourism, Melissa managed the marketing department at Cabela’s, the world’s foremost outfitter.
On this episode, I talk with Connie and Melissa about how tourism and economic development go hand-in-hand, and some specific partnerships that they have forged in their region. From recruiting people to live and work to inviting visitors without damaging the natural resources that draw people to a region in the first place, working together with all potential stakeholders is the only way to really get the job done.
Tourism and economic development can get siloed, hampering the collaboration that can happen and boost a region economically. For Connie and Melissa, that means working together. For instance, they might combine their video promotion budgets to create a better end product than each could have done separately. Or what if tourism agencies and local chambers of commerce work in conjunction with each other? In some areas, this is a stretch, but it shouldn’t be. There is a synergy that can happen when local communities welcome visitors, new residents, and new businesses to the region. When all of that happens together, communities thrive.
Why would anyone want to visit? That can be the sentiment from locals who don’t realize the beauty and wonder of their own backyard. Connie and Melissa share how sometimes they need a little bit of help in identifying the assets they have, even in the smallest of communities. It comes down to realizing that they have assets that are worthwhile for visitors to see and participate.
Robin Boehler is a co-founder of international management consulting firm, Mercer Island Group. Mercer Island group is a prominent global marketing management consulting firm helping clients and agencies solve a broad range of business problems from building business and tough competitive markets, to creating strategic roadmaps, and matching the right clients and agencies for productive relationships, to name a few.
Robin’s unique ability to work with teams and help improve organizational productivity is the direct result of an eclectic background, including her degree in human development and family studies from Cornell University, several years of experience in elementary education, plus training and team building experiences across a myriad of industries, and extensive volunteerism experiences. She is a frequent speaker having presented and keynoted at events sponsored by the BMA, the four A’s, AMI, and others.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Robin Boehler about her wealth of experience in starting and maintaining vital client/agency relationships. How do you uncover what you need from a marketing agency or PR firm and finding the right fit? Robin’s wealth of experience and knowledge is on full display in this can’t miss episode.
If you think you are not big enough for an agency to want to work with you, think again. Travel and tourism business is a desirable category for both regional and national marketing agencies.
How do you find an agency to work with? Robin’s advice is to start with introspection. Know your organization and what you need before you start looking at your next agency relationship. Know why you need an agency. What are you trying to solve? The reason that’s important is you need to know what business results you think will be improved by hiring an agency. Figuring out the right fit may take some time, but hopefully, you and this agency will be in it for the long haul. Take your time.
You don’t want to automatically go with the first agency you meet. Find out what they are like and what their strengths are and see if that fits with your needs. Do you need a good media buyer? Help with social media? Good creative? Whatever the scope of work, Robin suggests starting with a list of 20 and meeting with at least 5 before making a final decision on who to work with.
The goal is to take the mystery out of how this relationship is going to work. This isn’t a commodity that you’re buying. You’re buying strategic intelligent, creative assets from a group of people who will be thinking partners with you.
Bill Geist is the Chief Instigator at DMOproZ, a firm specializing in strategic planning, governance, marketing, and legislative issues for convention and visitor bureaus, tourism-focused chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, and communities. Prior to forming DMOproZ, Bill served as the President/CEO of the Greater Madison (WI) Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Bill is the author of Destination Leadership and a contributor to Fundamentals in Destination Marketing. He has provided consulting services to over 200 DMOs since 1995 and is a popular speaker on marketing trends and destination development across North America.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I speak with Bill about the shifting role of the DMO. Marketing is just the tip of the iceberg. DMOs have a larger leadership role to play in the economic fortunes of the communities they serve. It starts with an attitude of service, of giving back.
Recently, we have begun discussing the expanding role that DMOs are playing and should play in their communities and now we’re thrilled to welcome a guest who has been promoting this conversation for a long time. Talk about great timing.
Bill talks with us about the evolution of destination marketing over the past decades, and the need for destination leadership. He relates some stories of economic development missteps that could have been avoided if DMOs has raised their voice – but they thought it wasn’t their place.
DMOs can be a critical conduit of information and stories that will help communities flourish and visitors fall in love and return again and again. This is a wonderful conversation on the leadership role DMOs can and should play.
Bill believes DMOs have often done a poor job of telling the story of their value to a community. At the end of the day, it’s not about heads in beds – what DMOs do is improve quality of life. They make their destination a better place to live.
It comes down to communication. DMO directors would love to hear from you, and the community is waiting for leaders to sit down and talk about what’s happening, what they can promote and what stories they can tell on your behalf. It’s a two-way street, but Bill Geist is encouraging DMOs to take the lead!