This episode of Destination on the Left is coming from the 2022 eTourism Summit in Orlando, Florida, held from June 6-8. I was honored to have the chance to interview five notable attendees who are all experts in the field of digital marketing for travel and tourism. I asked each of my guests to give me one word to describe the conference, and awesome, inspiring, energizing, compelling, and the future are perfect descriptions of this unique event.
We discuss tearing up the page and starting afresh, the value of podcasts in promoting the story behind a destination, and the importance of remaining agile and ready to learn.
I’m so excited to share my guests’ insight into the world of digital marketing with you in this week’s special podcast episode. In this episode of Destination On The Left, I know you’ll find value in the words of these five talented digital marketing experts:
The eTourism Summit Roadshow focuses on giving everyone in the travel and tourism industry space to discuss the future of digital marketing and explore some of the creative strategies in use today. In today’s episode, we’re talking about how podcasts can help tell the unique story of your destination, how to boost your organic social media marketing success with sweepstakes and vacation giveaways, and how to leverage short-term, mid-term, and long-term digital marketing strategies.
Ana Reyna Arzate from Visit Florida
Ana Reyna describes how the eTourism Summit is helping her in her role as Marketing Coordinator for Visit Laredo. She shares how the resources she has been able to access as a summit attendee have helped her in her efforts to engage both the US and Mexican markets that are important to her destination. Ana Reyna also describes why the COVID-19 pandemic offered her destination the perfect opportunity to start a podcast that would tell the authentic story of what Florida offers guests.
James Flint from Visit Durango
James explores some of the most significant changes that Visit Durango has made recently in their digital strategy. Including a wildly impactful organic social media marketing strategy of running sweepstakes and competitions that they decided to use over paid social media advertising. He describes how to tie your digital marketing to a destination and experience, such as riding the historic train in Durango or skiing in Purgatory, and how marketers can pull from different pieces of their organization’s priorities and weave it into marketing campaigns to make them meaningful.
Melea Hames of Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourists Association
I discuss with Melea some of the biggest changes in their marketing strategy that are having an impact and leading to impressive results. She discusses Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourists Association’s amazing trails, including their waterfall trail, craft beer trail, and new agriculture adventures trail, and why they are aggressively promoting them in digital ads. Melea also shares more about her podcast and how they’re leveraging audio to get their message out there.
Patrick Harrison of Visit Tampa Bay
According to Patrick, almost every technology or service we were using five years ago is no longer relevant. He remarks on the speed of the transition to new digital marketing methods and highlights the need to be agile in our thinking about how we spread the word about our destinations. Patrick also talks about finding a harmonic convergence and fitting in seamlessly into potential visitors’ lives with something they may not have known they needed before we shared it.
Vivian Mur of AKI Technologies
Vivian explores why the eTourism Summit is a wonderful opportunity in an intimate setting, not only to learn from one another and talk and engage with other marketers to find out what’s new, what isn’t working, and what isn’t. She shares the values of connecting with others in the travel and tourism industry about recent trends and the value of getting an alternative perspective from destinations and suppliers of all sizes and scopes.
Creative Ways of Sharing a Unique Story
I hope you enjoyed this episode coming live from the eTourism Summit Roadshow; as all these talented marketers shared, a key thread woven through the travel and tourism destination marketing industry is that it is critical to be open to new ways of attracting visitors to enjoy what they have to offer. So many of these organizations are at the Summit to connect with others, share insights and learning, and open themselves up to all the possibilities digital marketing channels offer to share a destination’s authentic story and flavor.
Marlin is the quintessential Renaissance man and has led a life that reads like a novel—running away with the circus, seeing the world with his juggling act, living in a tree house in the jungle, writing and illustrating a book, dreaming up an illuminated show that would go on to play internationally, inventing a one-of-a-kind toy, and building a homestead where he lives in a solar-powered house.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Michael Marlin, known as Marlin, about his fascinating role as an astro tourism consultant, speaker, and author. I was so excited to discuss what dark skies tourism means for businesses and how destinations can begin to create a story that offers an amazing experience to their visitors. Marlin also shares some examples of where destination marketers can find creative examples of how businesses can leverage their proximity to a dark sky destination.
Visitors interested in taking advantage of the experience of visiting a dark skies certified park have to stay overnight, which is a massive boost to the local economy. Marlin suggests how businesses, including hotels, restaurants, boutiques, and entertainment venues close to dark sky parks, can create content to enhance the experience they offer to astro tourists.
Destinations need to connect the dots for visitors and create an experience for when people come out to see the dark sky covering themes such as astronomy, music, and the culture and storytelling that connects us to space and the stars above us. Marlin shares the most important things destinations can do to enhance visitors’ view of the stars, including ditching white LEDs and going back to an amber-colored light in outside areas.
On the podcast, Marlin discusses how dark skies connect to other key themes in the travel and tourism industry, such as sustainability and climate change. He shares why people who are interested in dark skies have an interest in protecting dark skies and are therefore more likely to be drawn to those causes.
Marlin explores how central Idaho dark sky reserve, Ketchum, Sun Valley, changed their lighting to achieve a dark sky certification and how that impacted on their contribution to slowing climate change. The International Dark-Sky Association works to protect dark skies and can also provide lots of resources on dark sky friendly lighting that destinations can seek out.
Parts of North America are in the path of the upcoming solar eclipse in 2024, and on the show, Marlin shares advice and insights with communities in the path of totality. He discusses how they can prepare to give their visitors and residents the best experience possible by incorporating music and folk stories into the astro tourism offering to help people connect with what they see in the night sky.
Introduced to the industry by a random internship application to Visit Baltimore, Andreas Weissenborn began an unexpected career that left him with a continued passion for tourism. He is currently the Vice President of Research and Advocacy for Destinations International, and he leads the research and advocacy efforts of the entire organization with an eye toward developing data-driven tools to help destinations around the world tell their story.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Andreas Weissenborn shares his philosophy that DMOS are caretakers of the data and information on the visitor economy. He also dives into why tourism has become a community shared value and explains why DMOs should view their role as serving the people of their communities as a central priority.
The fundamental definition of effective research and analytics is taking massive swathes of data and making it comprehensible, easily understood, and applicable. Andreas shares his experience of working at Visit Baltimore and why he feels it was the start of the golden era of data analytics for Destination Marketing Organizations. He dives into why it is so critical to have individuals in the travel and tourism space who can help diagnose, dissect, and explain what this data does.
That ability to translate bookings, data, or visitor spending into understandable information that is meaningful to stakeholders was where Andreas found his niche in the industry. And those skills still feed into the broader and greater mission of Destination Marketing Organisations.
Destination Marketing Organizations are the stewards of the visitor economy, but they also serve their community. This is why it’s so important to change how DMOs talk about themselves and how they get involved.
Destination organizations are the most uniquely qualified entity for the next normal in representing a brand because the brand transcends the physical and virtual realm. DMOs are uniquely qualified because they’re the only entity that can sit at the table with civic, social, cultural, and historical entities and bring everyone together.
According to Andreas, destinations can take some tangible next steps to be successful. DMOs are often the most influential voice of a brand because of the reach of their website and their social media channels.
They need a mission or a vision statement that reads in an emotional, storied way so visitors don’t have to question who and what you are. DMOs also need to teach, train and advocate not only their entire staff but their entire membership so that everyone understands the value proposition and the work they do and is clear on why tourism matters for the community.
Big-picture and detail-oriented, Debbie is a marketing communications specialist who has worked in digital marketing, content development, and social media for over 15 years. A motivated digital marketer, she brings a unique perspective from her brand, agency, and consulting experience.
Debbie debuted Social Hospitality as a side project in 2011 before transitioning to the brand full-time in 2017. As founder and president of Social Hospitality, Debbie leads the operational side of the business while working directly with clients to build and execute marketing strategies. Social Hospitality is a boutique digital marketing agency that helps brands develop their online identities, create engaging content, and build their social media presence. The Social Hospitality blog is a leading industry resource, too.
Debbie has an English degree from UC Irvine and is HubSpot certified in social media and content marketing. She has been invited to speak at events like Social Tools Summit, PubCon, IABC, as well as various universities and other local organizations. She has been quoted in publications including USA Today, Inc., Forbes, Huffington Post, Social Media Today, Search Engine Journal, Todays Hotelier, Business2Community, SEMrush, and more.
Debbie is a lover of good eats and is always adventuring, traveling, learning, and spoiling her two dogs.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Debbie about how her boutique destination marketing business Social Hospitality helps clients stand out from the crowd online. She also shares strategies for finding where your customers are online and the importance of understanding and being ready to respond to the changing algorithms of different social media platforms.
In terms of differentiating yourself as a business from the crowd knowing your audience is key. On the show, Debbie describes why you need to look at where your audience hangs out online, and if you’re not on a specific channel, but your competition is — you might need to make some changes.
Lean into the initial heavy lifting and research and figure out where your audience spends their time and where your competitors spend their time and make sure you’re there too. Then you can create those conversations and the stories around what makes you distinct from those competitors.
As a hospitality business, or any type of organization in the travel, tourism, or hospitality space, we need to get really focused in on who we’re targeting. Because if we don’t know who our ideal customer is, we’re not going to be effective.
Marketers need to tailor strategies to their ideal audience, and one of the ways that you can maximize your chances of developing a great strategy is to do your homework. Debbie also describes how she uses carefully honed strategies to take advantage of current trends in social media, such as Instagram’s promotion of the Reels feature.
In the destination marketing space, there are plenty of opportunities for collaboration which are win-win situations. Debbie shares some of the partnerships she is currently involved in and how she has built a network that thrives on supporting one another. She discusses the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats and gives her advice on best practices for planning an effective and mutually beneficial collaboration.