I recently had the opportunity to attend the Destinations International Annual Convention in Dallas, Texas. This was my first DI and I can honestly say, I received a wonderfully warm welcome from everyone. In fact, I received the warmest welcome from the state of Texas — it was 107 degrees the week I was there.

High temps aside, I spent the week soaking up the content from various sessions with topics ranging from accessible and sustainable travel to psychedelic tourism (and even holograms). In case you weren’t able to make it, here are my three marketing tips for your destination from Destinations International’s 2023 Annual Convention. 

1. To stay competitive, embrace AI and AR. 

From search queries while planning a trip to experience-enhancing interactive content while in market, AI (artificial intelligence) and AR (augmented reality) were big topics of conversation this year. Not surprisingly, these tools will have a big impact on the travel industry over the next one to two years.

Recap image: Photo by Ketut Subiyanto
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto
While there’s still much to learn, many leaders are embracing these advancements as an opportunity to be more efficient and stay competitive. By integrating ChatGPT or AR technologies into our marketing toolbox, we’re simply providing audiences with a better experience.

For instance, imagine being able to alert travelers of various points of interest in real time while they are actually exploring your destination. The power of this new technology could empower DMOs to provide value and information in the moment, greatly enhancing the visitor experience.

Additionally, allowing travelers to write prompts that request itinerary suggestions or even an outline that plans for their trip entirely, not only provides great benefit to travelers, but also gives you an opportunity to see the queries of users and better understand their searches, mindsets, and motivations.

2. To meet travelers’ needs, offer unique and authentic experiences — and don’t lose sight of the “bleisure” traveler.

For both leisure and business travelers, people want to go where the locals go for an authentic experience. Travel is about bringing people together, and by experiencing another culture and way of life, we can all deepen our appreciation and understanding for those around us.

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More and more, travelers crave behind-the-scenes, immersive experiences that showcase the true essence of your city. In order to meet this need, lean into your cultural story and highlight what sets you apart from others. What authentic experiences can you curate for travelers that embraces this notion and fulfills their need? By doing so, you’ll not only share your unique story with travelers, but you’ll also be serving up brag-worthy moments for social sharing.

Also, with the cultural shift to remote work comes a new focus on the “bleisure” traveler. Business travel, while not quite at the rebound level of leisure, is on its way back. And with it, comes the opportunity to entice those planning business trips to stay a few extra days for personal exploration. By offering incentives or add-on experiences, you can capture their attention and encourage extended visitation.

3. To unlock growth, you must first start with data. 

Data plays a role in all aspects of a campaign from audience research to advertising performance all the way through attribution. Combining that with data around visitation, visitor satisfaction and economic impact can help demonstrate marketing impact and ROI. And at the end of the day, if you can show your stakeholders that you’re creating value, it makes the ask for additional dollars a lot easier.

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However, wrangling the large volumes of data and making that digestible for others can be a tall ask. One challenge that I heard throughout my time in Dallas was definitely reliable attribution. It’s actually a topic that Destination ENV CMO, Sarah Caputo, spoke about in a breakout session.

In her presentation, Sarah shared that with the death of cookies and shrinking inventory of addressable audiences, marketers should shift priority toward reaching the growing “anonymous” population to move toward a more accurate measure of impact.

It was a whirlwind of a week, but I truly enjoyed my time in Dallas and made a lot of great connections along the way. I hope these tips help you and your destination as you think about ways to stay competitive, meet the needs of customers, and drive growth.

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