How resorts & operators can leverage Tourism Boards to boost distribution

There’s a match made in revenue heaven that some resorts and ticketed attraction businesses may be missing out on: Partnerships with their local destination marketing organizations (DMOs). When executed correctly, collaborations between tourism suppliers and DMOs can expand these businesses’ reach and product distribution through new channels, mediums, and markets.

Let’s first start by defining exactly what a DMO is and does and where they stack up in the tourism distribution chain.

Destination marketing organizations are responsible for the promotion or marketing of a region and all of its tourism constituents and products. This includes accommodations, restaurants, attractions, events, transportation, guided tours and any other retailers catering to travelers. In its most elevated form, destination marketing organizations can be a nexus of collaboration and knowledge sharing for the local tourism economy.

There are different types of DMOs at the federal, state, and local level. For example, an attraction in Los Angeles can potentially partner with Brand USA, Visit California, and Discover Los Angeles because each organization has its own objectives and budget.

DMOs promote a destination and its tourism suppliers in diverse ways including multiple online and offline channels, from digital and TV ads to billboards as well as a dedicated destination website, materials for information centers, and partnerships with brands or influencers. Oftentimes, a DMOs own branded website ranks very highly in search results, given their authority on a local area and the fact that they are, many times, a division of local government.

DMOs are an untapped marketing opportunity for many operator businesses who can partner with the organization to be among the highlighted attractions in that destination. The DMO and attractions share a common goal of wanting to entice as many tourists to the area as possible.

The DMO’s Agenda

It is in the DMO’s self-interest to highlight the most exciting attractions in a region. Traveler intent to visit attractions grew from 2019 to 2021 as part of a shift in consumer behavior post-pandemic. According to a 2021 report from Arival, traveler intent to visit natural attractions grew 8%, intent to visit theme parks grew 7%, and intent to visit zoos or aquariums grew 7% in that period.

And in Arival’s 2018 State of In-Destination report, attractions, activities, and events were the most memorable parts of any trip. Travelers gave more consideration to booking activities and ‘things to do’ than flights, lodging, or even food and drink. Therefore, DMOs are increasingly looking to partner with suppliers of all types, including local attractions.

DMOs are looking to partner with resorts and attractions to not only make the destination more attractive, but to spread the tourism dollars within a city or region. For example, NYC & Co. recently launched a ‘5-borough’ marketing push to encourage visitors to spend their dollars in places other than just Manhattan. Efforts like this help to drive revenue to hotels, restaurants, and stores in regions other than the city center.

In addition to attracting visitors from out-of-state or across borders, DMOs have more recently focused their strategy on attracting local tourism as well. Highlighting the diversity of activities within a region helps increase drive-market tourism as a hedge against international travel’s slower rebound.

For many resorts and activities, who have long relied on local guests, this can mean adding an important sales and marketing channel to a more traditional strategy.

How Ticketed Attractions Can Partner with DMOs

Ticketed attractions can partner with DMOs to increase marketing reach and expand e-commerce distribution.

To take advantage of the DMO’s marketing reach and raise awareness among new audiences, ticketed attractions can first become a preferred supplier. This often includes a highlighted business profile on the destination’s website.

Many DMOs also offer co-marketing opportunities in which the supplier and the destination each contribute an equal budget to a campaign that can be spread across multiple channels including email, content, PPC, PR, out-of-home advertising, and more.

For example, Catalate customer and Swiss ski resort Crans Montana works with the Valais Matterhorn Region company, which is the trade arm of Valais Wallis Promotion (the regional tourism board of the Valais region). The organization provides tour operators and agents from around the world with bookings for the region — including the Crans Montana ski resort.

“We pay a fee to spread the information and collect tour operators and bring them back to Crans Montana,” explains Barbara Corman, head of Sales & Marketing. This partnership is just one distribution channel employed by the resort team.

Some DMOs feature e-commerce booking directly on their site. In addition to sharing details and photos about the experiences they create – resorts and attractions can load product and pricing information.

However, resorts and operators should be mindful of prices offered to DMOs so as to not undermine their direct pricing strategy.

One way to implement this is by selling a different product on the DMO site altogether. This helps to avoid any issues around rate parity. For example, the DMO website could sell anytime passes which are different from the dated tickets that the attraction sells on its own website.

For example, the New York City destination marketing organization sells attractions passes directly to consumers on its website nycgo.com. These ultimate sightseeing passes give visitors access to a number of top attractions for a single price — and those earnings go back to the ticketing business. Attractions and operators from the Top of the Rock® Observation Deck or Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises receive visitors and revenue that they’d otherwise had missed out on if they did not partner with the DMO.

Three Tips for Collaborating with DMOs

  1. Be patient and start partnership discussions well ahead of peak season. Most destination marketing organizations are government-funded and don’t necessarily operate with the same efficiency as a business. It’s a good idea to keep this in mind when beginning to partner with DMOs since projects can move more slowly than attractions’ teams are accustomed to. Exacerbating the issue, the pandemic left many destinations with even fewer resources and staff.
  2. Have ideas and campaign proposals in the works when reaching out to the DMO. In some markets, there will be many suppliers competing for a few co-marketing budget opportunities within the DMO. Having a clear plan on how the attraction can help the destination also achieve its goals will help it stand out from the crowd.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for more. Destination marketing organizations are looking for great products and attractions to feature in their own upcoming campaign – many times for free! For example, a DMO might be sending a consumer newsletter and will be in need of bookable products to feature. By engaging with the DMO, understanding their objectives, and aligning with their goals, the attraction will be able to take advantage of the full breadth of opportunities provided by DMOs.

Collaborations between tourism boards and attractions are an underutilized tool in building awareness and increasing revenues for tourism stakeholders. When it comes to pricing strategies; however, it is important to never undercut direct prices through third parties – including DMOs. In an ideal scenario, your local DMO would have rate parity with your direct e-commerce channel, profilterating the price strategy your team has worked hard to develop.

With the right strategy and plan, there are a wealth of opportunities available for destinations and ticketing businesses that seek to form mutually beneficial partnerships.

Catalate is a full-service SaaS solution that offers customized pricing strategies, an e-commerce platform, and opportunities for enhanced distribution. It has processed more than $1 billion in transactions and manages 50 million price points for customers. Get in touch today.

 

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