The Three Amigos: Tourism, Local Economy & Social Media

DMO, CVB, MA, CM, LOL, WTF? What does it all mean? The lingo in a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) or a Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) can be tricky, and knowing the difference is even more of a challenge. One thing that these entities have in common is that they’re all non-profit, marketing organizations. Some are more focused on business development within a community, like Merchants Associations (MA) & Chambers of Commerce (CM), and some are more focused on bringing visitors to said businesses to build up local commerce (DMO & CVB). Regardless of what they’re called, they’re essential to a city’s economy.

Whether you can see it or not, travel and tourism affects nearly every sector of industry. People who visit a destination––whether it be for leisure, business, or something in between––need a place to stay, to eat, to buy things, to entertain themselves, and infrastructure to make it all possible.

Travel and tourism enhances the quality of life within a destination—it fuels the economy by providing jobs, bringing in tax dollars for needed improvements on services and infrastructure (roads and hospitals, parks and parking structures, and even expanding flight routes for a given airline). Travel and tourism is one of the world’s largest exports and one of its largest employers.

So what happens to a destination when visitors stop visiting? In 2014, Atlantic City’s economy was dire. Its sinking casino economy resulted in nearly 14,000 jobs lost, sucking between $158 million and $376 million from their regional economy. And of course the implications of this decline in tourism has a trickle down effect: people lose jobs, money isn’t flowing into the economy, tax dollars aren’t being collected to maintain infrastructure, residents look elsewhere for work, resulting in a massive hit on the real estate market and elsewhere.

It’s no wonder that there’s such a strong motivation to ensure visitors continue visiting a destination. Much goes into this perpetual motion, with the help of event organizers, meeting planners, hotels, restaurants, and attractions—but what ties them all together and presents them in one beautiful package is the city’s DMO or CVB. The DMO or CVB operates as the city’s branded identity and facilitates marketing efforts to increase tourism growth, working together as a unified team to not only increase spend, but to also create a friendly and welcoming visitor experience.

In other words: DMOs and CVBs are the stitching that holds the fabric of the destination together.

Managing a destination’s social media community successfully boils down to leveraging resources. If you have a very small social budget, or none at all, you can still build a great fan base by developing a strategy and implementing it within your organization. The key is to encourage your audience to advocate for you, while at the same time, utilizing your members and partners for content.

Asheville, North Carolina’s CVB is a prime example of a smaller destination leveraging their resources with partners and brand advocates to make their social media platforms shine. From contests that leverage user generated content into return trips, to blogger visits, to simple sharing and retweeting, Asheville’s CVB makes sure both its partners and visitors feel the love.

In my experience working at a small DMO, one trick to leveraging local advocates is to hold a workshop with your stakeholders and partners, and express to them the mission and the amount that can be accomplished by pooling resources. Teach them about the social media landscape and the relevant platforms for their business goals. Help them help you create engaging content and loyal brand advocates.

On the other hand, if your DMO is bursting at the seams and has the budget to go big, then, by all means, go big! Develop a social strategy that aligns your organization’s mission with its vision and let the social media pros lead your destination to success.

Las Vegas’ DMO, Visit Las Vegas, is a fabulous example of a destination using its budget to create an extravagant social media presence that’s right on par with the destination itself. They say everything is bigger in Texas, but everything is most certainly larger than life in Las Vegas, especially on social. From beautiful imagery and compelling content, Visit Las Vegas shines on its posts across all platforms.

Social media enables DMOs, both large and small, to reach their consumers and inspire travel. Make social media a priority in your marketing plans to ensure continued growth in your destination no matter your budget. You and your destination can’t afford not to.

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