Relic Agency


4 Things Industry Leaders Agree Destination Marketers Need to Do in 2024

Recently, Relic CEO Adam Stoker sat down for a discussion with three tourism industry leaders, Darren Dunn from Zartico, Jason Linder from Ripe, and Lauren Neeleman from Spontigo. With decades of combined experience in the tourism sector, these three professionals offered plenty of insight into the changing landscape of destination marketing. 

While change is inevitable in the next year, certain strategies and approaches will help destination marketers adapt and thrive. Here are four takeaways from their state of the tourism industry discussion:

AI will change the way Destination Marketing is done (But won’t replace destination marketers)

In 2024, artificial intelligence (AI) will keep expanding into various industries, including destination marketing. AI chatbots like ChatGPT are becoming crucial for analyzing data, targeting specific markets, and giving personalized travel recommendations.

Even though AI is a big deal, it can’t replace the human touch in destination marketing. Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) are all about selling experiences, something that AI can’t fully replicate. As Lauren Neeleman puts it, “We still need brilliant marketers with fresh ideas. We still need itineraries that have the true best place to eat, the true best appetizer at that best place to eat. And that’s a human thing. So, I think when we meld the world of technology and the human, the way we tick, that’s when we win.”

AI remains helpful for making decisions and handling routine tasks, but it lacks the personal connection that’s crucial for engaging with travelers. Destination marketers bring authenticity and local knowledge, offering visitors a unique experience that algorithms can’t match. So, while we welcome AI, let’s not forget that destination marketers will always be at the core of destination marketing, providing its heart and soul.

DMOs need to own their stories

With the rise of AI and the possibility of integration in search engines and other internet resources, it’s more important than ever for destinations to tell their own stories. DMOs must actively shape their narrative or risk having it defined by others. Travelers today crave authentic experiences, and they turn to destinations that can weave captivating stories about their culture, history and attractions.

Destinations need to focus on creating compelling content, employing effective social media strategies and partnering with local content creators. Actively sharing their narratives enables DMOs to establish a robust brand identity and connect with travelers seeking more meaningful experiences. Adam frequently emphasizes this point on the podcast: if you don’t share your story, someone else will. And you won’t be able to control that story. 

DMO websites need a makeover

Over 90% of travelers use the internet to research their trip before traveling, and their online experience can significantly influence their travel decisions. The consensus between the industry leaders was clear: DMO websites need a makeover to remain competitive.

The traditional approach of expecting travelers to navigate through numerous links on a DMO site to find lodging is outdated and looks more like an online version of the Yellow Pages than anything else. Compounding the issue, due to evolving destination landscapes, DMO websites often have 20 to 30% of their links broken at any given time.

A more effective way for destinations to improve their websites is by incorporating a customized GPT designed for visitors. These bots can be trained on every aspect of the destination, allowing visitors to input their interests and receive a personalized itinerary in seconds.

Says Jason Linder, “I don’t know anybody that actually enjoys the experience of going to a DMO site and having to do 25 clicks to try to put together some sort of itinerary when you could just stay on the home page and ask a question, give it some relevant information and say, ‘Tell me everything that’s greatest in your destination.’” 

At Relic, we’re currently running a pilot program for custom GPTs for DMOs. If you’re interested in learning more about that, contact us here. 

Consumer behaviors are changing; a modern and user-friendly website can serve as a powerful and direct tool to inspire travelers.

DMOs need to innovate to succeed

Innovation emerged as a central theme in our recent two-part podcast session, emphasizing that the tourism industry is in a constant state of evolution. DMOs that embrace change and innovation are poised to thrive in 2024 and beyond.

Smaller-budget destinations cannot expect growth by merely imitating the tactics of larger counterparts. In the dynamic field of tourism, innovation not only garners increased media exposure but also enhances brand relevance. However, achieving these outcomes requires DMOs to venture into unexplored territory.

The tourism industry often hesitates to take risks, possibly due to the public source of budgets for many DMOs, fostering a culture of playing it safe. However, playing it safe seldom leads to genuine success.

To foster innovation in 2024, destinations can follow Darren Dunn’s advice: explore practices in other industries and actively engage with industry vendors. Dunn suggests dedicating time each week to discovering a new vendor, providing a means to grow and stay informed about opportunities that might benefit the DMO.

As we anticipate an exciting and transformative year in 2024 for destination marketers, success hinges on proactive storytelling and a commitment to continual innovation. Adhering to these principles ensures that DMOs navigate and succeed in the ever-changing landscape of destination marketing.