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eTourism Summit 2021 Recap and Insights

October 4, 2021

One of our favorite things about being a digital performance marketing agency that serves the travel, tourism and hospitality brands is attending all of the fun industry events and conferences like eTourism Summit 2021. While we stepped back from these events recently because of COVID-19, we were very excited to attend the eTourism Summit and the U.S. Travel Association’s IPW last week. It was hard to pass it up with the conferences taking place a few minutes down the road from our Las Vegas office. Below are a few of our takeaways from the destination marketing conference. 

Reconnecting Above All Else

While the conference featured inspirational and insightful speakers, the real focus was reconnecting. After a year and a half of back-to-back zoom meetings, we were very excited to finally be present with our clients, agency partners, service providers and technology providers in person.

A Resilient Industry

While there was a weariness about the impact of COVID-19 on business and the state of travel, the event brought out a crowd of destination marketers and suppliers who had the collective attitude of, “We don’t know what’s next, but we got this.” We were also happy to see a lot of new destination marketers at the event that we have not traditionally seen, bringing fresh perspectives on the state of the industry and new tactics to the fold 

Resilient Consumers

A prominent theme of the conferences was that consumers will always want to travel, and the pandemic taught everyone how to be flexible. (Our own travel trends research showed this too!) Multiple sessions and conversations focused on the value of pivoting messaging quickly and really getting to understand audiences in more depth than ever before. 

Continued Focus on In-Market Audiences

A common theme was destinations successfully finding ways to engage audiences who are in-state, in-city or in-county during the pandemic. Many of their campaigns and tactics focused on this audience not as a temporary audience but as a long-term audience perfect for targeted messaging. Campaign examples included work around promoting the area small businesses, broadcasting the voice of the local as well as giving insight into safety and travel etiquette.

Measuring Impact

Measuring results and looking at data differently was another common theme. With the industry preparing for a future without third-party cookies, vendors are trying to provide different slices of data in an attempt to gauge success and impact. 

Data Management and Hygiene

One approach to preparing for a world without third-party cookies is to focus on first-party data hygiene. Contact lists can be valuable, but only when they are curated and cared for. Multiple sessions discussed the importance of email list hygiene. In addition to nurturing people who are actively engaged, there were multiple examples of brands providing personally relevant experiences to their audiences.

Sustainable Destination Management

Destination management and sustainability remained more important than ever, with travelers continuing to venture to outside spaces in a post-pandemic world. Destination marketers are exploring innovative ways to bring locals into the fold to enhance the visitor experience while also educating potential travelers about how to engage with their environment responsibly. Visit Moab was a cool example of this. 

Brand Management & Traveler’s Journey

From a digital perspective, destination management also means more than just your owned channels. Ensuring a destination’s brand is represented well across the entire traveler’s journey was stressed in several sessions. 

Optimize Your DMO

A recurring concept for Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) is to do what is being referred to as “Optimize your DMO.” This was described as DMOs performing a brand reputation audit of their digital footprint and then taking action to manage the content where possible. For example, replacing user-generated images on Street View, Google Earth, Yelp, Google Images, other association websites, etc with higher quality professional images.

Data, Data, Data

Many companies like Adara, Expedia, etc., shared insights about acquiring and managing data. Of particular interest were insights about how to make data-informed decisions, including how to precisely target your audience, forecast future trends, maximize resources and effort, and increase visitation.

Opening the Borders

A major announcement during the conference was about the United States opening up its borders to the European Union. The announcement created a buzz on the conference floor and definitely influenced business decisions and partnerships.

Want a deeper dive into our experience at eTourism CSummit and IPW 2021? Let’s talk!

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