Carl’s post last week about Northern California traveler tendencies was a reminder that the current economic climate might not be as amenable to growth in the tourism sector as it once was.   Remaining competitive is a challenge, especially in an era of uncertain budgets and short-term booking windows.  Below are some of our recommendations for DMOs and other tourism marketing organizations as they start planning for next year.

Got value proposition? – A strong value/price proposition is the difference between being just another soft destination and one that gives consumers a strong reason to visit.  What’s your point of differentiation?

Keep your eyes on the long-term – Cutting investment in marketing programs now will have impacts later on.   While budget reductions may be a reality (especially if your destination does not have a TBID in place), don’t eliminate everything.  Just because you cut your advertising budget doesn’t mean your competitors are doing the same thing.  Remember Colorado?

Niche it outWe’ve written before about how the soft ‘Gateway to Something for Everyone!’ message is less effective now that vacationers seek destinations for specific reasons.   Identify those niche audiences that visit (and return) and develop messages, programs and events that speak to them.  No doubt an avid cyclist will be more interested in learning about great rides and events offered at your destination than seeing a generic offer in her inbox.

Relationships matter – Social media is a great tool for building relationships, and identifying those genuine (and passionate) fans.   Developing a social strategy, one that includes the abovementioned niche segments, can help your destination achieve objectives beyond just increasing your total number of Facebook fans.  (Shameless plug: SMG’s upcoming Tourism, Technology + Marketing Workshop is on October 12th, and will feature numerous social media related sessions that delve deeper than I have).

Minimize the discounting – This is a tough one. We know.  Flash sales websites are the rage now, and travelers have come to expect discounts.  Instead of reducing prices, why not focus on adding value? This avoids the potentially dangerous spiral that discounting can become.

What are you doing to remain competitive?