How Technology Connects Stewardship and Drives Sustainability
Why Destination Management Should be Your Top Priority
Destination management has increasingly become the call to action for many DMO’s. As with the last wave towards a strengthened role in advocacy, the goal of the DMO is to shift its efforts towards what will make the greatest impact reflective of the current business environment. If your destination enjoys strong resident approval of the tourism industry, it will be important to strengthen that relationship with the community with marketing that reflects local values.
If your resident sentiment is a weakness, you likely need to invest considerable time in your destination management strategy and community relations efforts. We’ll share with you a few ways that digital visitor experience technology has helped other destinations in these efforts.
Protecting your destination from over-tourism, particularly over the next several years when domestic drive travelers are expected to prefer outdoor activities, should be on the roadmap of any DMO.
Advance Reservations Trend & Technology Led Destination Management
The SF Bay Area saw a change several years ago when the immensely popular redwood grove at nearby Muir Woods began requiring advance reservations for all visitors – no exceptions. You can read the year-over-year data and learnings from how that program is going here, it finds that the program has been very effective at managing demand and protecting this natural wonder. Many attractions in your area have been requiring reservations as never before to manage capacity and spread visitation. As this trend expands the DMO role will be to educate visitors and provide connections to services that facilitate making these choices in advance and in the destination.
Ensuring that these services are accessible through a multi-device strategy especially for international audiences and last-minute travelers will be critically important to your efforts. Many government programs are geared towards residents and lack the expertise to connect with an international audience. Implementing a digital visitor experience system now to communicate your brand and content is the first step to collecting better data to understand in-market visitor needs and interests. With these foundational systems in place, integrating future reservations systems becomes a seamless next step.
Working closely with the parks and recreation departments in your area to plan for destination management practices will be critical in the coming years. DMO’s have a lot of expertise and resources to lend to be sure that any program implemented meets visitor needs and is communicated effectively, ensuring everyone has a seat at the table in stewarding the destination experience. Check out this resource guide being provided by Visit CA to support the recovery.
- Created this Stewardship guide with research and findings for California destinations to develop a stewardship strategy, with a focus on rural destination needs in a post-pandemic world.
- Environmental impacts to Covid travel trends: “Where has there been an increase in visitor flows? Increased visitation to natural and protected areas has led to carrying capacities being exceeded and infrastructure being inadequate to manage these visitors.”
- Recommendation: “Techniques to manage visitor flows are increasingly used to manage visitor peaks and reduced capacity due to distancing requirements including:
- Caps on visitor numbers for given periods and group sizes
- Allocated visitation timeslots
- QR codes to access and register attendance, place orders for goods and services
- Contactless payments
- Real-time visitation dashboards including webcams
- Odd/Even car registration plate entry restrictions
- GEO location-targeted advertising and messaging to visitors in real-time
- Increased resources for visitor information centers to help disperse visitors”
We know that visitors are choosing outdoor destinations, and many are driving rather than flying. Destinations will want to have a plan to promote and support the use of transit alternatives to crowded areas with insufficient infrastructure as a part of their destination management plan. Breckenridge Colorado has been ahead of the curve and implemented integrated digital systems pre-pandemic using kiosks and mobile.
- Provide shuttle tracking and schedules to get visitors out of their cars and into shared transportation – My Free Ride
- Reports showed that In December 2017, the town of Breckenridge’s transit system “Breckenridge Free Ride” serviced more than a million riders in one calendar year.
- Our take on the next step is to point out that as visitor behaviors change with a preference for drive travel, more than ever destinations will need to provide a meaningful and safe alternative to travel to points of interest.
- We’ve seen from Breckenridge that these programs do work, and need adapting to current trends.
We’ve seen that digital in-market materials communicating safety measures and the most current information on visitor requirements will be critical to easing visitor anxiety. We know that small changes in restrictions can alter the decision-making process for visitors immediately.
Community Programs to Spread Visitation and Demand
Getting visitors off the over-beaten path requires offering them a better option that appeals to a traveler’s desire to experience the best you have to offer. Offering an excellent experience should take into account anticipating and preventing inconveniences for your customers. Activities that require you to “pack your patience” are not going to be a good fit for everyone, and even worse when an expected activity is simply not available due to popular demand.
Connecting visitors to local culture, art, and community strengths is an excellent way to maintain destination health and serve a visitor’s need to easily find activities that fit their exploration style. As every destination makes it a priority to connect community values to destination content, featuring cultural attractions benefits all.
- 83% of visitors do self-guided tours or drive around the island. Only 21% of visitors go to historic sites and 19% go to museums or art galleries.
- Formed volunteer committees of stakeholders – HTA, the County of Maui’s Office of Economic Development and the Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau (MVCB) and representatives from visitor industry sectors (hotel, attractions, activities), other business sectors (e.g. agriculture, retail), the community (e.g. Hawaiian culture, education), and other nonprofit organizations on each of their respective islands of Maui, Moloka‘i, and Lāna‘i.
- Steps taken to Improve visitor experience with digital solutions:
- Featured a “Responsible Travel Pledge” – education for visitors to interact with the community and natural resources.
- Warrior Markers – Beacons and notifications to direct visitors to cultural points of interest in a curated trail. As you check in, a warrior badge is generated to gamify and encourage social sharing.
- Partnership with government agencies and host properties to place digital visitor services throughout the island, beacons, notifications, etc.
- Multi-device engagement utilizing mobile, kiosks and digital signage helps connect the pledge and educational programs, while rewarding visitors with new ways to engage and experience your destination
I hope this gives you some ideas to further your sustainability and destination stewardship goals. Whether looking to improve visitor experiences, connecting the dots with sustainability goals, or engaging visitors in new ways we can help. Reach out for a free evaluation and review of your practices and see how digital multi-device solutions can help. Call us at 833-300-6664 or email us at info@trueomni and our team will help you look at options best fit for your organization