Sales and Marketing

Destination Marketing That Works! - By John Hendrie

'Love the one you’re with!' What a great anthem of the spirited, hedonistic early 1970’s by Stephen Stills. Expanding the theme, we could belt out, 'Love the ones who love you!' And, that is the chorus missed by most Destination Marketing Organizations.

LRA Worldwide With many Destinations serving a very changed tourism landscape, scraping together limited budgets, short staffed, the traditional strategy remains for most – slap together a Marketing Plan, aimed at “New Visitors”.  What a shame, what a lost opportunity.

Consider - what moves you as a Consumer? Flashy marketing has its place, but most of us give far more credence to someone we know, extolling the virtues of a product or place. Put your Marketing dollars to work creatively, harness that vigorous and connected Ambassador (your current Visitor and Fan), who already thinks you are great. We may have forgotten two maxims: it is easier to retain an existing Customer than recruit a new one, and the most effective referral is by word of mouth.


Your existing Fans are the answer. Show your love, demonstrate your thanks, make them feel special. Honor them, those Ambassadors, and they will deliver the message you have crafted. New Visitors will travel to your Destination, based upon enthusiastic testimonials. This is a guarantee, and this is how you do it!

The initial step is to gather information on your Visitor through major entry points, like airports and train stations, as well as your Welcome/Visitor Centers, hotel lobbies and the like. No innovative Marketing plan will work without this Visitor data - who they are, where they are from, why are they visiting, where they are going, and most importantly, may we have your e-mail address, please. Information is power.

Now, you have some workable data on your Fans and potential boosters. How do we make them feel special?   Let me give you a stellar example.   The State of Kentucky has had in place for perhaps forty years a terrific Program they call "The Kentucky Colonel". The concept is very simple. An individual is recommended to the Governor's Office, usually based upon a contribution (artistic, business, social) to the betterment of the State of Kentucky. The Governor issues a splendid looking Certificate - commissioning that person as a Kentucky Colonel. Then, on a yearly basis, you are contacted and for a nominal fee "maintain" your Commission. Plus, you get a fancy wallet card and decal, and a portion of that fee goes to a charity, sponsored by the Kentucky Colonel Association. As an added tidbit, you are also invited to a special party the night before the Kentucky Derby. Also, you can purchase related goods, such as a mint julep cup, a belt buckle, cap, coat and more. What a brilliant program in its simplicity. I have been a member for 30 years - I can easily handle the yearly fee, and I like the affiliation, although I have not lived in Kentucky for decades.

Now, segue to your Destination and apply the same concept to your Fans. This could work in Vermont, as well as Myrtle Beach, Saranac Lake and Tahoe, Colorado Springs, Seattle and Alabama. The global application is just as valid, whether Anguilla, Mozambique or Singapore. Create a name: Down Easterner, Grand Strander, Beachcomber, Texas Longhorn- you get the idea. Establish some protocols for inclusion and administration. Affiliate with a charity or cause.  What makes your location unique? What is meaningful to your community? Lastly, create or recast a festival/event where your faithful can gather.

What have we accomplished here? We have met the earlier mentioned Maxims. We have identified our greatest Fans (existing Visitors), we have recognized them (brought them into our family), we have tied our Destination to a meaningful cause/charity (rather than just filthy lucre), and we have identified an annual gala to celebrate our Fan Base, their dedication, support, and their love. They will happily promote our Destination (word of mouth with a bit of exclusivity). They become the most effective Ambassador of your Destination. If you plan and execute this properly, the Program will be close to self-sustaining, and you can use your Marketing dollars to add further value for your current Visitors (much like a Frequent Flyer program). You will make history!  It is all about the Visitor Experience.


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