The state of destination marketing 2024


The state of destination marketing 2024

Sojern, the digital marketing platform built for travel, is pleased to announce the launch of the State of Destination Marketing 2024 report for destination marketing organizations (DMOs). This first-of-its-kind report, produced through a partnership between Sojern and Digital Tourism Think Tank (DTTT), and supported by Brand USA, Destination Canada and the European Travel Commission, sheds light on the latest industry trends and challenges.

Drawing on the views of nearly 300 DMOs, government departments and affiliated tourism entities around the world, it explores effective marketing strategies to engage travelers and offers insight into the future of destination marketing. Sojern commissioned this report to ensure that its global destination clients have access to the most comprehensive marketing insights.

The report revealed that economic uncertainty, inflation and cost of living are having a significant impact on strategies, with more than 50% of respondents seeing these as areas that require careful planning.

"As the travel industry undergoes rapid transformation, we remain committed to helping destinations deal effectively with these changes," said Noreen Henry, Chief Revenue Officer at Sojern.

"The insights revealed in our report highlight destination marketers' strategic priorities and their overall approach to digital marketing, while highlighting the importance of promoting sustainable and diverse tourism and meeting consumers' growing desire for unique experiences. Working with strategic technology partners like Sojern ensures success in an increasingly dynamic and competitive environment," he added.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) adoption and DMO disruption.

AI is revolutionizing marketing and will have a monumental influence on the way destinations market to travelers. According to the findings, DMOs expect the impact of AI to be most pronounced in content creation, with nearly half (49%) anticipating a significant impact. An increasing number of AI tools are transforming creative processes, from long-form content to social media posts.

In addition, 40% of DMOs see significant potential in AI for predictive analytics and forecasting, 38% for data analysis and interpretation, and 37% for marketing content personalization.

However, 71% are less confident and see little potential impact in AI's ability to shape their teams' web, app and platform creation, and 63% in conversational marketing. DMOs perceive the least impact of AI in campaign creation and optimization (29%), creative media (25%) and web, app and platform creation (25%).

Prioritizing investments in paid digital media as Meta dominates.

96% of DMOs make significant investments in paid media as an essential component of achieving their marketing goals. Notably, 58% take an always-on approach, investing year-round, while 38% invest seasonally and only 21% invest when specific opportunities arise.

Social media advertising maintains its prominence, as does search engine marketing (SEM), with 96% and 95% of DMOs rating them high or medium importance, respectively.

The most important channel formats comprise 94% native advertising or sponsored content, 85% display and video advertising, and 78% in-stream video ads. In addition, Connected TV (TVC) shows promise, with more than half of respondents considering it of medium or high importance.

Instagram and Facebook remain the most important platforms when it comes to prioritizing media and content investment, with 45% and 35% respectively of all respondents considering Meta channels as their most important channel. While TikTok has become a global sensation, media spend has yet to grow to the level some might expect, with only 5% considering it their most important channel.

Shifting strategies around data and privacy.

Fifty-four percent of respondents said that data brings the most value to marketing planning. Demographic data (88%) is most frequently used to guide decisions, followed by behavioral data (79%).

However, increased reliance on data also brings its challenges. Considering that the three most pressing barriers to success are the lack of data integration across channels (52%), the high cost of data acquisition (46%) and limited access to quality data (42%), it is clear why demographic data is currently the top metric for digital marketing decision making.

With Google's removal of third-party cookies scheduled for mid-2024, 37% reported a significant impact, while 15% of respondents explained that these changes have a small impact on their current strategies.

DMOs are taking steps to mitigate the effects of these changes on data privacy, with 60% planning to focus on social content and 58% prioritizing more source data. According to the report, the inability to track the right data is a significant problem, and the importance of obtaining first-party data is now greater than ever.

DMOs can capitalize on the current focus on demographics and data-related challenges by partnering with a trusted travel marketing expert that delivers high-quality data that can be seamlessly integrated and activated across channels and devices.

DMOs are adapting their strategies in response to trends such as sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion. European DMOs are leading the way in prioritizing environmental sustainability (62% for climate change, 56% for biodiversity) compared to Canadian (29% for climate change, 24% for biodiversity) and U.S. DMOs (8% for climate change, 33% for biodiversity).

Many DMOs are emphasizing both social diversity and sustainability in their strategies, with figures showing that 42% of all respondents prioritize gender equality, and 45% of European DMOs and 40% of U.S. DMOs place a high priority on accessibility for visitors with disabilities. Some 35% of all respondents claimed to give high priority to LGBTQ+ (i.e., sexual orientation) specific strategies, and similar importance (34%) to promoting social and economic diversity.

Embracing cooperative marketing priorities

78% of global DMOs are actively investing in industry partner campaigns, or cooperative marketing, a collaborative approach in which DMOs partner with local entrepreneurs to promote tourism destinations.

Motivations for cooperative campaigns include increasing overall marketing spend (58%), expanding audience reach (54%) and cost sharing (46%). Notably, 70% of DMOs are adopting "full funnel" marketing campaign activities. As the travel industry continues to change, DMOs need to remain adaptable, data-centric and cultivate strong capabilities with their destination marketing strategies.

To view the full survey methodology, download the "State of Destination Marketing 2024" report here.

The authors are responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts contained in this document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of Tourism and Society Think Tank and do not commit the Organization, and should not be attributed to TSTT or its members.

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