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September 2011:

Tourism and Destination Marketing: Smart Investments for Immediate Returns

By Victoria Isley

September 6, 2011

Posted in: Tourism

As municipalities across the country struggle with lagging revenues, budget deficits and ongoing demands to provide vital services for citizens, destination marketing and tourism investment may be perceived as frivolous. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As its community’s primary tourism marketing body, a destination marketing organization (DMO), occasionally called a convention and visitor bureau, masterminds the marketing of its locale as a whole to business and leisure travelers. Through its focus on tourism marketing sales and servicing, and the resulting dollars brought in by those efforts, a DMO in turn plays a significant role in the long-term economic development of its destination.

At the end of the day, DMOs are investment accounts for communities — not a cost to communities — and their efforts deliver real dividends to local governments, businesses and residents. Destination marketing efforts don’t compete with public service programs; they actually bring new revenue into local areas to help pay for them.

DMOs import temporary taxpayers with every new visitor they attract to your community. Think about it this way: Every new traveler that visits Howard County and spends money in local businesses, including hotels, restaurants, shops and attractions, is also a temporary taxpayer contributing to the tax base of Howard County.

New visitors pump cash into local businesses and public coffers, enhance the lifestyle of residents, and importantly in this economy, create jobs. In fact, the travel and tourism industry and the job creation resulting from it is one of the few bright spots in our U.S. economy today.

The U.S. Labor Department’s latest figures show travel jobs in the U.S. increased for the eighth consecutive month. While the overall unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.1%, the travel industry posted 9,200 new jobs in July.

Tourism marketing is one of the smartest, most efficient and most immediate returns for generating new and sorely needed revenues for destinations. Both the positive impacts of marketing and the negative effects of eliminating marketing have been well-documented.

When Colorado’s state government cut its tourism investment to zero, its share of U.S. travel plummeted 30% within two years, ultimately creating a revenue loss of more than $2 billion annually.

On the flip side, when Philadelphia invested $4 million in tourism marketing, it generated a whopping $432 million in visitor spending and $46 million in local and state tax revenue. And closer to home, with a $1.2 million investment in paid advertising, Destination DC generated 92,000 additional trips to the city of Washington, $58.8 million in incremental visitor spending and $4.1 million in incremental local taxes.

The passion that destination marketing professionals bring to their communities and the power of their marketing and sales efforts are now being realized as real revenue generators. The most significant example of this realization is the creation of the Corporation for Travel Promotion, designed to increase international travel to the United States.

Community and business leaders alike looking for solutions to generate new spending, revenues and jobs for their hometowns might wish to consider and even further invest in marketing their destinations to attract visitors.

Victoria Isley is chief operating officer for Destination Marketing Association International. She can be reached at visley@destinationmarketing.org.

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