How to maximize your relationship with tourism promotion organizations

Take these steps now to tap into low-cost marketing opportunities

Your town, city, or region most likely has an organization whose mission is to promote inbound tourism. These groups can take on many forms, and can include municipal or county tourism offices, membership-based marketing consortiums, and convention and visitors’ bureaus. They proactively represent businesses like yours through advertising, sales missions calling on tour operators and travel agents, media familiarization tours, social media campaigns, and a host of other programs.

Since your business is a stakeholder in the local tourism industry, you are entitled to participate in these programs. The first step in taking advantage of these opportunities? Establish a relationship with your local tourism promotion organization. Here’s how.

Identify your local organizations

First, identify the official tourism promotion entities in your area. There may be more than one, including one for your town or city, one for the county or region, and one for the state or province. It may be a “CVB” (convention and visitors bureau), a “DMO” (destination marketing organization), or a “TPA” (tourism promotion agency) funded through public sources such as bed taxes, or a private membership-based association supported by dues.

Depending on the size of the organization, there may be a tourism director, a marketing director, a sales director, and a public relations director. Large organizations will have all of these, with support staff.

Introduce yourself

Once you have a list of the people in marketing positions, begin by sending them all an email, or a mailed letter with copies of your brochure. Describe your business, what services and amenities are offered, and any other points of interest or distinction. Include a link to your website.

You should also connect to these organizations on social networks. If your business has a Facebook page or Twitter feed, for example, follow their accounts in these spaces. You will not only be kept apprised of the news coming from these groups, you’ll be able to respond, share, and otherwise engage with it.

“It behooves hoteliers and general managers to communicate as much as possible and to provide information on marketing strategy, what's new, product offers and more to the local tourism organization,” says Shomari Scott, Director of Tourism with the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism. “It's important to remember that in tourism, public and private sector are working towards the same goal to attract visitors, and they should work together to maximize opportunities. Take time to share your news and to find out what the tourism organization is working on.”

Extend an invitation

It’s a basic sales tenet – offering firsthand knowledge of your product is a more effective way to “sell” it. Invite the staff of your local tourism promotion agency to meet you at your hotel, restaurant, or attraction. Offer a full “fam” (familiarization) tour to give them a sense of an actual guest’s experience. If time doesn’t permit, walk them through an abbreviated version, highlighting the best spaces and features of your business. Show off your hospitality by ending with a meal or refreshments, over which you can ask how you can work together.

Because the DMO or CVB may outsource its marketing, PR, or advertising, you should also extend the invitation to representatives from these agencies.

Ask for updates, and offer to participate

Your tourism promotion agency may have a formal method for communicating with local businesses, such as a regular newsletter. The State of Florida, for example, publishes the “Sunshine Matters” blog for statewide tourism businesses, manages a dedicated “Florida Tourism” Facebook page, and shares news through its industry-focused Twitter feed, @FloridaTourism.

Follow, or ask to be added to the recipient lists for these streams of communication. There may also be regular meetings, brochure swaps, or other in-person networking functions for tourism businesses that will enable you to meet local industry colleagues.

Make it clear that you are willing to participate in marketing initiatives. You shouldn’t have to ask; proactive destinations will come to you with requests. In the Cayman Islands, for example, the Department of Tourism encourages hotels to participate in several programs throughout the year. They promote news about new properties, renovations, and special deals and packages through press releases and other promotional efforts.

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Traci Suppa

Traci Suppa

Travel Blogger

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Last Updated: November 25, 2013