Episode 203: Surviving the “Sea of Sameness”: How to Make Your Destination Stand Out

By Emily Christman on March 03, 2023

In today’s highly competitive tourism industry, it’s crucial for destinations to differentiate themselves from their competitors to attract and retain tourists. While price and location are essential factors that influence the decision of a traveler, Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) need to think outside of the box to showcase what makes them unique. In a recent episode, I discussed how to stand out against the “sea of sameness” with Brad Dean, President and CEO of Visit Puerto Rico. Dean inspired me to explore new ways a tourism brand can differentiate itself from the rest.

Highlight Unique Experiences

No matter the demographic, travelers crave unique experiences that they can’t find elsewhere. Destinations that offer authentic adventures are more likely to attract tourists than those that offer the same experiences as their competitors. Every coastal town has a beach, what can they focus on that stands out? Use part of your marketing to highlight unique cultural or culinary excursions that are exclusive to your region, such as specialty museums, local artist galleries and mural walks or regional specialty food tours.

Showcase Cultural Heritage

A region’s cultural heritage is an often-overlooked asset when it comes to standing out. Don’t overlook the depth of richness when considering the desires of visitors. Travelers are interested in exploring the history, traditions and culture of wherever they decide to spend their vacation. Destinations that offer a range of cultural experiences, like historical tours, cultural festivals and traditional craft markets can differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Focus on Sustainability

Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important factor in tourism. In recent years, travelers have become more conscious of their environmental impact, and they want to support destinations that are taking steps to minimize their negative effects. Destinations that implement and showcase sustainable practices, such as eco-friendly accommodations, renewable energy and responsible tourism practices, can differentiate themselves as environmentally responsible and attract tourists who prioritize sustainability.

Go Outside the Box

Sometimes, the best way to stand out is to go against the grain. DMOs with a distinctive brand voice and strategy are more likely to stick in the minds of their audience. Think about what makes your region special and capitalize on that in creative ways. On the Destination Marketing Podcast, Dean told me about Visit Puerto Rico’s partnership with Pantone to create the official color of Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico Sunshine. This partnership is a unique one, but it highlights the bright feeling that the DMO wants its audience to connect to the brand. Distinctive partnerships, creative copywriting and bold branding moves are sure to make any destination stand out, no matter the size.

Involve the Community

DMOs that involve the community in their tourism outputs can differentiate themselves from organizations that don’t. Tourism marketing campaigns that promote small businesses, highlight local artisans and involve the entire community in tourism initiatives can attract tourists who want to engage with the local lifestyles. As Dean shared with me, “[Don’t only sell] the beautiful places, but the beautiful faces and the stories in your destination. If we can do that, I think that creates a connection with the community that not all of us have but all of us need.”

Destinations that want to differentiate themselves in tourists’ minds need to offer unique experiences, leverage their cultural heritage, prioritize sustainability, incorporate technology, and involve the local community. By doing so, DMOs can attract and retain tourists and stand out in the “sea of sameness.”