Episode 259: Why DMOs Must Prioritize Locals in Their Marketing Strategy

By on June 06, 2023

Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) play a vital role in promoting tourism and attracting visitors to their respective destinations. Traditionally, DMOs have focused their marketing efforts on targeting potential tourists from outside the local community. However, in recent years, there has been a growing realization of the importance of catering to the needs and desires of local residents. As touched on in the latest episode of the Destination Marketing Podcast, gone are the days of only focusing marketing efforts on those who live an hour or more away. In this blog post, we will explore the reasons why DMOs should prioritize engaging with locals and incorporating their perspectives into their marketing strategy.

Fostering Destination Advocacy

Locals are the heart and soul of a destination. They possess a deep understanding and attachment to their community, making them passionate advocates for their region. By involving locals in the marketing strategy, DMOs tap into a valuable resource of authentic, genuine and unbiased testimonials. When residents are engaged and have a positive perception of their own destination, they become natural ambassadors, spreading the word about their community to friends, relatives and online communities. As my podcast guest Bill Geist mentioned, over 50% of visiting friends and relatives stay in hotels. This establishes a great need to create a place where local residents want to invite visitors. The support of locals enhances the credibility and trustworthiness of the DMO’s marketing efforts.  

Sustainable Tourism Development

Sustainable tourism has gained significant traction in recent years, emphasizing the need to preserve and protect the environment, culture and social fabric of destinations. Engaging with local residents is crucial for achieving sustainable tourism development. By involving residents in the planning and decision-making process, DMOs gain insights into the community’s values, concerns and aspirations. This enables them to create marketing campaigns that align with the principles of sustainability and responsible tourism, ensuring that the local community benefits from tourism activities while preserving the destination’s unique characteristics.

Tailoring Experiences to Local Interests

Local residents provide an invaluable perspective on what makes their destination special and appealing. DMOs can harness this knowledge to curate authentic experiences that align with the interests and desires of potential visitors. By incorporating the local lens, DMOs can showcase hidden gems, off-the-beaten-path attractions and cultural experiences that are often overlooked by traditional marketing campaigns. This not only enhances the visitor experience but also helps to differentiate the destination from others, fostering a sense of uniqueness and authenticity.

Boosting Economic Development

Tourists aren’t the only ones who spend money in a destination. Engaging with locals in the marketing strategy can have a significant impact on the local economy. When residents are involved and invested in the success of their destination, they are more likely to support local businesses, recommend them to others, and participate in activities that generate economic benefits. By showcasing local businesses and emphasizing the economic impact of tourism on the community, DMOs can encourage residents to become active participants in driving the local economy. This collaboration between the DMO and residents can lead to increased job opportunities, entrepreneurial growth and overall economic prosperity.

Strengthening Community Bonds

A strong sense of community is vital for the well-being and resilience of a destination. Engaging with locals in the marketing strategy not only enhances their pride and connection to their community but also strengthens the overall social fabric. By involving residents, DMOs foster a sense of inclusivity and ownership, allowing them to feel like active contributors to the success and development of their destination. This collaborative approach creates a positive feedback loop, with locals supporting the DMO’s initiatives and the DMO reciprocating by incorporating their ideas and feedback.

The role of DMOs is evolving and it is crucial to recognize the significance of engaging with and catering to the needs of local residents in their marketing strategy. By involving locals, DMOs can tap into a valuable resource of authentic testimonials, promote sustainable tourism development, tailor experiences to local interests, boost the local economy and strengthen community bonds.