4 Takeaways from DMAI 2017 All Destination Marketers Need to Know

The Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) Annual Convention is the event for marketing and management professionals to gain insight and inspiration inside and outside of the industry.  This year the YouVisit team had the pleasure of saying bonjour to the 2017 DMAI conference in Montreal. We sampled every croissant in the Old Port, experienced why Montreal is Canada’s No. 1 city for hotel business (shout out to the amazing Le Petit Hotel), and enjoyed some strangeness at the Le Quartier des Spectacles that rivaled some of the strangeness of our native NYC.

We also witnessed the great rebrand reveal: Destination Marketing Association is now known as International Destinations International. Plus, we attended some amazing panels and showcased three brand new virtual reality travel and destination experiences at our booth:

Visit Houston

Virtual Tour

Visit Oakland

Virtual Tour

Visit Philadelphia

Virtual Tour

Here are our four big takeaways from the event.

Inclusion and diversity
From gender and race, to big and small locales, destination marketers are focused on the wide variety of travelers and making them feel at home. Dylan Thomas, founder of Atlas Obscura, shared how his business gets locals and visitors to submit their favorite off-the-beaten path destination points by crowd sourcing. From root bridges in India, to a clown themed hotel outside Las Vegas, Atlas Obscura includes different perspectives to provide a more robust, vibrant, and inclusive travel guide with something for everyone.

Tech is taking over
Long gone are the days of the travel brochure. Potential visitors are searching for an online glimpse of their travel destination before hitting the “book” button. The DMAI tradeshow floor included Google, which demonstrated some of their recent mapping projects, and a number of different vendors focused on video-driven storytelling.

The YouVisit booth featured immersive VR experiences that allow cities like Oakland, Houston, and Philadelphia to showcase the multiple destinations of one city, while offering potential travelers the  the opportunity to choose-their-own-adventure within the experience. Tech is making it easier for visitors to research travel and obtain a try-before-you-buy experience, which often leads to real-life purchasing. As Evita Robinson, founder of Nomadness Tribe, put it: tourism “starts digitally and grows into real-life travel.”

Age is only a number
Today’s young people often get labeled the “tech generation.” Visit Lexington’s VP of Marketing, Gathan Bordon, asserted that “millennial is a mindset.” In his panel, Bordon pointed out that we’re all “digital natives,” noting that we can’t expect tech to only reach one demographic. According to Bordon, people consume 639 minutes of media a day, which means:

  1. Screen time doesn’t have an age bracket
  2. destinations must fine-tune their digital marketing strategy.

The key takeaway: Don’t cater your digital strategy exclusively for the young. Everyone is digital-first.

Most travelers fear being labeled as tourists. It’s the job of the travel marketer to help reduce that fear. So how can destinations break out of their own city’s cliches? By making a statement and showing your city’s story.

What’s your story?
In her panel “The End of Tourism as We Know It,” Wonderful Copenhagen’s Director of Development, Signe Jungersted, declared that most travelers fear being labeled as tourists. It’s the job of the travel marketer to help reduce that fear. So how can destinations break out of their own city’s cliches? By making a statement and showing your city’s story. Highlight the local, home-grown flavor with bite-sized content that visitors can pick and choose from. This gives visitors the chance to choose their own adventure based on the level of “tourist” they’re comfortable with.

Destination marketing is about showing off a city’s special spaces: from city parks to a hidden speakeasy, every city has unique offerings that complete its story.  We had a great time touring Montreal, debuting our latest VR destination experiences, and gaining invaluable insights from the panels. DMAI—excusez moi, Destinations International—is one of our favorite conferences of the year.

Check out some of the visual highlights below. See you in Anaheim in 2018!  

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