April 10, 2024

6 Key Insights from eTourism Summit 2024

VDX.tv's Travel Vertical Client Partners, Jackie Dunfee & Mary Fratto, attended this year's eTourism Summit to learn about the latest trends at the intersection of tourism and digital. Read on for 6 key insights from the conference that destination marketers need to know.

6 Key Insights from eTourism Summit 2024

Travelers Underestimate Engagement with AI in Trip Planning

Despite widespread use of AI technologies, many individuals are unaware of their engagement with AI, often perceiving it solely as interacting with chatbots. There is a huge gap between travelers thinking they are using AI vs. actually engaging with AI; true usage was found to be higher than self reported usage. Educating stakeholders and partners about the extensive ecosystem of AI — from content recommendation engines on platforms like TikTok to AI-powered analytics — can unlock new opportunities for personalized, efficient, and impactful marketing strategies that resonate with both conscious and unconscious AI users.

Video Platforms Continue to Lead Travel Discovery

The evolving landscape of destination marketing organizations (DMOs) highlights a shift towards video and social-first discovery among consumers, particularly Gen Z and millennials. Success in this space requires agility, leveraging the right technology and resources, and fostering partnerships with content creators who can produce both branded and authentic, organic content. Optimizing video content towards the preferences of younger audiences (for example, they prefer local and niche content creators), rapidly adopting trends, and balancing quality over quantity in views and engagement can guide more effective, sustainable tourism marketing strategies.

Travelers (Still) Seek Authentic Destinations & Distinct Experiences

Destinations need to provide an authentic voice and appeal to all generations in their marketing activity. While this isn’t groundbreaking advice, the point was reemphasized at the conference with case studies that showcased the success of marketing efforts on different channels, especially social media. Having a clear implementation strategy and using high-quality branded content and user- or creator-generated content in organic and paid campaigns is the key to success. Traveler preferences are more curated and niche than ever before, with many travelers seeking “off-the-beaten-path” and “dupe experiences” that allow them unique access to local experiences that are not overcrowded and over-experienced. Destinations seek the right media partners and content creators to help surface these distinct experiences among these niche audiences and help driver travelers to wider regions and experiences across their destination.

Generational Nuances in Content Preferences

Recognizing and adapting to the subtle differences between Gen Z and millennials — from their value on community and unique linguistic styles to their preferences in editing, music, and platform use — is not just a trend, it's a necessity. This understanding is essential for creating resonant content that truly connects with target audiences. By highlighting local businesses and celebrating affinity months, destination marketers can further align with Gen Z’s values, fostering a sense of community and inclusivity. This tailored approach not only enhances engagement but also supports sustainable practices by promoting local economies and cultural sustainability, making stakeholders feel informed and prepared for the future of travel marketing.

Destinations Need Effective Measurement Solutions

Indirect measures of success are no longer enough to keep destination marketers and their stakeholders happy. Expectations are that destination marketing campaigns need measurement solutions in place to evaluate awareness (impressions, site traffic, engagement rates) and conversion (footfall, in-market spend, occupancy) across all marketing activities, regardless of the campaign type (brand, co-op, meetings, live events, etc). Now, more than ever, finding the right partners who can provide the full scope of activation and measurement solutions is necessary. (Additional learning: Everyone is still struggling with migrating data and campaigns to Google Analytics 4.)

Now is the Time to Test Cookie-less Advertising Strategies

There are doubts among industry leaders on whether cookies will disappear entirely in 2024, so the focus for many organizations is on developing a strategic POV and action plan and testing existing cookie-less solutions. With the impending shift away from cookie-based tracking, it's not just important, it's crucial for stakeholders, especially in the travel and digital marketing sectors, to prepare a documented, cookie-less strategy for their organization. This plan should prioritize user privacy while leveraging creative and ethical alternatives for personalization and targeting. By emphasizing the urgency of this shift, destination marketers can motivate stakeholders to take action and stay ahead of the curve in the ever-evolving landscape of travel marketing.

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