In Hospitality, Media

2013_tourism_trendsThis past October, some of the Dana Communications team were fortunate to attend the VA-1 Virginia Tourism Summit, a can’t-miss opportunity for industry professionals presented by the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association, the Virginia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Virginia Tourism Corporation.

One after another, we enjoyed seminars led by speakers who shared cutting-edge research and tourism marketing techniques, plus innovative methods to promote tourism development.

Here are our takeaways, the top five tourism trends for 2013 that grabbed our attention. We pocketed them right from the best minds in the business, just so we could share them with you:

Tourism = Economic Development
Of course, it makes sense when you think about it. The two go hand in hand, each supporting the other. Now it’s becoming more common for local-level businesses to be aware of and appreciate that interdependence, working in tandem to cultivate neighboring enterprises that increase vital tourism revenue (and jobs, income and infrastructure) for their communities.

In Virginia alone, tourists spend $55 million every day, and they need fabulous places to spend it. That’s tens of millions of tourism dollars generating business for hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts, for restaurants and shops, and for farms and other businesses, as well as for places like attractions, historic sites and sports venues.

Events = Tourism = Economic Development
In 2013, expect unique (and uniquely marketed) events to ride the current wave of success, drawing new tourists to the region in which they are held.

One exceptional case study: the small city of Bristol, Virginia, responded to—and won—a contract to be one of only four US cities to host a show headlined by Mumford & Sons, a hot, chart-climbing folk rock band from the UK. The secretive local promotion built anticipation, creating worldwide mystery and buzz. Via channels like Rolling Stone, USA Today, Facebook and Twitter, the concert announcement sold 12,000 tickets within two minutes. The response was so overwhelming, some area hotels sold out in hours, and all of them sold out within three days.

Bristol also hosted the Rhythm & Roots Reunion, a festival celebrating its musical heritage. Visitors (1 in 3 of them new) spent $5 million in the city and another $2 million elsewhere in the state. The 17,500 concertgoers represented 44 states and eight countries. The whole community pitched in. They were rewarded, and the returns continue to pour in. Stats show 94% of visitors plan to recommend the region, leading to growing tourism prospects and further economic development propelled by that single event.

Upwardly Mobile
In the Electronic Marketing Workshop, our speaker echoed what we’ve been preaching––this year, it is CRITICAL to be mobile optimized. We predict huge growth in mobile sales and use in 2013. Whether on an iPhone, Kindle, Droid or another product, more tourists are using their mobile devices like a second brain, to view websites, create schedules and plan travel. Without a website that’s designed to be responsive to mobile technology, you are missing out. Don’t have a mobile-friendly website (or campaign) yet? Start working on one.

Social Media Can Be Quick and Simple

Don’t fear Facebook. Or Twitter. Or Google+ or Pinterest or any of the other social networks. Out of sheer nervousness over not doing it “right” or having the time to devote to all of the networks, some tourism brands shy away from social media completely. But when so many of your fans are online, a little something is usually better than nothing.

So get comfortable with the social media channels, starting with Facebook. Set a schedule for posting, and keep it quick and simple. Share a highlight, a photo or an upcoming event. Ask a question. Link to a longer story related to your brand.

Your fans are waiting to be engaged, and they’re eager to share the brands they love with their friends. Soon, a 5-minute daily effort from a social media newbie can take on a life of its own, building an online following and connecting with other potential fans (and their business!).

I-Can-Do-That Photography
At the summit, we learned that when it comes to tourism photography, “imperfect is the new perfect.” Maybe it’s the soaring popularity of shots snapped with mobile devices and shared online, like those grainy Instagram photos? Gone is the era of too-perfectly staged models with impractical wardrobes. Realism engages tourists, who have become more accustomed to photography illustrating “real” people and a homegrown feel.

Still, you shouldn’t sacrifice good production value. Maintain quality, but change your point of view, figuratively and literally. Other trends we learned: switch up your angles and record 360-degree camera views, when possible, to enrich your website gallery.

Video Is Here to Stay
Nearly everyone is online. Constantly. They are connected, hyper-informed and increasingly sharing their finds (especially videos) with others. Stats show that 65-75% of leisure travelers begin planning by researching online. Many watch video, and around one-third of them book because of the video they watched. Smartly shooting, posting and sharing video is not only a tourism trend, it’s a brilliant idea with infinite tourism marketing potential.

Let’s Write the Next Chapter
The rest of Your Guide to 2013 Tourism Trends remains unwritten. Shall we collaborate? Email me at

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