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Maybe It’s Time for Destinations to Get Out of The Website Business

Let me start by asking another question: Should NYC & Company be selling hot dogs to tourists? Or should the Paris Visitor Board be making and selling croissants? Or Visit Britain be making and selling fish and chips?

Even if these DMOs/CVBs could make them better than most of the current sellers and, as a result, slightly improve the visitor experience, I think most would agree it’s probably not a great use of their resources.

Why? Because there are plenty of others whose core business model is to make hot dogs and croissants and pub food, and those businesses already do it quite well within the free market.

So why, when there are thousands of free-market visitor info sources from Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Time Out Guides, Arrival Guides, NY Times, The Guardian, Nat Geo Traveler and tens of thousands of apps, and blogs, are destination marketing organizations still spending so much time and money putting out visitor info online and paying to drive traffic there?

Many DMOs would argue that their sites are better or more trustworthy than the other sites. In most cases, they’re not. They might look fancier, but more than ever, people want raw and honest opinions from blogs and TripAdvisor. And given the choice, most people trust independent journalists over a collection of what is essentially press releases and content often taken straight from the attractions own brochures.

Even in those cases when DMO sites are better, what’s the value of putting it out there among the hundreds or thousands of other sources and then paying a small fortune to push traffic and create content for it?

It feels like we’ve lost sight of the main purpose of these sites: to make sure visitors can find good information on the destination and use that information to book aspects of their trip.  Instead, it feels like many DMOs are using their sites to try to position themselves as the spider in the web, driving traffic to the site, then linking to stakeholders and sending them some traffic (though this is not necessarily the most efficient nor cost effective way to drive traffic to them).

According to research from Expedia, only 6.4 percent of visitors even visit a DMO’s website before traveling there. And for those who do, the same research shows they also visit an average of over 30 other information websites. If DMOs weren’t paying to generate much of their traffic, chances are that 6.4% figure would be far lower.

If the official websites of New York, Paris or Berlin were down for a month, would those cities get one less actual visitor? Would someone who is searching for information on those cities (or any other destination) think: “I see 30 great websites, but I don’t see information from the official DMO site, so I’m just not interested to go there any more”?

I’m not suggesting DMOs stop using their website, just reposition it.

There are areas where the DMO can contribute much needed online information – information that no one else can provide.   And that’s information on:

+ MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions)

+ Tourism statistics

+ Educational programs for stakeholders

+ Media contacts

+ Media resources

By media resources, I mean providing updated photos and videos that anyone and everyone can use for free. They’re not just for bloggers; large print and online publications are always trying to get hold of great, free images and videos and the easier you make it for them, the more likely it is to get used.

We often talk about how the age of information is changing things. But that also means organizations need to adapt.

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