Maximize Your DMO Membership

As the Sr. Director of Marketing Services at the San Diego Tourism Authority, I’m always surprised at how many organization’s don’t take advantage of their DMO membership. Our membership team hosts monthly in-person open houses, where members can sit down with various department staff including group sales, public relations, web and interactive and ad sales, to hear what these teams offer and discuss their personal business needs. But I’ve never seen more than a dozen businesses at a time take advantage of this services.

Membership also host weekly online training sessions for MemberNet, the member web publishing portal, to teach folks how to publish content directly to, the Official Travel Resource for San Diego, which generates over 8 million visitor inquires per year.  Yet, the team is hard pressed to get members to participate in the trainings or publish their own content.

Further, the public relations, promotions, travel trade and group sales teams can sometimes find it hard to secure prizes for highly vetted radio promotions, host travel writers, tour operators or execute professional site visits.

I realize this sounds like a bit of a DMO rant, and perhaps it is, but the crazy part is that your DMO team really can add value to your sales and marketing efforts. And, you’re already paying the membership fees.  I’ve seen this first-hand from inside and outside the DMO world. As the former Director of Marketing for the Hotel del Coronado, I understand how taxing it is to participate in programs not directly connected to your on-property daily workload.  It’s hard to set aside time to update your own website let alone the DMOs.  And it’s sometimes hard to see the immediate value of promotions and hosting.  But that truly is a short-sighted point of view. And here’s why.

First, every large city DMO like San Diego, spends millions of dollars on advertising each year to promote the destination. The fulfillment for this marketing effort is the DMO website. A recent Expedia study reported that 32% of leisure travelers access DMO websites to help make travel decisions and plan their vacations.  A well run DMO website is one of the best digital channels to connect with travelers that have already indicated an interest in your destination. Plus, the DMO and their advertising agency spend a ton of money on research to ensure that their advertising dollars are well spent. Often a portion of this research is available to members which can help inform your own sales and marketing efforts.

As for prizes and hostings, while it might be hard to attribute a specific promotion or article to revenue, the businessess that play ball are the ones that win the game.  It’s like this… the DMO staff is just as busy as your internal team. Businesses that are easy to work with, and that help when called, are the ones that are asked to participate over and over again. Want to know how to get featured in that AAA article? Help the DMO’s public relations team. Send them your press releases and updates of what’s new at your property. Host their travel writers.  Many writers work exclusively with DMO’s rather than individual businesses in order to get an unbiased look at what’s hot or new across multiple industries in a destination. And generally the DMO will insist that participating partners are featured in any article.

As for Group Sales and Travel Trade, their goals depend on conversion numbers and well executed site visits and experiences are a win-win-win.  The property has a shot at the business, the meeting or travel planner in introduced to new options and the sales teams are one step closer to making their goals.

I encourage you to consider whether you’re maximizing your DMO membership and to look at that relationship with fresh eyes. The effort may just pay off with big returns.