From the Road: Raleigh Keeping Pace with Peers Internationally
Thursday, July 20, 2017, 8am by Jonathan Freeze, CDME, CHIA
The Greater Raleigh CVB has thousands of peer organizations throughout the world, each representing a city/county, region, state or nation, and many are members of our CVB industry association, the Destination Marketing Association International (established 1914), officially rechristened as Destinations International just this month.
Once a year, key CVB staff travel to the association’s annual convention to engage with peers, meet with industry suppliers and participate in some of the best educational sessions available to our industry—led by both travel and tourism experts and global thought leaders from other industries. I attended the 2017 convention, held July 11-14, and took note of the following tidbits and trends worthy of passing along:
Branding takes you only so far (but how lucky we are)
When destination/place branding became a buzzword in our industry around 2005, it had its critics and cynics as well as those who skipped reading the books altogether and came away with a limited understanding of its very beneficial role in destination marketing. Fast forward 12 years, and some destinations (with names more recognizable on the national stage than Raleigh’s) are still struggling to lead their communities toward a clear, current brand strategy that aids tourism development.
Yes, the term “branding” is so often used today outside of professional settings that it almost has lost any mutually agreed-upon meaning, and even the more specialized destination brand strategy still confounds, as parts of it seem too “head in the clouds” and esoteric. Fortunately here, Raleigh and Wake County have made progress articulating a strong brand platform, in both 2008 and 2015. The current destination brand kit for Raleigh, N.C., contains strategies that are working, and new local allies and hospitality partners are coming onboard all the time. Together we can leapfrog ahead of the rest!
Destination planning is increasingly essential everywhere (not only for “problem places”)
From a session entitled “The End of Tourism as We Know It,” I learned more about a strategic plan recently completed by our peer Wonderful Copenhagen (Denmark). Through a process similar to one that Raleigh/Wake County is embarking on now under the CVB’s leadership, Wonderful Copenhagen reached a startling conclusion that required it to view its mission and program of work in an entirely new way, i.e., the end of tourism. (This has partly to do with “overtourism” in many parts of the world.)
While I don’t expect Wake County’s Destination Strategic Plan (slated for completion next year) to be shocking or to show our destination is overcapacity, this standing-room-only session underlined the importance that CVBs of all sizes are now placing on macro strategic planning processes (to set realistic tourism goals that are community-vetted and not always about increase of sheer numbers). Also, some findings from Copenhagen, like redefining tourists as “temporary locals,” are very relevant to Raleigh.
Tactics planned with the new visitRaleigh.com are on-trend
Finally, I found a lot of reassurance from the case-study presentation of another peer organization, the CVB for our nation’s capital, in a session entitled “Breaking the Rules: Putting Consumers’ Needs Above Stakeholders’.” In many ways internet-marketing-wise, our CVB has been on a similar path to D.C.’s in developing a destination content strategy that will be relevant to and better utilized by today’s always-online consumer.
Partner tools that we’ve put into place in recent years, like an annual Editorial Calendar shared by our staff, supporting agencies/vendors and area hospitality businesses alike, plus behind-the-scenes tools, like an annually-updated Digital Content Marketing Strategy for engaging all CVB consumers (leisure travelers and event planners), are helping us to ensure success when the new and content-rich visitRaleigh.com and raleighsports.org websites launch later this year.
Across all convention sessions, I was struck by how well the professionals at the Greater Raleigh CVB are keeping our fingers on the pulse of destination marketing/management and keeping pace with much larger peers worldwide. In our approach to issues like inclusivity, content marketing/shareability, the blurring of traditional and visitor-related economic development and prioritizing local authenticity (including guides to districts/neighborhoods), we are doing some of our best work yet.