For businesses in the tourism industry, finding new ways to market their destination and bring awareness to their offerings is a main goal. Many of these businesses rely on Destination Marketing Organization (DMOs) and Tourism Promotion Agencies (TPAs) to help them do just that. If your business is not already familiar with DMOs or TPAs, we’ve created this guide to help you get started.

First Things First, What Are DMOs and TPAs?

DMOs and TPAs are tourism-focused organizations that promote destinations, encourage travelers to visit a geographic area, and overall aim for a positive economic impact on the local economy. They also provide a platform for local businesses to share their offerings and gain visibility.

While DMOs and TPAs have similar goals, they do differ in funding. DMOs are privately owned agencies, while TPAs are government-funded. Both organizations allow smaller businesses to gain valuable exposure that they may not be able to do through their own in-house efforts.

How Do I Know Which Organization is Right for My Business?

While you’re deciding which DMO or TPA to work with, knowing what to look for in a partnership is very helpful. When you are evaluating which is the best fit for you, consider these items.

  1. Evaluate your DMO like you would any other financial investment.
  2. Research each DMOs’ website, membership cost, audience reach, and external marketing efforts.
  3. Does the DMO offer any partnership benefits beyond their services?
  4. What services are included in each membership package, and what is an additional cost?
  5. Evaluate the time and financial investment required with any DMO to get a positive return on investment (RIO).

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How Can I Best Leverage Their Services?

Many of these destination marketing companies have similar ways of operating even though they’re all unique. Contact your local DMOs, and get to know the people you may be working with. You will also want to keep these items in mind when working with your DMO.

  1. Treat your DMO as an extension of your website with up to date, accurate information.
  2. Ask questions! Learn about what is free, what are paid services, and how you can use them.
  3. Share new and old blog and social media content with your DMO.

Once you choose to work with a DMO, you will want to evaluate your investment return and ask for access to your analytics and tracking. If you are unfamiliar with marketing analytics and how to evaluate them, try these steps to help get you started.

  1. Set up Google Analytics on your website to measure analytics and see where traffic is coming from.
  2. Communicate with your DMO for guidance on analytics and assessing website traffic.
  3. Review your analytics each month to see what pages of your website see the most traffic.
  4. Consider tools to help you track conversion, like Google Analytics and CallRail
  5. If you want to run ads, ask your DMO for traffic data for the pages you are considering using. They can help you decide which pages may be best for your ads.
  6. Track your financial investment and ROI to see if the partnership is worth it.

“It’s not just should I be on this DMO’s website or not, but which page and even which placement or which type of ad makes sense.”

Carl Lefever, Improve & Grow

If I Don’t Have the Budget, Can I Still Benefit from DMOs?

For organizations that have little or no budget, DMOs and TPAs can still be an asset to their marketing efforts. Although each DMO is different, many offer free areas of promotion like community calendars and social media that don’t require membership to use. If your budget is limited, try leveraging your DMO through these areas.

  1. Call your DMO and ask what is available free to the community.
  2. Leverage networking opportunities by attending free events offered by the DMO.
  3. Utilize free event calendars and tailor your event descriptions for each outlet’s audience.
  4. Tag the DMO on social media and use local hashtags in posts they may want to reshare.

There are many benefits to working with DMOs and TPAs. Whatever your goals, be vocal about them when you’re comparing which organizations to work with. Remember to ask the right questions and closely track if your investment makes sense for your business.

If you’re still unsure where to start, here is a list of US-based DMAP-certified DMOs and a list of International Tourism Organizations. We also invite you to check out our tourism marketing meetup where we invite marketing experts and tourism business owners to share practical tourism marketing tips. Are you a travel or tourism business owner looking for more direct help with your tourism marketing strategy? Schedule a discovery call with us today to learn how we can help.

Meet the Author:

Carl Lefever

Carl Lefever, Founder & Strategist

Carl is the founder of Improve & Grow, LLC, where his primary passion is helping businesses grow by improving their online marketing. He leads the team and is involved in developing and executing internet marketing strategies for our clients. Carl's background is in continuous improvement disciplines, focused on sales and marketing operations. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt. He is a proud father of 4 girls and loves traveling and supporting missions work.