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HomeColumnsArticlesYou may have already missed the boat. A destination prescriptive!

You may have already missed the boat. A destination prescriptive!

Most would agree that it is far easier to retain an existing customer than solicit a new one. As you embrace that current customer, you gain as much information as possible, so you are able to consistently fulfill their needs. It goes beyond demographics. You really want to intimately understand their psyche, their needs and desires, so you can better deliver on your promise. If successful, you have a loyal Fan and a steadfast member of the extended family. And, devoted Fans spread the good news, where the uninitiated soon become advocates, too, creating a groundswell of interest and investment in your business.

This is where the Destination market has missed the boat, spending millions of dollars to attract new traffic to an area, yet dismissing their current Visitor, who, hopefully, with a good experience under their belt, would happily proclaim the merits of a Destination, if brought into the family, recognized for their patronage, made to feel special and valued.

It all starts with information, building data, and most Destination areas do not gather this well – it is an uneven effort. Let’s consider the sources for this collection. Usually, it is the Visitor Center, where, maybe, 5% of your Visitors actually stop by, and, probably, under 1% even provide information, depending upon how and what they are asked. Not a particularly reliable means to gather information. Perhaps, the DMO could turn to their Hospitality Community for this information. Certainly, your lodging community could provide significant data, if they chose and if it were legal. It is still shocking how few capture e-mail addresses. But, as a Private business, they would be remiss to share that important Customer List. So, it is usually left in the hands of some Marketing Research Company to accomplish what a Destination could do themselves. Equally important information concerns Visitor expectations and Destination performance in meeting those expectations and delivering on product and service. The end result is a fractured Visitor Profile, frequently meaningless, yet the annual marketing plan and dollars are ready to go, reaching out into that black chasm of wary consumers.

There is another answer. Focus upon your “Portals” or entry into the Destination area. It could be an airport. It could be a highway Toll area, like in New Hampshire and Maine. Here is a captured audience with cell phones, just sitting and mulling. Or, perhaps a “Blitz Team” concept needs to be considered, where volunteers or even paid individuals seek information from your venues and crowds. Now, you have some discernable, valid and timely information from your Visitors who chose to visit your Destination.

Now, how do you make them feel special and become your Ambassadors outside of the Destination area? There are three ways to accomplish this:

  • Have a stunning Guest Service Program in place, geared not only to the Hospitality Community but also anyone in a Visitor Contact position. This would include your Front Desk personnel, your Restaurant Server, your Ticket Taker, as well as your Taxi Cab drivers, parking lot attendants and Police. This is a total Destination requirement.
  • Superb delivery on your products and service. With no Quality standards you will have unreliable and unremarkable performance. It is as simple as that!
  • Assuming you have met the above two criteria for a memorable experience and you have gathered information about your Visitor, now comes the engagement process, how you demonstrate the love, the value and ongoing relationship, and turn that current Visitor into a permanent Ambassador for your Destination.

Create a program! “Honorary Vermonter”, “Friend of the Alamo”, “Yosemite Society”, “Strip Tripper” (Las Vegas), “Honorable Conch” (Key West), “Distinguished Shorts” (Bermuda), Anguilla Ambassador” – some program name which captures the essence of your Destination area, region, State or nation. And, this should be a big deal, a certificate signed by the Governor, yearly membership with a modest fee, which goes to some non-profit organization you have created to support an institution or natural setting – the reason you have Visitors in the first place. The membership process can also be quite a tool for some exclusivity, based upon meaningful criteria. Not everyone should be an invitee or honoree. Your community leaders can make the nominations or recommendations. The membership fee also sustains the administration costs of the Program, and throughout the year you keep your membership, your Ambassadors, informed, excited, and anticipating their next visit. The marketing opportunities are boundless, as well as merchandising.

Any elected official can also see the benefit of this Good Will outreach, particularly recognizing Economic Development, visiting dignitaries, even in state or city citizens, who have contributed to the welfare, growth, and success of an area. It is better than the Key to the City. But, the program should be driven by the Destination community.

This concept is very powerful. We all want to belong, we want to recognized, and we want to be valued. If a Destination focuses upon those who already think they are wonderful, the natural byproduct will be new Visitors, wondering what is so special. Accentuate the positive you already have! Tap your current Visitor, “knight” them, engage them, and they, in turn, will more than return the favor and spread the good news.