Destination marketing is a precarious game.

Marketing budgets are usually government-dependent and are often the target of cuts when coffers are low or when administrations change.

Even the largest and most successful destination management organizations (DMOs), such as Brand USA, Visit Florida and Choose Chicago, have had their budgets stripped or found themselves in the line of fire.

Through that prism, NYC & Company's city-to-city, partnership-marketing model is a smart strategy. The DMO has created eight such relationships over the past nine years with cities that include Madrid; Cape Town, South Africa; Tokyo; Amsterdam; and, most recently, Berlin.

The partnerships aim to increase travel between the partner cities and usually include swapping media assets, such as advertising space on bus shelters or billboards, and sharing best practices.

"In most cities, our budgets are fairly constrained," said Fred Dixon, NYC & Company's president and CEO. "The ability to not only share or exchange media assets or best practices is valuable. We are leading destinations learning from each other and supporting each other."

The partnerships have paid off. NYC & Company reported that since 2017, it has exchanged $1.4 million in media assets, not including with Toronto or Berlin.

Dixon said partner destinations around the world share similar challenges, such as promoting shoulder seasons and spreading out tourism from the most congested areas to less frequented ones.

"It's a lot about sharing playbooks and strategies and what works and what doesn't work," he said.

The partnerships have also served to reinforce destinations' shared values at a time when the U.S. overall has lost share of the global travel market and the Trump administration has sent what many DMOs call a less-than-welcoming message to potential travelers.

"It's tourism as diplomacy in many ways," Dixon said. "When the conversation began in Washington around building the wall with Mexico, we seized on that moment to renew our partnership with Mexico City as an expression of our commitment to that market."

Ads in Mexico City include ones stating, "New York City  --  Welcoming the World."

When announcing NYC & Company's most recent alliance, with VisitBerlin in September, Ramona Pop, Berlin's deputy mayor, said, "New York City and Berlin stand for internationality, diversity, cosmopolitanism and freedom."

That partnership also includes a TestLab initiative engaging students from the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., to develop ideas on how to improve the tourism landscape in the two destinations.

Dixon said that when choosing city partners, NYC & Company weighs the importance of the region as a feeder market for New York. It's also important that partners are spread out globally. 

One alliance, a partnership with Puerto Rico’s DMO, Discover Puerto Rico, was created to help the island as it struggled to recover from Hurricane Maria.

"Discover Puerto Rico had just been formed, and they looked at NYC & Company as a model," Dixon said. "So it was a good moment to help lift them up."   


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