Changes in destination marketing a topic at WTTC Summit

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Steffan Panoho, head of Auckland Tourism, speaking at the World Travel & Tourism Council Global Summit.
Steffan Panoho, head of Auckland Tourism, speaking at the World Travel & Tourism Council Global Summit.

SEVILLE, Spain -- As the travel industry prepares for a world facing overtourism and concerns about environmental sustainability, the goals of tourism ministers and marketers are changing. 

For example, Fred Dixon, CEO of New York's official marketing arm, NYC & Company, said at the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit here earlier this month that his organization has shifted the way it measures success. 

"We got caught up in the race for bigger numbers," Dixon said. "We realized over time that the true metric for tourism is the economic and social impact on the community: job development, economic impact, neighborhood impact. If you don't bring locals with you when you're invigorating or building a destination, you're missing an important part of the equation."

Marketing success, Dixon added, is not "just about visitor volume. We as an industry should grapple with that more." 

Steffan Panoho, head of Auckland Tourism, echoed that sentiment. He said that over the past two years, New Zealand's largest city realized it needed to revise its tourism strategy to incorporate "destination management versus just pure destination marketing."

"Traditionally, we've talked about visitor numbers and arrivals and hotel nights," he said. "Now, we have a whole new set of imperatives: sustainability and looking after our communities. There's a whole new set of metrics we have to look at and quantify before we can make a call on whether we've been successful." 

Suppliers are also making strategic shifts in their approach to success, recognizing the shifting demands of both their customers and the localities they operate in. 

"Happy locals, happy guests," Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald said in his talk at the Global Summit. "We need to listen, listen, listen to all the various stakeholders and support each community's unique vision of their healthy future." 

And in order to have a successful, long-term community partnership, Donald said, "destination managers, local government, vendors, taxi drivers must be part of the conversation. They must have a clear understanding of the impact but also the benefit of tourism in the local economy." 

Destinations' future preparedness is a key theme for WTTC, which last week released research examining 50 cities around the globe and their ability to drive sustainable tourism growth into 2030.

The cities were grouped into five categories based on their readiness score. Those in the "balanced dynamic" group are considered the most balanced in terms of having high urban readiness but not experiencing the tourism strains of cities like Amsterdam and Barcelona, which are in the "mounting pressure" category. 

Cities in the "dawning developer" group, such as Bogota, Colombia, and Manila, Philippines, are emerging tourism hubs with lower urban readiness than is needed for their growing tourism industry. 

Called "Destination 2030," the report makes suggestions for cities in each category. 

Dan Fenton, executive vice president of the JLL Hotels & Hospitality consultancy, which prepared the report for the WTTC, said the research "suggests an imbalance." 

"The global travel and tourism industry has to increase its focus on developing sensible and effective policies," he said. 

Even cities in the balanced category, which include Washington, Hong Kong and Tokyo, should take advantage of that balance to develop policies that promote sustainable growth and to invest in more leisure attractions so as not to end up with overtourism problems, the report suggests.

Cities facing "mounting pressure" are advised to manage tourism flows, create homesharing policies and increase citizen engagement. "Dawning developers" should promote tourism policies that enable tourism growth at a pace the city can support. 

The report used 75 data points to benchmark the "readiness" of the cities, including the size and density of their travel and tourism markets, and "urban readiness" characteristics, such as labor availability and infrastructure. Safety and city-level tourism policies were also factored into the analysis.

Fenton asserted that the study is "not a beauty contest." Some of the world's most iconic and visited cities, like Paris and San Francisco, are in the "mounting pressure" category because their high visitor numbers create a strain despite having high levels of tourism infrastructure.

"They are seeing that crunch," Fenton said. "There is not as much runway for growth."

Policy engagement, Fenton said, focuses in part on whether the city has a homesharing policy, something that, when lacking, created major issues in top tourist draws like New York and Barcelona. 

Fenton hopes other cities will use the index to gain insight about how to avoid pitfalls and make smart tourism-growth decisions.

"If Charlotte [N.C.] looked at this index and how they thought they ranked, it would give them a lot of insight on where to go and how to create potential strategies," Fenton said. 

As might be expected, many of the "dawning" and "emerging performers" are in less developed economies, while the list of cities facing "mounting pressure" are all in North America and Europe.

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