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A Prescriptive for Destination Marketing
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by John R. Hendrie, November 2005

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.

About the author.  John Hendrie believes that Remarkable Hospitality is the portal to the Visitor Experience.  Contact him at:  jhendrie@hospitalityperformance.com

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Contact:

John R. Hendrie, CEO
Hospitality Performance, Inc.
www.hospitalityperformance.com
978-346-4387

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Also See: The Visitor Experience Is Impacted Before They Get to Your Door - the Value of Customer Service / John R Hendrie / November 2005
The Independent  Restaurateur Challenge; Competing with the "Formulas" / John R. Hendrie / October 2005
Are you ready for Business? – A Hospitality Recovery Plan / John R Hendrie / October 2005
Destination "Damage Control" Starts with that Single Visitor Complaint / John R. Hendrie /  October 2005 
Grappling with Progress, A Destination Denies Chains / John R Hendrie / October  2005
Promoting the Dining Experience by Matching Expectations / John R Hendrie / September 2005
The Gratuity Revolution / John R Hendrie / August 2005
Plotting His Travels; Some Bumps Encountered - Chaper III / John R. Hendrie / August 2005
Jacques Sets Up Shop or Jacques Joie Hospitality Advisory Establishes Rating Scheme / John R. Hendrie / August 2005
Thats So Jacques' / John R. Hendrie / August 2005
The Symbol of Hospitality, the Pineapple, Has Morphed to That of a Kumquat; Hotel Operators Focus on the Guest Becoming Secondary / John R. Hendrie / August 2005
Ready for Pluckin'; Hospitality Represents that Fat Roaster, Just Sitting there, Plump and Contented / John R. Hendrie / July 2005
Literally Every Destination Marketing Organization Is Under Duress; The Challenge to CVB's / John R. Hendrie / July 2005
A Smile is Really a Simple Thing – an Expression of Welcome, No Cost Involved / John R. Hendrie / July 2005
Lead the Trend to Becoming Guest-Centric; Demonstrating Behavior Not Normally Experienced by the Guest / John R. Hendrie / June 2005
Hospitality QED, That's Latin to Me! / John Hendrie / June 2005
Unless You Operate a Business in a Very Remote Location, You Belong to the Amorphous “Brand-Scape” /  John R. Hendrie / June 2005 
Maximize the Performance of Your Greatest Asset - Your Employees / John R. Hendrie / May 2005
Preparing for the Assault by Organized Labor on Hospitality / John R. Hendrie / May 2005
Customer Service - Panacea or Placebo / John R. Hendrie / May 2005
How to Even the Playing Field, As Independents Suspiciously Eye the Chain Hotels / John R. Hendrie / April 2005
Oh, What a Web We Weave! Pitfalls with Descriptive Language / John R. Hendrie / April 2005
Woe is We! We in Hospitality Have Lost Touch and Share the Responsibility for Consumer Cynicism, Angst and Ennui / March 2005
Moving the Guest Comment Card from Paper to Paperless / John Hendrie / March 2005
Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association Launches 'Total Quality Destination' and Presents 'Gold Star of Excellence Awards' / March 2005
The Evolution of Guest Room Amenities / John Hendrie / February 2005
Advertising Integrity; Framing the Visitor's Expectation Through Print, Signage & Internet / John Hendrie / February 2005
Hospitality Trade Associations:  What Have You Done for Me Lately? / February 2005
I Would Like to See your Hospitality Standards. Where Are They? Anybody Seen Them? / John Hendrie / January 2005
Remarkable Hospitality - the Road Map to Excellence; Exceeding the Expectations of our Guests / John Hendrie / January 2005
Are Your Guests Expecting Mediocrity with Your Hospitality Services? Move Your Level of Excellence to the Remarkable / John Hendrie / December 2004
Guest Services - A Tradition Diminished / John Hendrie / December 2004
Rescue from Mediocrity; The Decline of Service Etiquette - A Sequel / John Hendrie / November 2004
Offering Crushed Pepper Before Tasting the Entrée; The Decline of Restaurant Service Etiquette / John Hendrie / October 2004
Destination Marketing – How to rebuild your Reputation and the upcoming Season after the Hurricanes / John Hendrie / September 2004
Six Factors Which Dictate Success in Performing Destination Marketing / John Hendrie / September 2004
Influencing the Consumer to Book Business through Your Commitment to Quality / Aug 2004
Major Hotel Operators Have Rediscovered Hospitality Fundamentals by Revisiting the Guest Room / John R. Hendrie / July 2004
Destination Marketing 101: Take Care of Mom / John R. Hendrie / June 2004
Service Unions Combine, Presenting Huge Challenge to Hospitality Industry / John R. Hendrie / March 2004
What Value Quality? Most Hospitality Operators Use the Term “Quality” In their Advertising. What Exactly Does that Mean? / John R. Hendrie / April 2004


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