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Museum Marketers & Tourism Boards: Collaborate!

Museum marketers, listen up!

According to the U.S. Travel Association, direct spending by resident and international travelers in the U.S. averages a whopping three billion dollars a day. With 67 percent of all U.S. leisure travelers participating in cultural or heritage activities, museum marketers understand the benefits of working with local tourism boards to increase museum visits at their institution.

As the leaders in destination branding and promotion with know-how to help museum marketers, we are eager to share our top recommendations for developing partnerships with local tourism boards to promote your museum to out of town visitors.

Be ‘Top of Mind’ with Your Tourism Board

From monthly newsletters sent to vacation planners to visitors walking into the tourism welcome center, being top-of-mind on the “what to do” list in your destination can be fundamental to bringing visitors through your museum’s doors.

Keep your local tourism board partners updated with the latest information about exhibitions, special events, lectures, and other activities that appeal to visitors. Of course, this means sending on the details of your museum’s latest events and upcoming exhibitions in a regular and timely manner. But here’s a pro tip: look at past copies of your tourism board’s newsletters and other collateral and write up your material in a way that can be cut and pasted into a newsletter, press release or other promotional source to increase your probability of getting your information out in precisely the way you want it.

Foster Your DMO Friendships

While it’s important to connect with your DMO’s top executive, remember that each DMO staffer you connect with can serve as an ambassador to your institution, so look for ways to foster relationships with the tourism players at all levels of your local tourism board.

To develop these relationships, invite your tourism board’s top PR and sales executive for a quarterly coffee update on what’s happening at your institution. Not only will this help them better understand programs and activities taking place at your museum, but they may also result in further marketing ideas to reach targeted visitors. Remember, your DMO can also help you develop synergies with other local partners, and they are also a good source for ideas and connections that can help promote your institution through travel media.

Take things a step further and host an Open House for your local DMO’s entire staff. You’ll not only demonstrate how much you value the work that your local tourism board does to promote your destination and museum, but you can offer expert firsthand insights into your institution’s exhibitions, mission, and place in the community, all the while creating a team of supporters eager to spread the word about your institution.

Press the Flesh with Visiting Travel Writers

Getting in front of travel writers who have been vetted and hosted by your local DMO offers a smart and streamlined way to drive visitors to your museum through the media. Museum marketers can reach out to local DMO to get details on upcoming press trips or individual journalist visits to the area.

From there, determine the press tour’s focus and develop an itinerary option that matches their story needs. If the focus is on family travel, offer a guided exploration of the institution highlighting educational exhibits and children’s programs that might appeal to out-of-town visitors.

If the focus is on a romantic getaway, set the scene of what a special romantic dinner might be like in your museum’s restaurant, or coordinate a private gallery dining option for wedding proposals, anniversaries or Valentine’s Day that travels writers can share in their pieces.

If your writers cover a broad range of travel beats, a curator-led tour can provide journalists with VIP knowledge into the institution with the bonus of offering those all-important story quotes on the spot.

Make Your Museum a Meetings Magnet

One of the most overlooked segments of tourism visitors is the meeting and convention market, estimated to generate $330 billion in annual spending with 1.9 million meetings taking place each year in the U.S. (according to the Meetings Significance Survey).

Being part of this quiet behemoth of the tourism industry can contribute significantly to a museum’s visitor numbers and bottom line. Whether for a group of 10 or 10,000, museum galleries, lobby areas, and outdoor spaces make for highly sought-after function spaces for welcome receptions, closing dinners, and other functions for conference attendees.

To get started, determine your available space and how many people can be accommodated in different set-ups, including standing reception, sit-down dinner and theater-style seating.

Provide this information to your DMO’s sales team with photos showcasing various set-ups and décor options, and be sure to know your facilities’ AV capabilities, or work with a local AV company to provide services for special events.

Get Creative, Museum Marketers!

Team up with your DMO to co-host or co-sponsor an arts-inspired program or marketing campaign.

Some program ideas include hosting an art competition with a local twist, such as a new logo for the city, or commissioning works that celebrate the city’s spirit, an important historical event, or even a new attraction. Done in partnership with your local DMO, your institution can lead the judging and exhibit winning artworks with an opening reception.

Or, consider working with a ‘sister city’ to host an artist’s exchange that includes introducing artists to area attractions, hosting artist demonstrations for the local community, and using the area’s top tourist spots for artistic inspiration.

If you’re looking to promote an upcoming exhibition or new museum, work with your local DMO to host a pop-up exhibit in a top feeder market to draw visitors to your area, complete with a media and social media promotion element.

During the event, your DMO can provide pop-up visitors with information about planning a visit to your city and museum, and offer discounted museum admission, special hotel packages with added amenities, or even discounts on multi-attraction entry fees.

If you need help in implementing a program to drive tourists and other visitors to your museum, we’ve helped some of the top arts and cultural institutions in America increase visitors through strategic marketing and media activities, and we can assist you, too.  Contact [email protected] to learn more about our museum marketing capabilities.

Written By

Karyl Leigh Barnes

Karyl Leigh Barnes is President of DCI’s Tourism Practice. Since joining the firm in 1998, Karyl Leigh has led destination strategy and created marketing communication programs for destinations on every continent except Antarctica.

More Articles by Karyl Leigh Barnes

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