News & Views

5 Reasons DMOs Should Get Excited About Infrastructure

It’s not everyday that Americans get excited about infrastructure when discussing travel. Organizations like the U.S. Travel Association have long reported on the deficiencies facing our nation in this regard. Our airports are functional and we have some railways, but few international travelers marvel at our infrastructure the way Americans do when heading abroad.

Destination marketing organizations have accepted that it’s something to work on, and the government has finally agreed that it’s time to act.

This year, in what seems like a miraculous bipartisan effort, everything is changing as the United States looks to a brighter and more structurally sound future of travel. The new infrastructure bill is exciting for all of us in destination marketing, especially DMOs who need to get ready to celebrate how their destinations will benefit from the bill’s passing.

With $550 billion in spending on its way, Americans are expecting more than a few cosmetic changes to the country’s infrastructure.

For anyone working in destination marketing, updated and innovative infrastructure is good news for a destination’s brand. It’s been a long time since the country could anticipate coast to coast improvements and we want to make sure you’re prepared to consider the many ways the new federal legislation will impact your destination or region.

1. Airports

Many of America’s airports consistently rank poorly for their overall quality. In the annual Skytrax rankings, the U.S. doesn’t break the top ten, with Houston’s airport the first to rank in position 31. New York’s JFK clocks in at 77! That’s not great on a list of the top 100.

All that will change in the coming years, and that’s reason to celebrate.

Airport improvements are always exciting news to push, but the infrastructure spending will mean big changes where they are desperately needed. The U.S. government has allotted $25 billion to airports nationwide — no typo there! 

New terminals or services are on the horizon for your destination? Start gathering the information and get ready to share it when the time is right. Travelers are eager to hear what’s in store.

2. Railways 

The joy and romanticism of rail travel seems relegated to European adventures. In America, we have rail services, but it’s rarely a mode of transportation we clamor to take. With $66 billion pouring into the nation’s railroads, however, that’s set to change. 

Improved infrastructure and new services means that one day in the not so distant future, travelers may actually be competing for seats on high speed trains in the United States. It’s not just eco-minded individuals who will cheer. If the trends continue and younger generations skip buying cars, train travel may become as pervasive in the U.S. as it is in the EU.

There’s so much happening in this space, and we’re waiting to see how it all shakes out, but it’s something for destination marketing organizations to keep on top of in the coming years. A new train station or increased service will be a win for your destination, and one to publicize actively.

3. Roads and Bridges

While rail travel will become more prevalent, we’ll never ditch our cars in the U.S. Conversations about road trips since the pandemic, however, have underscored the deteriorating quality of America’s roadways. That’s all going to change with this new infrastructure bill. An incredible $110 billion — equivalent to the GDP of either Morocco or Ukraine — will go to rebuilding the nation’s roads and bridges. 

Expect more than a few potholes to be filled in!

Americans do obsess over their automobiles, but let’s remember that pedestrians and cyclists will also benefit from this spending. Additionally, with electric cars proving to be the way of the future, having solid infrastructure to facilitate the transition to these new kinds of automobiles is indispensable.

New roads and bridges hold excitement for road-trippers, so if there’s an upgrade slated for your destination, it’s a good newshook for the press. Positive stories about improved driving conditions will literally pave the way for visitors to your destination.

4. Sustainable Infrastructure

Clean energy and water improvements may not directly impact a destination, but knowing a destination will contribute to a greener power grid is an easy way to position it as more sustainable than before. 

Americans are increasingly aware that travel pollutes and that there are better ways to do it. Overcrowding in national parks, for example, highlights some of the deleterious effects of traveling. Therefore anything that positions your destination as more sustainable and environmentally friendly is a powerful bit of news to celebrate.

Just be careful not to greenwash your destination marketing efforts.

5. Broadband for All

“What’s the Wifi password?” seems to be one of the most popular travel phrases these days, and with good reason. We all want, or rather need, to stay connected. The new infrastructure spending will see $65 billion allocated to bringing higher speed internet to the nation, and that’s exciting news for destinations, especially remote ones, who feel isolated by low-quality internet connections.

It’s also good news for destinations interested in attracting new talent and businesses. Better broadband means better business interactions.

High-speed internet infrastructure has been pivotal for destinations attracting new talent and remote workers since the pandemic, so if there’s an upgrade coming your way, it’s time to consider some coverage. Hopefully in the coming years, if not months, destinations that were not so easy for remote workers to move to will become options at last. 

As the money begins to pour from Washington D.C. to the rest of the nation, we’ll all be keeping our eyes on how it’s spent. One thing, however, is clear. Destinations in every state will have the opportunity to cheer on improved infrastructure. It’s something to celebrate, so make sure you’re prepared to do just that.

Excited about what new airports and rail services might mean for your destination? You’re not alone. Get in touch with Karyl Leigh Barnes at [email protected] to learn how you can leverage your upgraded infrastructure to elevate your destination for both travelers and talent alike. 

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.

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