7 Ways Tourism Advocacy for Communities is Finally Making Inroads

May 10, 2023

As the U.S. Travel Association celebrates National Travel & Tourism Week, it’s prudent to take a look at how the tourism advocacy efforts of destination organizations are actually creating change for communities. In a slow but steady push across the industry, destination organizations have woken up to the realization that attracting travelers to land heads in bed isn’t cutting it. A purpose-driven future is about far more than heads in bed, it’s about championing a more equitable, more sustainable, more aspirational community for visitors and residents alike.

Tourism advocacy for communities should be at the heart of destination marketing. As an industry, we all need to serve our bottom line, bettering our local communities, and ensuring that increased visitor spend feeds into that goal. Whether it’s supporting diverse suppliers at convention centers or building training opportunities for locals in the hospitality industry, it’s time to make sure we’re doing more than just talking.

Our advocacy efforts aren’t perfect just yet, especially as we still settle down from the pandemic era disruptions to our entire industry. Still, rather than wait for big headlines to showcase the strides we’ve made, let’s take a moment to appreciate that change is bubbling up in destinations across the world. As DMOs are increasingly serving as advocates for their communities, we’re on our way to a better industry overall.

1. More Community Input
A tourism campaign without local input is like creating a vegan diet for someone without asking if they even like tofu – it’s not going to work well. Destinations, however, are increasingly seeking more community input as part of their strategic planning efforts, helping ensure that the intelligence of locals is taken into consideration. Through research efforts like focus groups, destinations are opening up dialogues and making sure the needs of their communities are heard, while also generating more interest for DMO efforts among local communities.

2. Smaller Stories, Big Impact
Beyond just talking with locals, DMOs are getting better at sharing their stories with future visitors. There are more stories from diverse community members pushed out by DMO efforts, like the Limitless Florida campaign that highlights local community members who navigate living in Florida while living with certain disabilities. These campaigns help better engage communities who will feel more invested – and seen – in a destination.

3. More DEI Advances
There is more leadership and inclusion of diverse voices than ever before. With conversations happening in the meetings industry and new programs designed to bolster underrepresented voices, the tourism industry is making strides. Destinations actively working to promote attractions and partners, in the hopes of benefiting underserved communities, like this new sporting center in Louisville, are showing how progress isn’t just a theory anymore.

4. More Local Partnerships
A noteworthy change in our industry is how DMOs and convention centers are changing. We are seeing more commitment by convention centers, for example, that are working with local communities, giving back food to the community. Others are redesigning their centers with more community space or revamped public spaces surrounding their buildings to better the community vibe around them, helping ensure that destinations aren’t catering only to visitors. Still others are formalizing their legacy programs to ensure that convention delegates are contributing to programs that better a community in a purposeful way.

5. Better Collaboration with EDOs
A near constant conversation at DCI is one that’s happening more and more in the tourism industry – more collaboration with EDOs. As EDOs are seeking to attract skilled talent, tourism marketers are promoting destinations in ways that make people want to visit and consider staying. We’re seeing increased efforts in destinations like Michigan that are finally realizing that joining DMO and EDOs together is the best way to increase their collective profile among visitors who will become tomorrow’s local talent.

6. Funding Local Projects
There is more funding of community programs through tourism spending and taxes in places like Oregon and Colorado that bolsters community needs. From training small tourism businesses to offering grants for education, destinations are funneling money back into the communities where it belongs. This is a key goal of tourism advocacy for communities, and one that future studies will be able to put a figure on to illustrate just how valuable the impact is.

7. Funding Infrastructure
Visitors to Paris may feel like much of it has been a construction site in recent years as it gears up for increased visitation during the Olympics, but that’s part of the beauty of tourism. It creates new bike paths, smoother roads, and more efficient public transport that local communities can ultimately enjoy. With other recent news out of Jamaica or this push in Virginia, we’re seeing how DMOs are embracing tourism advocacy for communities by advocating for better infrastructure,

Looking to be a part of the positive change your community needs and wants? DCI has more than 60 years of experience working with destinations to be the tourism advocates their communities need. Get in touch with Karyl Leigh Barnes at [email protected] to learn more about how our destination marketing practice can help you become the advocate for your community that you want to be – and that it deserves.

Written by

Karyl Leigh Barnes

President, Tourism Practice