Fred Dixon, CEO of NYC & Company, spoke today at the Skift Global Forum.

At the helm of NYC & Company since March 2014, Dixon manages a destination marketing organization responsible for promoting basically five different destinations. The bureau has aggressively emphasized New York’s boroughs beyond Manhattan in recent years to tap into consumer interest in local neighborhood experiences.
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Dixon’s talk, “The Future of Tourism Marketing For Iconic Tourism Brands,” focused on the need for a new definition of tourism that incorporates locals as well as domestic and international travelers.

The reasoning behind that is based on the fact that out-of-town visitors want to know what locals do in their own city. So, by NYC & Co. encouraging locals to explore their city like a tourist, residents are then inspired to share their experiences on social media. In effect, the bureau is attempting to enlist New Yorkers as co-marketers to promote their city.

Dixon’s presentation focused on three sections: Shared voices, borrowed voices, and the search for deeper authentic experiences using technology.

Here are a few of the things we learned relating to those themes:

  • The challenge with promoting an iconic destination brand is the target audience develops a brand familiarity, which breeds complacence. People think they know a city and what it has to offer based on various media, but they don’t necessarily know what’s new and what’s beyond the iconic attractions.
  • Bureaus can break through that complacency by creating a level of immediacy and urgency.
  • Tourism bureaus promote themselves as the “official” experts of their destination. But what does that even mean anymore, and who really respects it? Millennials certainly don’t. Instead, Dixon says bureaus should call themselves “authenticity experts.”
  • Destination marketers need to let go of their brand image and their brand voice. In today’s connected world, you can’t control your brand messaging anymore, and trying to do so is a disservice to the community.
  • NYC & Co. created the #ThisIsNewYorkCity hashtag for visitors to share cool local experiences on social media.
  • NYC & Co. expanded on that for locals specifically with the #SeeYourCity hashtag. The latest iteration of that campaign, in partnership with American Express, is the #SeeYourCity Eats Edition focusing on food and beverage experiences.
  • The bureau is actively partnering with iconic personalities such as Taylor Swift, who moved to New York and wrote a song about her first impressions of the city. Swift then gave the song to NYC & Co. for free to use for promotional purposes.
  • Dixon said the bureau will probably never be able to duplicate as successful a branding partnership as with Swift, but it is moving forward with new celebrities based on how well Swift engaged new audiences.
  • Dixon said that New York City has not had a lot of traction in the family travel market until lately. The bureau has had success developing branding ambassadors around famous Nickelodeon characters such as Dora The Explorer, who brings the added benefit of resonating well with multicultural, bilingual visitors.
  • New York City is replacing all phone booths with new 11-foot LinkNYC high speed Wi-Fi stations, delivering bandwidth 20 times faster than household Wi-Fi. By the end of 2015, there should be about 100 LinkNYC stations in place.
  • Dixon said the goal is to have 7,000 LinkNYC stations running within three years, so people no longer have to huddle in Starbucks or museums to access free Wi-Fi.
  • The new LinkNYC will provide a lot of new opportunities for self-guided tours in the city using more varied media. NYC & Co. is also developing new apps to leverage that rise in available free Wi-Fi.

Keep track of all the activity at this year’s Global Forum by bookmarking our #skiftforum tag.

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And thanks to all the sponsors that made Skift Global Forum 2015 possible: Adobe, Amadeus, American Express, Boxever, Big Bus Tours, CendyneOne, Cheapoair, Criteo, Gogo, HelloGbye, Hornblower Cruises, MasterCard, Mindtree, National Geographic, NewsCred, Sabre, SiteMinder, Travel Channel, TurkeyHome, Uber, Underline, Virtuoso, and Yahoo.

Photo Credit: Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company. Skift