Today, leisure and business travelers are sharing their experiences over multiple online channels, and in doing so, they’re taking over the promotion of the destination, for better or worse, on a scale far greater than any tourism board could.
As such, the most progressive DMOs are developing new partnerships with local organizations to improve the destination experience, based on global trends reshaping consumer expectations in the global visitor economy. So much so, that many destination leaders are now calling themselves “DMMOs” — destination marketing and management organizations.
That shift is manifested in many different ways. VisitDallas, for example, developed the Margarita Mile by creating a collection of top bars and restaurants that each celebrate the frosty cocktail in innovative ways.
Through the destination management initiative, VisitDallas staked a claim that Dallas is the “Official Home of the Frozen Margarita,” as the frozen margarita machine was invented by Dallas restaurateur Mariano Martinez in 1971. However, the Margarita Mile is much more than a collection of the best and most brazen margaritas in the city, conveniently located in a colorful mobile application. The app also helps visitors discover great neighborhoods, restaurants, and bars across the region that they may have never found otherwise.
In another very different example of destination management, VisitDallas built a statewide coalition of tourism and non-travel-industry partners to successfully defeat discriminatory legislation that would have degraded the visitor experience for convention attendees visiting the city.
At the end of the day, destination management is about customer experience. Just like any other industry, destination brands are prioritizing a customer-centric approach to compete in a national or global marketplace.
VisitDallas Curates the Customer Experience From Inside-Out
According to Phillip Jones, president and CEO of VisitDallas, the destination marketing organization views customer experience as over-delivering on what people expect, while bringing to life all of the surprising little touches along the way. In 2016, VisitDallas developed an entire department — and a C-level position — around this concept, making it the first DMO in the country to move in this direction. It’s putting visitor experience at the top of everything it does by becoming a much more involved concierge for the city.
In effect, the organization is moving from an information curator to an experience curator by leveraging its knowledge of global tourism to drive innovation in customer service locally.
“VisitDallas is committed to making the total visitor experience our number one priority,” said Jones. “We are hiring top talent within, as well as training all frontline hospitality employees to deliver on memorable moments and top shelf customer service.”
The department works with industry partners including airlines, nightlife, shopping destinations, hotels and resorts, arts and culture facilities, attractions, and more to collaborate and provide the best experience for all visitors.
VisitDallas goes beyond just getting a visitor to their city. It strives to build an overall experience that keeps them coming back and sharing their stories with family and friends.
For example, in an effort to truly drive the experience design, VisitDallas partnered with Southwest Airlines to build the Customer Service Master Class, “It’s Hospitality Y’all,” to train front-line hospitality employees on how to best create and deliver on the airline’s customer experience. The immersive one-day event brought together everyone from restaurant service staff to hotel employees to learn how to deliver a unique and inclusive experience from some of the best in the business.
The training encourages hospitality employees to go above and beyond to ensure visitors coming to Dallas are greeted with the Southern Hospitality the city is known for, and feel at home from the minute they step off a plane, sit down at a restaurant, or walk into a hotel lobby. The customer service training has pop-up sessions throughout the year and culminates with an annual Master Class at Southwest Airlines.
Expert Leadership Takes the Experience to the Next Level
To ensure the success of the VisitDallas Customer Experience department, VisitDallas CEO Phillip Jones brought in a hospitality expert to completely disrupt the destination management sphere. Renee McKenney was hired as chief experience officer (CXO), and brings nearly three decades in the hospitality field to VisitDallas, most recently working as national sales director for Disney Destinations – the Walt Disney Company.
McKenney believes there are three key elements to delivering a great customer experience: listening, discovering, and personalizing. By working with visitors and listening to and understanding their needs, VisitDallas is able to craft trips based on individual motivators.
Looking ahead, the future state-of-the-art Visit- Dallas Experience Center in the newly expanded Klyde Warren Park, is revolutionizing the traditional Visitor Center — blending best-in-class customer service with interactive technology that tells the story of Dallas. Using a variety of mixed reality platforms, the Experience Center will immerse visitors in a personalized journey unprecedented in North America.
The design and construction of the 20,000-square- foot pavilion, which will house the Experience Center, is scheduled to begin in 2019, with completion expected in 2022.
VisitDallas aims to design all kinds of experiences that leave a long-lasting impression. Whether you are a native Texan or from hundreds of miles away, Dallas has a way of always coming to top of mind.
Dallas brothers Jason and Michael Castro, of “American Idol” fame and the band CASTRO, were so inspired by the experiences they’ve had in their city, they worked with VisitDallas to write the song “Forever Texas.”
“We wanted a song to represent our city, and CASTRO was the perfect voice to capture Dallas’ essence in a catchy tune,” said Frank Librio, chief marketing officer of VisitDallas. “They have an incredible story that represents Dallas’ can-do attitude. We are excited to have them as ambassadors to our city and think it will be a song everyone will be singing along to.”
Now, visitors and locals alike can sing along and recount all their BIG experiences. To top it off, there is a music video that features CASTRO’s favorite Texas spots, from the Deep Ellum neighborhood, to the State Fair of Texas at Fair Park, green space in Klyde Warren Park, and margaritas at Beto & Son in foodie heaven, Trinity Groves. Check the video out here.