The pandemic has given everyone in the travel industry a forced pause, to stop and reflect on what kind of industry we want to return to, in 2021 and beyond. It has accelerated conversations around the challenges of mass tourism and highlighted the importance of local residents to the tourism economy.

As the pandemic continues to transform the travel industry, destination marketing organizations (DMOs) need to be as relevant to their locals as they are to their visitors. This new local-first era is one where destinations are defined through the eyes of their locals, and visitors are attracted to destinations not just because of attractions, but also because of the character and culture of the people, who make a destination unique.

“This is the time for the industry to rebuild its future to be one that both travelers and locals support, one that is inclusive and sustainable,” said Dan Holowack, co-founder and CEO of CrowdRiff, in his keynote address at the recent SEE 2020, an annual conference for travel and tourism marketers.

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“We all have the same mission, we all have the same purpose. And that’s to serve our communities,” said Mitch Whitten, Executive Vice President for Marketing and Strategy at Visit Fort Worth. “And once you take that mindset, it really changes things.”

2020 put DMOs in the unique position of serving both locals and visitors, supporting local partners directly and fuelling tourism recovery through their locals. It’s a significant departure from the pre-pandemic tourism model, but a necessary change that will help facilitate a more sustainable and mutually beneficial travel and tourism industry for locals and visitors alike.

“Tourists are not a unique species,” said Signe Jungersted, CEO of NAO Group, “Everyone’s a local somewhere and a tourist somewhere else. We are looking for communities we can identify with, maybe learn from that, but somehow that also reflects some of those things that we bring with us when we travel.”

CrowdRiff’s solutions power destinations who want to engage both their locals and visitors, and collaborate with local and regional partners to deliver this new tourism future.

Other key takeaways in the keynote include: 

  • The importance of locals for a balanced tourism economy
  • How the industry can rebuild its future to be one that both travelers and locals support, one that is inclusive and sustainable
  • Key differences between the mass tourist era and the new local-first era, from the perspective of visitors and DMOs
  • How DMOs can harness content created by locals to market their destinations to locals and visitors; and
  • How CrowdRiff can be the connective tissue between visitors, locals, and DMOs – and impact decisionmaking through authentic, compelling content.

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This content was created collaboratively by CrowdRiff and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.