Friday, March 29, 2013

Engaging visitors: the important role destination marketing organizations (DMOs) play in destination marketing

In today’s tourism industry, Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) have a larger role and responsibility to go beyond their historical role of marketing and simply disseminating information to visitors but to also engage all stakeholders, including travelers, to create lasting connections that enhance the experience as well as conserve the integrity of the destination. DMOs must act as more than just the promoter of the destination but also coordinate the disparate tourism offerings and stakeholders in order to maintain a consistent destination brand.

In order to fully engage the visitor and create lasting connections, DMOs need to take full advantage of the tools at their disposal – specifically the numerous opportunities on the Internet and other new technologies to foster this relationship. Rather than only fulfilling the traditional task of disseminating information to the visitor, DMOs can use these tools to facilitate conversations between the visitor and potential visitors. By encouraging the visitor to share their experience, the DMO is in affect using word of mouth marketing, creating ‘buzz’ and allowing the visitor to do part of the DMO’s job for them, including: sharing their experience on Twitter or a status update on Facebook; posting a story on their blog; “checking-in” on Foursquare; sharing photos on Flickr; posting videos on YouTube; leaving a review on TripAdvisor or Yelp; or giving advice in travel forms like Lonely Planet’s Thorntree. By aggregating and analyzing the information shared about their destination, the DMO can conduct targeted marketing that is relevant, effective and engages market segments most likely to create higher yields and returns on investment.

Instead of only focusing on increasing the number of visitors, DMOs should focus more on improving the quality of the experience and how tourism benefits the destination with a greater emphasis on the yields and authenticity of tourists’ experiences. For the visitor, this includes respecting the destination’s inhabitants through activities such as providing resources for learning the local language, teaching proper traveler etiquette and encouraging cultural exchanges between the locals and visitors so that visitors engage rather than remain spectators. Ultimately, the interaction needs to be beneficial to both the visitor and host community.

Through the multiplier effect, tourism provides a significant contribution to the economy beyond direct tourist spending with indirect and induced impacts, for example increased employment or hotels buying linens from a local manufacturer. This puts DMOs in the unique position to not only connect visitors with information about a destination’s attractions and activities but to also influence where the economic benefit is distributed through maximizing linkages between businesses and minimizing leakages outside of the destination. While strictly speaking, a DMO should be unbiased, thus providing information so the visitor can make the most informed decision, it can also distribute information about how tourism can affect the local population through travel philanthropy. By providing tourists with this additional information and encouraging them to help benefit the local population, which, if properly managed, can encourage conservation and ownership by local stakeholders and thereby increase the sustainability of the destination.

Current trends are moving away from the old notion of a “holiday” where a tourist simply lies on the beach and goes home. Today, with an increasing emphasis on experiences, a destination must provide engaging and authentic experiences that set it apart from competitors. Increasingly transforming from CVBs to DMOs, these organizations must coordinate with the many stakeholders giving them added responsibilities as well. It isn’t sufficient to simply market the destination; the DMO must help to manage the brand by maintaining and enhancing its image and character, thereby having a more valuable and attractive product to market in the end. By seeking to engage with the visitor and create a lasting relationship, the DMO will not only succeed in promoting its destination, but it will also secure the integrity of the place and ensure that wonderful trips are being shared back home to drive further visits!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Oh, Malila...

After my marathon trip to get from Colorado to Bamako, I didn’t really leave my hotel room until it was time for lunch. Wandering down the street to The Relax, I sat down at a table in their outdoor patio. Moments after sitting down, I glanced up to see two old friends walking in. Casey and Steven had lived in Segou for about 6 months(?) until December 2007 before moving back to the States. I could hardly believe my eyes when they came walking up – with only one day in the capital – I had the chance to go to the same restaurant at the same time! Incredible. I still can’t believe it. They are back in Mali for two weeks to print some books they created for adult literacy that are being printed in Bambara, the dominant local language. Small world indeed.

After taking care of a few random tasks in Bamako namely getting my money changed and a short meeting with SNV (Dutch version of USAID I am working with), I went to bed early before my long journey up to Pays Dogon. Originally I was getting a ride from the Peace Corps as far as Segou where I’d planned to spend a few nights. However, because I had been delayed back in the states, I had to go the full distance to Bandiagara that day. It felt really strange going through Segou and not stopping to say hello – so many people I haven’t seen in over two years! I’m eager to get back down and am hoping I can make it for the Festival sur le Niger the first week of February (looks highly likely). After getting up at 5:30am, I finally arrived about 7:15pm and that’s making good time on the bus. A PCV I’m going to work with met me at the bus and we had a good chat before I went, completely exhausted, to my bed where I soundly slept for the next 12 hours.

My apartment is coming along and I now have a bed, mattress, plastic mat and a borrowed “butt-floss” chair… hoping to get better sitting items this week. Internet is not nearly as good as I had hoped and Skype so far looks unlikely as the speed just isn’t fast enough to support a call. However, if you want to call me, my phone number is posted on my facebook profile – just remember to add the country code (223) and that I’m on the same time as London (5 hrs from DC/7 from Colorado). I should have internet most days of the week but this is still Africa – the internet was down for over two weeks because Bandiagara doesn’t officially have service yet and everyone was piggybacking off someone that worked for the provider. He was selling connections on the side and he left town for a while without paying the bill. Thus, the entire town had no internet. What does exist is fairly slow too, I can’t really download/upload pictures or attachments. Also having trouble with my yahoo mail but that seems to be better now. If you want to send me anything,  please send them to:

Yuri Horowitz, RPCV
Corps de la Paix
BP 19 Bandiagara
Mali, West Africa

Work is getting off to a good start too – first week of introductions and meetings and then catching up on things now that internet is back. I’ll update more on this next post as I’m still getting my feet under me. Since yesterday, I drove through Bandiagara, Pelini, Kinde, Melo, Some, Borko, Doentza, Sevare, etc. and am looking forward to Sangha, YougouPiri, Djigibombo, Kani-Kombole, Ouo, etc… love the names of towns out here. 

It is good to be back in Mali – something about having the red African earth beneath my feet again – it’s hard to describe but essentially Mali will always be a second home for me. Of course, I could do without the little kids screaming toubab! toubabo!, donne moi un cadeau/bic/ton vello/etc in their shrill voices and remembering to eat slowly so as not to break my teeth on the inevitable bits of dust and sand… I’m adjusting to the African pace of life little by little.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

So... I’m here. Again. In Mali. Yep, I came back and what a long trip it’s been to get here.

After multiple changes, I was finally scheduled to leave on Sunday, the 9th of January. Not finished packing as of the morning of my 4:30pm flight, I was scurrying around my house finishing up when I got the call from United at 1:45pm finally canceling my flight. It had been dumping snow all day and, knowing my flight was bound to be cancelled, all I could think about was being out on the mountain for one last day of snowboarding before I leave. It was just late enough that since I’d already put all my gear away I didn’t really have time to get out. Re-booked for the same flights the next day, I finished up so I would have time on Monday before my flight. A blue-bird sky and over a foot of fresh powder greeted me as I caught the first chair at Snowmass where I did a few runs, including the Wall, before heading over to highlands to hike the bowl. A great last day in Aspen and my last run of the season was nothing but fresh turns through untouched powder and narrow glades. Quite the contrast to the next 7 months I am to spend in Mali, West Africa.

Of course, it wasn’t that easy and my flight from Colorado was delayed again – this time, I ended up missing my connection and had to stay the night in Chicago. Luckily, the airline put me up at the airport Hilton, which was nice since I had a 6am flight the next day! After some meetings in Washington D.C. going over project details, meeting my future co-workers (albeit remote as they would be from me in Mali, “co” is a relative term), I met up with Isabelle and Tim who’d been in Peace Corps with me in Mali for a quick drink. Just after nightfall, I headed off to the airport once again in a blizzard.

This time, I almost didn’t even make it to the airport. Just as we were getting near the airport, the taxi driver turned off the freeway early into a construction zone. Not heeding my calls to stop and go back, the road narrowed and narrowed and he didn’t stop until it had narrowed so much that the front left tire was hanging about 4 feet off the unfinished highway to our side. Now a raging blizzard, I got out to direct him as he attempted to reverse the couple hundred yards back towards the highway. After five minutes and about five feet later, I reached in the driver’s side window and had him control the speed while I steered us back the barely car-wide road. With about 6 inches total to spare, it was a balance between not scrapping his car against the concrete dividers on the passenger side and not letting the wheels fall off the four foot drop – all while walking the tightrope of asphalt next to the car, squinting into the dumping snow and trying not to fall myself. Averaging barely half a mile an hour, almost 20 minutes later we were back on our way and I arrived with just enough time to make my flight to Paris.

It was quite the experience flying back into Mali for the first time since leaving two and a half years earlier. Mind you, I only flew into Mali that one and only time when I arrived in August 2006 (I didn’t get on another plane until September 2008 when I flew out of Accra, Ghana). It was amazing how the Malian passengers, who had so calmly boarded the flight in Paris, all of a sudden switched back into African transport mode. I was seated about 10 rows from the back of the aircraft and, once we landed and everyone had stood up, these two Malians started squeezing past a few passengers until they got stuck since by then everyone had stood up to gather their things, get their bags down, etc. So what next? They started yelling for people to move and get going so they can get off the plane. Why were people just standing there?! This persisted for the next 10 minutes until the ramp was finally wheeled along and the door opened. Never mind you, almost 2 hours later when I finally had my bags, they still were waiting for theirs to come off the conveyor belt… Yes, I was back in Africa.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Your assignment

Anything you do from the soulful self will help
lighten the burdens of the world. Anything.
You have no idea what the smallest word,
the tiniest generosity can cause to be set in motion.
Be outrageous in forgiving.
Be dramatic in reconciling. Mistakes?
Back up and make them as right as you can, then move on.
Be off the charts in kindness.
In whatever you are called to,
strive to be devoted to it in all aspects large and small.
Fall short? Try again.
Mastery is made in increments, not in leaps.
Be brave, be fierce, be visionary.
Mend the parts of the world that are "within your reach."
To strive to live this way is the most dramatic gift
you can ever give to the world.

~Clarissa Pinkola Estes

What a wonderful life we have been given.
Let's love it. Happy New Year!!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Facebook fanpage for

Don't forget to become a fan on my Facebook page for Yuri Horowitz Photography - my FB fan page is here:

Leave your comments/suggestions there too!

Launching Yuri Horowitz Photography's offical website!

It has been a long road to get here but I'm finally ready to launch my photography website! While I'm sure I'll be polishing it up as time goes on, the site is ready. Please, take a moment to visit Yuri Horowitz Photography at I'd love to get some feedback too, so please send me your comments and suggestions if you have any!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Panama Photos

Here is a sampling of my photos from my time in Panama, 2009.

(Best when viewed full-screen: click on the bottom right icon)

Saturday, June 05, 2010

CouchSurfing - what it's all about plus when to and when not to

This post is in response to an article titled: “Are Couchsurfing networks legitimate local travel?” (from the website Local Travel Movement) discussing the merits of CouchSurfing (CS) and how it fits into the industry. The debate was started by a few comments with negative opinions about CS and I would venture to guess that the comments on the original article against Couchsurfing are from people who have no experience Couchsurfing. Thus, my response below…

I’ve traveled extensively (to over 50 countries on six continents) and stayed in pretty much every “accommodation” imaginable from a mosquito-infested concrete floor of a rural bus station in Africa, hostels virtually everywhere, a homestay while studying at a language school in Guatemala, Couchsurfing across Asia to B&Bs in New Zealand, a holiday apartment in Buenos Aires, and a 5-star hotel in New York City.

I have met many people who CS with plenty of resources and could stay in a proper hotel. To be honest, depending on the situation, I would rather sleep on someone’s couch than the queen size bed, full amenities, room service, etc. You just don’t get the same experience. When you “Couchsurf”, the place you stay varies greatly – it doesn’t really have to be a couch. I’ve had everything from a straw mat over concrete with a cold bucket shower across the street (in Xi’an, China) to my own private guest room with queen bed, A/C, hot shower, laundry, satellite TV, kitchen, etc. (in Delhi, India) – often being given the keys to a place when the host leaves, letting you have the place to yourself (of course within limits and respecting their home).

Regarding safety, this is something that should be a concern, as it is no matter where you stay. Is it a safe neighborhood? Are the owners/hosts trustworthy? What have other guests’ experiences been – positive/negative? For traditional accommodations, there are review sites, such as TripAdvisor. However, do you always read up on past opinions about a hotel? I suspect more often than not, you just stay based on the looks of a place, its location, and perhaps a few reviews.

For CouchSurfing, there are many ways to assess what the host/guest is like. You can read other CSers comments about their personal experiences (both about the person as a guest and a host), see if the person is verified (if they’ve confirmed their name and address), if they’ve been vouched for by other members (something that you can only start doing by being vouched for yourself multiple times), see how many and what type of friends they have (friendship type, met in person, or just online), what percentage of requests the host has replied to, how active on CS they are (e.g. when they last logged-in), generally how complete their profile is and the feeling you get about the person. Often people only think about trusting and feeling safe in the place they are going to stay. On the other hand, being a host you can have just as valid concerns about the person you are potentially going to host; importantly, there is never any obligation and you can always decline. You can see pretty quickly how much experience they have on CS and there are telltale signs to be aware of. If you follow CS safety guidelines and do the proper research/reading before you participate, you should be fine – arguably safer than you could be staying alone in an unknown hotel.

Why/when do I CS? Sure, budget comes into play and I wouldn't have been able to go to as many places as I have, or for as long. However, I do it because I love meeting the people that host me (or that I've hosted) - hearing what their lives are like, getting an insight that would be near impossible staying at any hostel/B&B/hotel. They also can give the best advice you'll ever get about the place you're visiting. While there are times when one visits a destination primarily for the “place” (architecture, monuments, nature, etc.) there are other segments of people that visit a destination for the unique culture and people that live there. It just depends on what your goals are, how much time you have, etc.

Why/when do I not CS? One drawback to CSing vs., say, staying in a hostel is that you don’t meet other travelers in the same way – sure you can and will still meet them sightseeing, at a restaurant/bar, or taking part in the same activity, but it’s not the same. Perhaps one of the travelers you meet in a hostel are going the same way and often they can become a travel buddy. Sometimes a CS host will take you around but not always and, by not staying in a hostel, you might not get the same opportunity to meet someone to go around with. Other reasons are perhaps you’re just passing through, don’t have a lot of time or just want to be free of any social obligations/interactions with a CS host. In those cases, you can opt for your own private room in a regular accommodation.

Lastly, one aspect of CSing that hasn’t been mentioned is how often the people participating aren’t even hosting – they are simply available to meet for a “coffee or a drink”. When I’m not CSing (or even when I am and my host is busy), I’ve met up with these locals who’ve given me valuable advice, shown me around, or just had unforgettable experiences in general.  Sometimes, I didn’t even get to meet them face-to-face, but our exchange was valuable for the information and hospitality they gave to a stranger (me). One time, while living in Panama City with my own apartment, I contacted the local CSers and had an instant group of friends – many of which are now my lifelong friends.

Essentially, this is what Couchsurfing is all about: meeting a total stranger - either staying with them, having them stay with you, or just meeting up for a “coffee or a drink”. One side is not necessarily benefiting more than the other. It is a symbiotic relationship where you learn from the other person and exchange ideas, values, and experiences. Both participants come away from the interaction richer – with greater understanding and empathy than they had before.

Where I've Been...