With the impact of COVID-19 closing borders, international tourism is largely on hold in many destinations. This has reinforced the importance of domestic tourism in many parts of the world, especially those where international inbound tourism was the primary focus of tourism marketing efforts. From Ireland to New Zealand, Finland to Australia, Thailand to South Africa, national and regional tourism offices are pivoting to focus on domestic travel. Around the world and across North America, domestic tourism is central to the recovery of the tourism industry following a broad recovery from COVID-19.
In 2019, Miles Partnership had a unique opportunity to look at global best practices in domestic tourism as part of a major international benchmarking study we undertook for the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) – which is the government agency helping manage tourism in the nation. We first reviewed over 30 nations and then focused on a deep dive into learnings from eight: Australia, Canada, the United States, Ireland, UK, Sweden, Finland and Slovenia. In Australia and the U.S., we focused primarily on three states in each country: New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania in Australia and Oregon, Colorado and Arizona in the U.S.
The study highlighted five global best practices in developing and supporting domestic tourism with widely shared benefits. Domestic tourism that generates strong dispersal and regional spread across the region, province, state or nation and strong year-round visitor flows, without high peaks and troughs.
These insights and lessons are now even more relevant and urgent with tourism having to focus on local and domestic tourism in the immediate response and recovery to COVID-19.
They also provide a set of “best practices” for domestic and international tourism to be “built back better”. As summarized in the report’s Executive Summary (download a copy here) are the five international best practices:
1. Marketing to management. After years of sustained growth, tourism in the lead up to the COVID-19 pandemic had discovered the constraints of communities and the environment: the limits of growth. Building back better requires tourism and destinations to have a far deeper commitment to managing tourism and ensuring its benefits are shared. This starts with a renewed connection to local residents and a widely supported destination strategy that defines what is special about a destination and how to protect it.
2. Domestic tourism foundation. Domestic tourism in most countries is essential to building strong, vibrant and sustainable tourism industry for the long term. With COVID-19, this is now true in every part of the world. Recovery will start with locals. Even once growth returns, an engaged, loyal domestic visitor base is essential for most destinations. Domestic visitors can build a life-long connection with destinations, and cost far less to reach. They also have less risk. Tourism marketing budgets and resources need to reflect this importance.
3. Capacity and capability. Solving dispersal and seasonality is the work of many: small businesses, start-ups, small town community leaders and so on. Success is more bottom up than top down. To build a strong, sustainable domestic tourism industry, you need to focus on the long-term, difficult but rewarding work of building your industry’s and community’s capacity and capability particularly in the areas of product development, digital marketing, entrepreneurship/business skills and access to capital.
4. Event opportunities. Events, community-inspired, authentic, unique and even quirky, offer the opportunity to make a step change in a region’s visitor economy. It is important to build expertise in how to identify and support events that can make a difference.
5. Balanced industry structure. If you want widely shared outcomes from domestic tourism and if you seek to improve dispersal and seasonality, then your industry’s resources, focus and funding need to reflect this.
Miles has just finished a major research study on the issue of tourism funding that outlines 10 new or enhanced tourism and DMO funding options. Access the report and webinar resources for Funding Futures here.
- Download the Domestic Tourism Global Benchmarking Study’s Executive Summary
- Funding Futures: Options & Opportunities for New or Enhanced Funding of Tourism & DMOs. Access the full report, report sections, research, August 20 webinar resources & more.
- Blog: Building Tourism Advocates in Your Destination – Laura Libby, June 16, 2020
- Blog: 8 Ways to Build a more Sustainable Future for Tourism – Chris Adams, April 21, 2020