There has never been a better time to travel. A world largely at peace, with more flights heading to more places at lower costs than ever before. The New York Times annual list of remarkable places to visit, 52 Places to Go in 2014 - is a virtual travel feast of the intriguing, the remarkable, the special. From Cape Town, South Africa (#1) to Xishuangbanna, China (#32-see below), it highlights both established destinations and remarkable, emerging locations as places to add to any travel bucket list.
And the world is packing its bags. 2012 saw, for the first time, 1 billion international visitors arriving on a trip, spending an estimated $1.2 trillion*. Fueled by a growing middle class in Asia, South America and other developing countries, growth in most parts of the world is expected to be at double-digit rates for the coming decade. More travelers are considering more destinations that are accessible, welcoming and aggressively marketing for visitors to come.
In this new global travel marketplace, the US is now only a small player in destination marketing.
There has never been a better time for Destination Marketers. With the surge in global destinations competing for tourism growth, there are now far more Destination Marketing Organizations, marketing to more markets with more money than ever before. The funding, marketing tools, media and reach of DMOs has never been stronger.
However, in this new global travel marketplace, the US is now only a small player in destination marketing. The first DMO was established in Detroit in 1896 and, for much of the 20th century, the US dominated the number, budgets and marketing activities of DMOs in the world.
No longer. Oxford Economics' and the World Travel and Tourism Council's latest estimates** on global destination marketing budgets suggests that the US now makes up only 20% or less of DMO marketing budgets globally - around $1.5 billion from total worldwide funding of National, State, Provincial, Regional and City Tourism Marketing Organizations of around $8 billion.
National Tourism Organization funding makes up over half this figure - approaching $4.5 billion, of which the US's Brand USA is only a medium-sized player at $100 million in government funding (that must be matched by at least $100 million of industry support).
While there has never been a more exciting time to be an destination marketer, this does not mean "business as usual." Success for destinations in 2014 (and beyond) will take the right resources, the right people and a relentless focus on addressing challenges and seizing opportunities. Therefore in this exciting world of destination marketing, opportunity and challenges come together.
Destination marketers must use the latest technologies, media channels and measurements to continually assess and refine their marketing investments. Destinations must compare, contrast and benchmark against other destinations - both domestic and international - to ensure their offering is competitive.
And in a world awash with travel information and booking solutions, DMOs must leverage their strengths to remain relevant: strong community, industry and government linkages, a commitment to immersive content and compelling campaigns, plus their role as the sole passionate (yet practical) champion of their destination.
The New York Times' 52 Places remind us of the wonder, the magic - and the competition from destinations across our remarkable world. There has never been a better time to be a destination marketer.
Interactive Story:The New York Times 52 Places to Visit in 2014, January 12th 2014.
* Research Resource: UN World Travel Organization - 1 Billion Tourists.
** Research Resource: World Travel Council World Tourism Economic Summary 2013
Photos of Xishuangbanna - Courtesy of The New York Times article.