For Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs), creating an effective destination marketing plan is essential to attracting the right kind of visitors, in the right numbers, at the right time. In this article, we outline the steps DMOs should take to help ensure a successful campaign.

Laying the groundwork

When formulating a destination marketing plan, a DMO must fully understand its destination’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). Performing a SWOT analysis is a vital preparatory step before launching any campaign. It should be accompanied by wider market research to assess how the destination compares to its competitors in terms of performance, seasonality, and target audience.

Outlining the strategy

Once the DMO has a clear picture of its destination’s SWOT, it can begin outlining a destination marketing strategy based on the marketing mix or ‘four-Ps’ framework, which considers product, price, place, and promotion.


Common tourism products include culture, gastronomy, nature, shopping, beach and nightlife, and a destination marketing plan should highlight the destination’s unique selling points in one or more of these areas depending on its strengths.

For example, a campaign for a cultural hotspot like Paris or Rome might focus on the city’s generous offering of galleries, museums, and iconic landmarks, while a marketing strategy for a summer destination like Mallorca or Crete would emphasise the location’s offering of sun, sea and sand.


How expensive a destination influences both the number and the kind of visitors it attracts. High-end locations tend to price the average tourist out while appealing to more affluent visitors. It is important to note, however, that many destinations appeal to lower- and higher-income tourists at the same time, in which case DMOs may create separate campaigns, with one highlighting the location’s budget-friendly offering and another drawing attention to its more exclusive experiences.


In general product marketing, ‘place’ refers to where a product can be purchased. For DMOs, it can be considered the locations from where travellers reach their destination. Knowing where to focus campaigns based on the point of origin of travellers from key source markets is pivotal to the success of any destination marketing plan.


A similarly important consideration in destination marketing is how travellers book trips to the destination – i.e., by direct or indirect channel; high-street travel agent or online travel agent – and campaigns should be designed accordingly.

Defining objectives

Having conducted all necessary analyses and established an outline for the destination marketing strategy based on the four-Ps principle, the DMO can begin defining more specific objectives to draw on the location’s strengths, address its weaknesses, seize its opportunities and minimise its threats.

Below are some common examples of destination marketing objectives.

Attracting tourists in the off-season

In the case of a tourist destination with high rates of seasonal employment but less demand for year-round work, a DMO might attempt to attract more visitors during the low season.

At a popular beach destination like Tenerife, for instance, an off-season campaign could focus on the island’s subtropical climate, which offers sun and mild temperatures even in winter.

Where a beach destination lacks the offer of winter sun, a destination marketing plan could focus on an alternative tourism product. In the case of Alicante, a campaign could highlight the wider region’s spectacular hiking routes, which are better enjoyed in the cooler months.

Encouraging a more diverse visitor mix

Many destinations attract a certain type of tourist in large numbers when a more diverse visitor mix might be beneficial.

For example, if a destination positions itself as budget-friendly, focusing its marketing efforts on cheaper experiences, it may attract high volumes of visitors, but the economic advantages could be offset by the relatively low average purchasing power per person. However, if a destination targets solely high-income visitors, it may deter the average tourist, causing the positive financial impact of more affluent visitors to be offset by low overall arrival figures.

A destination marketing strategy that aims to encourage a diverse mix of tourists – with different campaigns emphasising different products and experiences – is more likely to find the right balance between visitor numbers and average purchasing power.

Managing visitor impact

Attracting the right number of visitors is not only an economic concern; it is also a matter of managing the social and environmental impact on the destination.

The fundamental aim of a destination marketing plan is to entice visitors, but too many tourists in a small area or a short space of time can harm the local environment and cause unrest among residents.

Campaigns that draw visitors in the off-season or direct tourists away from overcrowded areas by promoting less visited, ‘alternative’ products can help DMOs to achieve the right balance between economic, social, and environmental factors.

Analysing performance

Gauging the performance of any campaign means tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) that are relevant to the objectives. To learn more, see the next instalment in our destination marketing series.

The ForwardKeys solution

As a leading provider of travel data analytics, ForwardKeys has over a decade’s experience serving DMOs, tourist boards and other travel-related businesses. The company’s ever-evolving product and service portfolio aims to supply these organisations with the right piece of data, in the right format, at the right time.

Designed specifically for DMOs, Destination Gateway is a user-friendly platform that delivers frequently refreshed information on total arrivals including an outlook for the months ahead; travel intent based on flight searches; week-on-week evolution of issued tickets; and tourist profiles according to trip purpose, length of stay and group size. In doing so, the solution provides DMOs with the insights they need to plan effective destination marketing strategies.

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2023-04-14T13:30:26+02:0015/12/2022|All, DMO|
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