When crafting a pass, DMO’s often focus on targeting incoming visitors, but this perspective may keep marketers from influencing locals, a valuable target market. Though DMO’s market their passes using dollars generated from hotel occupancy tax and may shy away from using funds to educate locals on passes, this group represents an interesting opportunity. When building a marketing campaign around paid or discount passes, think of locals as an extension of your marketing efforts. According to the US Travel Association’s research, 42% of people cite visiting friends and family as the primary reason they travel. In the same study, it was found that this was the top reason for all leisure travel as of March 2020.
DMO’s should think of their locals as brand ambassadors and the primary tour guides for roughly 42% of visitors in the city. With this in mind, marketers can make a clear case for earmarking a segment of funds to educate this audience.
Bandwango’s research reflects these trends and shows that locals have a clear impact on pass sales, downloads and redemptions. Below are a few examples of locals creating a positive impact on DMO passports while driving dollars through the doors of merchant partners in destination.
Visit Bucks County’s Ale Trail
Visit Bucks County knew the 23 breweries within its limits were a destination in and of themselves. They launched in May 2019 with a gamified approach to their pass and began encouraging visitors to go to 5 or more breweries to unlock a free t-shirt available via mail or for pick-up at their Visitor Center. Over 6,889 customers have signed up for passes and more than 14,238 redemptions have been tracked at local breweries since the pass was launched. Visit Bucks County has driven downloads from across the United States including in target markets like New Jersey, New York and Delaware. Visitors from the 21 counties within the area account for 30% of passport downloads.
Visit Bucks County also has a family-friendly option for visitors in their Sweet Spots Trail, which boasts more than 780 sign-ups and 576 check-ins and redemptions at local businesses.
Visit Indy built out their mobile passport to encourage visitors to enjoy the best of local breweries, distilleries, and craft beverage producers in Indianapolis and the Central Indiana region. The gamified pass includes more than 40 local vendors and encourages visitors to check in at eight to receive a Visit Indy Craft Pass t-shirt.
The pass was launched in September 2019 and has 3,197 total sign-ups with over 7,675 redemptions at local businesses during its time in market. Although Visit Indy’s focus is on attracting downloads and traffic from target markets like Chicago and Ohio, the DMO enjoys the support of Indianapolis locals, which accounts for 33% of downloads.
Visit Houston’s Brew Pass invites visitors to taste the flavor of Houston and explore neighborhoods around the city through the lens of the local beer scene. The pass drives traffic to more than 12 local and regional breweries with three different options for consumers including a 1-day, 3-day and 90-day option. The pass launched in October 2017 on the heels of Hurricane Harvey and relied heavily on local support during the first 6 months in market.
Today, more than 1,261 passes have been sold, and more than $19,647 has been paid out to local breweries. Houston area purchasers make up 34% of sales with sales in other markets growing year over year.
When launching a pass, Bandwango encourages building a foundation of downloads and sales with locals first. This group is primed to assist the DMO in building the trust surrounding a recently launched passport and can provide a more forgiving audience for merchants learning to navigate the new system. Locals also bolster pass sales and create momentum, helping the destination tell a better story to visitors and stakeholders alike. Lastly, new visitors to your destination may be the end goal, but local visitors still account for dollars that go directly to businesses in your paid or savings pass.
Here’s the hot take: focusing in on local awareness may be the key to improving visitor experience and bolstering local business at the same time.