Shifting the Focus: The Untapped Power of Resident Sentiment in Destination Management

Hotel metrics only tell part of the story. How else can DMOs tell if their tourism campaigns are effective? It’s time to ask the locals.


Destination management organizations (DMOs) have traditionally measured the success of their campaigns using metrics like RevPAR, ADR and average length of stay, with overnight stays being the clearest indicator. While these KPIs offer valuable insights into the economic impact of tourism, there’s one thing that’s often overlooked: the local community's perspective on tourism. This oversight isn’t just a missed opportunity—it’s also a misalignment with the fundamental mission of DMOs: generating economic benefits for the local community and improving the quality of life for residents. To build a more effective campaign, DMOs should broaden their focus beyond hotel metrics. This is where resident sentiment surveys come in.


The Case for Resident Sentiment Studies

DMOs have a vested interest in ensuring positive resident sentiment. After all, many visitors travel to destinations to see family and friends or through word-of-mouth recommendations. To transform residents into advocates for their community, DMOs must first understand their perspective on tourism. Regularly conducting resident sentiment studies offers a way to gauge the community's feelings towards tourism, providing insights that are as crucial as traditional metrics like room nights.


The Flaw in a Hotel-Centric Approach

Focusing primarily on hotel-based measurements can lead to a narrow view of tourism's impact. A significant portion of DMO funding comes from hotel taxes, driven by out-of-town visitors. This financial structure can create a political limitation, pushing DMOs to satisfy key stakeholders, particularly hoteliers, at the expense of broader community interests. However, the recent shifts in local economies have highlighted the need for DMOs to demonstrate their role as drivers of the local economy beyond merely generating room nights.


Broadening the Metric Spectrum

It's time for DMOs to broaden their measurement metrics to include the quality of life and resident satisfaction. By integrating resident sentiment into their core metrics, DMOs can ensure that tourism development is in harmony with the community's well-being. This approach not only fosters a supportive atmosphere among residents but also ensures that tourism strategies enhance rather than detract from the resident experience.


Transforming Data into Action: Empowering Residents as Ambassadors

Collecting resident sentiment data can offer a comprehensive view of the community's perception of tourism, including its economic, social and environmental impacts. This view can guide DMOs in tailoring their marketing efforts and tourism strategies to align with community values and visitor interests.


The insights gained are invaluable in converting residents into destination ambassadors. Understanding locals’ viewpoints allows DMOs to address concerns, highlight the positive aspects of tourism and engage residents in meaningful ways. This engagement is crucial in fostering a sense of ownership and pride in the community and can inspire residents to become vocal advocates for their destination.


To leverage the power of resident sentiment, DMOs should consider the following actionable strategies:


  1. Conduct regular resident sentiment studies. Implement these studies as a standard part of the measurement toolkit, alongside traditional tourism metrics.
  2. Develop resident-centric campaigns. Create campaigns that reignite local love and pride for the destination, reflecting authentic local experiences as recommended by residents.
  3. Establish formal ambassador programs. Reward and encourage resident advocacy through ambassador programs to enhance community engagement and tourism growth.
  4. Tailor marketing to bridge community and visitor interests. Use insights from sentiment studies to design marketing campaigns that appeal to both locals and tourists to promote a unified community image.


Gathering residents’ thoughts and attitudes through surveys isn’t just innovative but essential for DMOs. Prioritizing the community's perspective is a way for DMOs to ensure tourism development contributes positively to quality of life, turning residents into powerful advocates for their destinations. In doing so, DMOs can redefine success in tourism management, demonstrating that true prosperity comes from a balance between economic benefits and resident well-being.


As a full-service marketing agency with award-winning work in hospitality and tourism, Marriner can help with all stages of an exciting and impactful tourism campaign, from research to execution. Reach out to David Melnick at [email protected] or 410.336.1000.


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