Destination marketing organizations serve multi-faceted role in carrying out tourism promotion mission

– by Fritz Smith

[Origanlly published by the Centre County Gazette]

Tuesday, Jan. 31 was National Plan for Vacation Day. The annual U.S. Travel Association-sponsored initiative encourages Americans to plan all of their vacation days at the start of the year, inspiring travel throughout the United States.

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While a day to celebrate what we all need – time to reset and rejuvenate in a fun destination, it also shines the spotlight on Destination Marketing Organizations’ (DMO) multi-faceted role as brand ambassadors, community partners, hospitality champions and most importantly, economic drivers in their respective markets.

These roles were elevated during COVID, and post-pandemic, are more important than ever before. Communities where the hospitality and tourism industries comprise a large portion of the business and economic base faced tremendous hardship when travel suddenly stopped. With recovery and growth slowly occurring, there is certainly no appetite for reliving a time of tourism and communities in crisis – for any reason.

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The HVAB frequently hosts content generators and travel writers as a way to introduce new audiences to Happy Valley.

This makes the DMO mission of elevating destination brand identity and awareness so vital. The rebound in travel means competition for visitors and all-important visitor spending is fierce. Would-be travelers have abundant choices about where and how to spend their discretionary dollars. With technology, social media, the rise of influencers and a steady flow of user-generated content, they have an overwhelming amount of information readily available. It is Destination Marketing Organizations that must navigate through the “noise” to reach the right audiences through the most effective channels with the right messaging, so that their destination is well positioned as an ideal location for leisure, sports, group tour and business travel.

Developing memorable promotional assets is only one part of that equation. There is a great deal of strategy and community listening that goes into the marketing of the insider tips that DMOs provide. In addition, DMOs invest in and rely on a wealth of research and analytical tools to make informed, strategic decisions about how, where, when and to whom to market.

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The HVAB is leading a campaign to recognize and appreciate local hospitality workers.

In 2022, The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau invested $725,000 – including $250,000 American Rescue Plan federal grant funds from Centre County – for winter, spring, summer, and fall destination marketing campaigns. Research identified promising target markets and visitor demographics; and directed a focus on weekday travel, when hotel occupancy tends to lag. The result was campaigns that produced significant increases in visitor spending; signs of that spending being distributed more throughout the county; growth in targeted visitation markets; and a dramatic increase in activity on

Research also helps DMOs and their stakeholders understand and capitalize on tourism trends, including the current unknown of how consumers will adjust travel plans in response to rising costs. National research conducted by Skift Research indicates that consumers likely won’t cancel or delay plans as occurred during the pandemic, but will spend less while traveling. This includes being thoughtful about destination choices, spending less on food and activities and choosing less expensive hotels. As an affordable drive market destination, Happy Valley stands to benefit from the current state of travel.


The HVAB stays up to date on tourism trends, and networks with tourism professionals at conferences such as U.S. Travel Association ESTO.

In the process of carrying out the tourism promotion mission, DMOs serve as vital conduits in managing experiences and expectations of both visitors and businesses supported by tourism, and in fostering constructive dialogue about needs, challenges and opportunities that affect the broader community, and by extension, visitation.

DMOs also operate from the foundational understanding that tourism and community quality of life are inter-connected, and that there is synergy between tourism development and promotion, and economic development. Successful placemaking and creating communities of value are goals of those in the tourism promotion business. DMOs are proactive partners with other groups and organizations in finding solutions to issues that impact visitor and resident experiences, from infrastructure and workforce, to affordable housing and resource management/stewardship to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Destination Marketing Organizations have evolved FAR beyond serving merely as a source of visitor information. DMOs will always be passionate advocates for the markets they represent. In carrying out their tourism promotion mission, the modern DMO plays a much broader and more valuable role as a link to the communities, businesses, workers, residents and visitors they serve.

Fritz Smith is President and CEO of The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau, the official Destination Marketing Organization for Centre County.

The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau publishes up-to-date event information at