Susan Thomas, CDME, is Chief Marketing Officer for Huntington Beach, California. Internationally known as “Surf City USA,” the Southern California destination is…just kinda perfect, actually.
A 30-year DMO expert, Susan’s awards fill a big shelf: Adrian Award; Destiny Award of Excellence for PR Campaign; Visit California Poppy Award Best PR Campaign in Travel and Tourism; Destiny Award for Best Digital Campaign in the Travel Industry.
Thought Leaders See Tomorrow
Q: Digitally-speaking, what keeps you up at night?
A: Are we helping to enable an unintended but highly consequential society shift toward intolerance, narrow-mindedness
Q: What will the successful DMO model look like in five years? What are its main differences to the current model?
A: DMOs will grow in their role with local, regional public and private sector entities as a go-to source for branding as well as helping to curate the visitor experience, overlapping increasing with destination economic development efforts. Traditionally, DMOs have focused on marketing, sales and visitor information services. This expanded role in destination planning and development will require broader strategic thinking and development of new planning skills/ partnerships.
Q: Where will DMOs be able to add value? And especially, how can we create trust and deliver on it?
A: Building trust starts with communications alignment and common agreements around vision, mission
Q: Outside of travel, which marketing work impresses you and are there lessons that can be applied to tourism marketing?
A: Now that Apple is the first $1 trillion company, it’s hard to overlook its phenomenal success. Clean line design, attention to product and packaging details and simplicity, making customer service an entertaining and engaging experience in their storefronts are all part of the secret sauce that travel marketers can riff off of to improve our connection with consumers.
On a much smaller scale, companies that have found micro-communities via platforms like podcasts, blogs and digital influencers to make their mark and grow WOM referrals are also intriguing, like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron in the fresh food home delivery sector, TommyJohns and Third Love in intimate apparel, and Aveda and Maison Reed in hair care products.
Q: Looking glass: What will the digital travel marketing landscape look like five years from now?
A: Voice-activated AI will be embedded
Q: How can data drive better creative?