<—- This is not Ed Harris, CMO of Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board.
This is actually a photo of his destination’s popular mascot, Monty the Fox, at a “My Hockey” tournament youth event in Montgomery County with the Philadelphia Flyers and Penn State University at Center Ice.
The real Ed Harris is pictured here, answering our interview questions in our series with members of the eTourism Summit Advisory Board, “Thought Leaders See Tomorrow.”
Q: Digitally-speaking, what keeps you up at night?
A: What keeps me up at night is thinking about new ideas to be different and stand out from the competition in the tourism space. Other things I think about are the future of websites and how will we get in front of new visitors/customers on mobile.
Q: What will the successful DMO model look like in five years? What are its main differences to the current model?
A: Like other industries, the best DMOs will offer ways for visitors to interact with great content and offer new tools that will enable the visitor to build custom itineraries. The next generation of consumers is more independent and they lean on Google and social media for their knowledge. They don’t want to be told what to do or where they should go, they want to discover it on their own and put together their own customized travel experience.
Q: Where will DMOs be able to add value? And especially, how can we create trust and deliver on it?
A: DMOs who build great relationships with their local attractions and hotel communities will add more value and thrive. We put together seasonal hotel packages that include coupon books with discount offers to popular attractions, restaurants, etc.—it’s easier to execute these types of things when you have solid relationships.
Q: Outside of travel, which marketing work impresses you and are there lessons that can be applied to tourism marketing?
A: I watch the footwear and apparel industry since I spent 12 years working as a brand management executive at Under Armour, Converse, and Timberland. Competition is fierce with new product lines coming out every quarter. The need to think outside the box, stay creative, and to try new things is constant in order to stand out and stay top of mind.
Q: Looking glass: What will the digital travel marketing landscape look like five years from now?
A: I think websites—as we know them today—will begin to drift away and all the focus will shift to enhancing and building out the social media pages…especially if e-commerce can happen through social media (eventually). Outside of Amazon, ESPN, and a handful of other retailers, not many people spend a lot of time on individual websites anymore. Nobody cares. Social media and mobile are where we’re going to continue to expand, in my opinion.
Q: How can data drive better creative?
A: Data can tell us a lot about consumer behavior in the digital landscape. But unless you have incredible out-of-the-box creative execution, it’s very challenging to gain mindshare no matter how many data sets you have access to.