Beyond rooms: Power of tourism & EDO partnerships

By attracting visitors to the destination for meetings and lesiure, the appeal of investment will follow

Visitors to Vancouver know our work.

From our annual travel magazine reaching more than 95,000 tourists and convention delegates, to our social media streams offering daily snapshots of life in “The ‘Couve,” visitors look to Visit Vancouver USA as a trusted source of travel inspiration, meeting planning assistance and even relocation information.

While the visitors we attract to Clark County know us by our work, the same isn’t always so for the community we promote. In fact, one of the most common questions we hear from businesses and residents alike is: “Vancouver has a tourism office?”

Of course, the answer is “Yes,” but – more importantly – such questions give us the opportunity to explain the powerful connection between tourism, local businesses and economic development.

As the official Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) for Vancouver and Clark County, Visit Vancouver USA promotes the region as a meetings and leisure destination. Like many other DMOs, we often face one of two common misconceptions: that we are a visitor information center, dedicated solely to distributing maps and brochures (a small component of tourism frequently handled by independent contractors), or that we are an extension of area hotels, beholden to booking room nights and group business.

While providing travel resources to Vancouver’s visitors and filling the rooms of Clark County’s hotels are both important, Visit Vancouver’s primary objective is to increase visitor spending. Similarly to Economic Development Organizations (EDOs), we work to advance economic growth for the surrounding community. For EDOs, this economic development is accomplished through influencing investment decisions. For DMOs, we focus on influencing travel decisions and increasing visitor spending. Essentially, although the decisions we influence are different, both DMOs and EDOs are in the business of promoting a specific place.

This shared mission benefits from a strong DMO and EDO partnership – especially in growing areas like Clark County – and here’s why:

DMOs raise awareness and familiarity of the destination through brand promotion

DMOs tell a story and competitively market the unique assets of a destination to increase awareness and stimulate conversation among business and leisure travelers. This exposure through advertising, social media, digital assets and print materials, directly translates into a favorable impression of the destination. In turn, EDOs find it easier to recruit businesses and attract the next generation of employees.

DMOs secure meetings, conventions and tradeshows for local facilities.

DMOs attract regional associations, corporate meetings and trade conventions, all of which comprise the same pool of prospects that EDOs target. Visits by these groups create valuable introductions to business decision-makers and also create opportunities for EDOs to strengthen connections with meetings delegates and attendees.

DMOs support amenities integral to attracting investment in other sectors.

DMOs attract visitors, which create a high quality of life desired by investors. Restaurants, local parks, public spaces, transportation and arts and culture all benefit directly from the visitor economy. These amenities are key for investors, business executives and residents looking to relocate.

As a DMO, our audience may be visitors, but the focus has always been the economic growth of our community. Partnerships with EDO-minded entities like the Columbia River Economic Development Council, the City of Vancouver and the Port of Vancouver USA have buoyed our collective efforts. In 2014 alone, visitors to Clark County accounted for $481 million in spending, generated $12.5 million in local tax receipts and supported 4,220 tourism-related jobs. Not directly evident in those numbers, which are impressive enough on their own, is the underlying power of DMO and EDO partnerships: attract visitors to the destination and the appeal of investment will follow.

Kim Bennett is the president & CEO of Visit Vancouver USA. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Washington State Destination Marketing Organizations (WSDMO); Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA); and the Destination Marketing Organizations of the West (DMAWest).