5 Basic Principles (& 25 Best Practices) for DMO Websites

According to many recent studies, Destination marketing organizations (DMOs) are facing intriguing challenges to provide quality information online in an era of information overload. Insufficient knowledge of tourist’s online information preferences and search behaviour has hindered them from effective information management.
A local or regional DMO website should help to promote not only the destination as a whole, but also hotels, tourist attractions, restaurants, theatre, sports, activities in the destination itself. Ideally it would be possible to buy or reserve this through the DMO website.
However, with websites such as Tripadvisor, WAYN, Google Maps, Facebook, etc., many people question the role of DMO/NTO/CVB’s websites  in 10 years from now. Following the latest developments on the field,  it’s hard to ignore the fact that DMOs need to go where the consumer is, instead convincing the consumer to come to them.
To compete with the aforementioned commercial websites, DMO websites should be comprehensive and give visitors all the tools they need such us mash up maps, live web cams & YouTube video channels and a Flickr image gallery to capture the special elements of the destination. DMO websites also need to act as one-stop-shops for the visitors by providing a wide range of information for the destination’s product mix as well as centralized hotel & event tickets reservation systems. Moreover, DMO websites needs real time and social content to establish collaboration with people who have a personal or commercial interest in assisting potential travelers to visit a destination.


5 essential principles & 25 best practices (applications & tools) for DMO websites.

1. Look Good (=Nice & Simple)

Creative web design is all about making a website visually appealing. A visually appealing website is a site that is easy to read, easy to navigate. To create a site that visitors will not click away from immediately, follow some basic design standards, and think about the usability and accessibility of the design.




2. Content (was) is (and will be) the King!

The content on your site is your vehicle to present your message and portray your brand. And if you offer the ability to book online or at least direct customers to contact info, the content might be the last stand between you and a booking. Qualitative & diverse information, trip planning tools, attractive visual material including video & photo sharing applications, multilingual content, B2B & Press sections and efficient SEO saturation/meta-tags are all “must” elements of a successful DMO website.

Read more at:

Multilingual Content

VisitBritain_Language Selection

Trip Planners

Tourism Australia – Trip Planner

South Africa Tourism – Trip Planner


Visit Sweden – Mash Up map

LondonTown_Hotel Map

B2B web applications & tools

Visit London – Travel Trade Toolkit

Chicago Meeting Planner

VisitScotland – ScotsAgent Destination Specialist Program

Press & Media Tools

Copenhagen Pressroom

3. Engage Your Audience!

Identify your visitors’ social activities & build an on-line community to spread the word about your destination’s competitive advantage & USPs.

Keep in mind the following stats.
– 57% of DMO website users read travel written reviews
– 32% of DMO site users post ratings and reviews
– 43% of users visit travel-related forums

Social Media

Visit London’s Blog

Austria – Home Page Facebook Widget

Visit London – Trip Advisor Content Integration Application

Vienna Tourism Board – Expedia Content Integration

Tailor Made Web Tools & Services

Anchorage, Alaska – On-line Visitors Information Centre

Customized Enviroment – Build Your Vegas Experience on-line

Campaigns & Competitions


Destination DC “Date Nights” Campaign


Colorado’s Snow at First Sight Competition

Philadelphia’s “With Love” Campaign

Paris “What Kind of Shopping Addict Are you” Competition

4. Don’t Forget SEO

In search engine marketing, travel business is a well known category which is vast with a big competition in online marketing. From bookings of flights to hotel reservations, it is estimated that 70% of all flights are booked online through websites. So, we can easily assume this big on line competition. There are many DMOs and travel companies having websites on web offering online travel deals and holiday offers. Every website has its own unique range of products, services & travel solutions and likes to be in top search engine placements with their offers.

There is a big challenge here for an SEO as searches on travel related keywords and phrases are very high, even a small travel key phrase has a big amount of search counts on search engines like Google, Yahoo and Msn (Live). So, a travel website requires more hard work, good strategy and regular implementations for getting high search engines rankings.

Your SEO Strategy:

Identify your audience and goals…
Firstly you must consider the market and type of users you are looking to attract to the site, Google provides the following travel search marketing tips to consider:

  • What is the end objective for your business – transactions, branding, lead generation? Your approach may differ based on the decided outcome.
  • Determine the success metric in advance. What cost per transaction is acceptable? What is your target gross/net ROI?
  • Have a clearly defined target market or user in mind. Are you primarily interested in attracting leisure or business travelers and/or discount, mid-scale, or luxury travelers?


Research your keywords…
Google’s research showed that catching the user at an early stage of a buying cycle can still result in a sale 40% of the time. This is very interesting and creates a strong argument for capturing users early into their search for a holiday. However the main difference between targeting keywords for paid, as opposed to organic search, is the volume of keywords you can target. PPC allows you to have flexibility over the keywords which generate traffic and is very much about refining keyword selection and continually changing key targets based upon performance and seasonality.

With SEO you’re unlikely to get that luxury and have little margin for error when selecting keywords with high-conversion potential.  I would highly recommend using the pay-per-click data you have collected to help identify the top converting keywords. After all if six months after optimising for “When to go on holiday to Cancun” you finally generate enough clickthrough data to realise this has a 0.1% conversion rate, it’s then very difficult to re-adjust and target “luxury holidays in Cancun Mexico” instead.

Test, test and test again…
Despite targeting the early stages of the buying cycle proving to be more successful than expected, I would still recommend targeting more specific queries as this is more likely to generate targeted visits from users who have a clearer idea about what they are looking for. For example, someone searching for a “long-weekend city break in New York” is more likely to complete a sale than a user performing an informational query such as “places to visit in New York”. At this stage the user is also likely to be narrowing down the number of websites they are looking to shortlist for completing a sale, so the competition should be fewer than a more generic search.

read more at: Travel SEO – How to Target Searchers at the Right Stage of the Buying Cycle

5. Convert!

Conversion strategies are the plans needed to convert a looker into a buyer! Your Website Design & Content, the Use of Social Media and your SEO strategy should all be part of your overall on-line marketing strategy. Without one, the typical conversion rate for a website is about 2% of visitors. This is not only about selling hotels, tickets to cultural events, tourist attractions, museums, sport activities etc but to sell your own products as well (city pass, walking tours, souvenirs etc).

Visit Manchester on-line shop

Turisme Barcelona On-line Shop


19 thoughts on “5 Basic Principles (& 25 Best Practices) for DMO Websites

  1. interesting and rich article! I will use it for my reference material in my last university project.
    I study Tourism and Online Marketing in Italy, this is my last year.
    I’m looking forward to practice and improve thanks to job experience… maybe in USA!
    Thank You

  2. Hi Manolis!

    This is fantastic what you put together. You seem to be a more than potential speaker for one of our upcoming events. – Could we afford you?


    1. Hi Dieter
      Glad to receive your comment. I’ll be more than happy to attend as a speaker at your upcoming events. Please feel free to post ECM’s forthcoming activities & events.

  3. Very inspiring. I will definitely use some of your advice for our website. Having said that, I have been using PPC to identify best converting keywords for some time. I completely agree this gives a huge advantage when setting up an SEO campaign!

  4. Hi Manolis,
    really a very good composition of different best practices of digital DMO-Activities. I am glad that you also mentioned Austrian National Tourist Website as it was a great strategic step for a DMO to integrate user reviews on an official DMO-Website. It was one of my success stories at anto. But now as I am consulting more DMOs in Europe your post is a great assistance. I will also post my best practices soon to share my knowledge in the same way you did. Propably Dieter then also will ask me if I am affordable for EC-Marketing … 🙂

    1. Thanks Martin. This post has got a lot of attention on the web but now needs to be updated. Many new developments took place on our field since this post was first published. I look forward to read your feedback based on your previous experience with DMOs.

      PS. By the way, what’s next ECM’s event main topic?

  5. This is a great post, glad we hooked up on LinkedIn as we clearly share similar views on web content.

    Using images really helps illustrate your points, it’s also good to see you share the links you find most useful -working together only makes things easier in this business. I’m working on some weekly grammar tips to help people improve their own web content – I’ll keep you posted.

    Best wishes, Mp

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  7. We’re a gaggle of volunteers and starting a brand new scheme in our community. Your website offered us with helpful information to work on. You have performed an impressive task and our whole group can be grateful to you.

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