The flagging economy and tough legislative budget wrangling have leveled out for many state tourism offices, which are back to the business of luring in visitors. And it is a big business: More than $810 billion is spent by travelers in the U.S. every year.
Lately, many destination marketers are turning over more of their budgets to digital and social media both to save money and track effectiveness. For state tourism offices, accountability can mean the difference between getting funded or getting cut. Collectively, state destination marketers manage about $677 million in total yearly budgets, while city and specific destinations have more than $1.4 billion, according to the Destination Marketing Association International and U.S. Travel Organizations.
"For every dollar spent, they get back between $4 and $10 (in taxes)," said Jake Steinman, CEO of North American Journeys and organizer of the annual eTourism Summit. "The tourism agencies haven't been able to convince their states that they are the sales force for the state. Sometimes it seems the only way they can justify their existence is to close down and see what happens."
So what's the breakdown? According to the DMAI, average budget allocations for consumer advertising skew toward online and print at 30% and 33%, respectively, but also include TV at 8% and radio at 5%. (The remaining 24% was categorized as "other.") The study found that almost half of destination marketers now have at least one staff member devoted to website content management and 92% will have a mobile version of their sites by the end of the year. Almost half (47%) will have location-specific apps as well.