US Travel’s Best ESTO 2022 Takeaways | By Christine Walker Rare

Last week, our team attended the US Travel Association’s ESTO 2022 conference in Grand Rapids, MI, where we had the opportunity to learn about upcoming destination trends in several engaging sessions. For Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) who missed the conference, we share our top takeaways.

During the conference, we hosted our own episode of Destination Shark Tank. Our “The Sharks” heard presentations of creative campaign ideas from three destination marketers. Congratulations on visiting Panama City Beach, State of Washington Tourism and Visit Phoenix!

Source: Expedia Group Media Solutions
Source: Expedia Group Media Solutions

1. Collaboration is a powerful tool for DMOs

Now more than ever, partnerships between destination marketing organizations can be a powerful tool to engage potential travelers and generate interest. One example of promotional collaboration came from the Maryland Office of Tourism, which shared how it partnered with DMOs across the state on weekly social media posts with dedicated themes, such as #MainStreetMondays , which featured local businesses across the state, and #TrailsTuesdays to increase awareness of Maryland’s trail networks.

VISIT FLORIDA shared how they were also able to deploy a unified brand strategy by partnering with DMOs across the state in a cooperative campaign to inspire Floridians to explore new parts of their state. This campaign has proven successful, exceeding the 2024 projections by two years and proving that a unified approach can benefit everyone.

Cooperative campaigns can achieve greater impact by pooling funding from multiple destinations. Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme is an example of a DMO that has partnered with us for a cooperative campaign. It has partnered with Atout France and seven DMOs in the region in a cooperative campaign to showcase the region’s diversity, as well as the unique culture and offerings of each of the featured cities. By pooling their efforts and funds, the destinations have been able to work towards a common marketing goal and see a surge in demand for accommodations in the region.

Cooperative campaigns can be particularly beneficial for smaller destinations by giving them a greater presence in the market. By pooling resources for content creation and showing opportunities in a region, destinations can help inspire travelers who might not otherwise visit.

2. Generation Z’s new perspectives on travel

Representing 32% of the population and controlling $360 billion in purchasing power, Gen Z is quickly becoming a powerhouse for all businesses, including travel. JUV Consulting, a Gen Z marketing agency, spoke about what interests Gen Z and what they think about travel.

What content Gen Z is looking for and where they are accessing it is key for DMOs to understand. According to our study on How Young Generations Are Shaping the Future of Travel, 77% of Gen Zers are open to destination inspiration. But how you reach them is key – JUV Consulting shared that Gen Zers are drawn to niche content and unique experiences, rather than traditional tourist spots. For inspiration and travel planning, they use platforms like TikTok and Pinterest. According to data from JUV, 46% of Gen Zers derive most of their travel inspiration from social media.

Additionally, regenerative travel is important to Gen Z. Many Gen Z travelers are concerned about the environmental impact of their travels and want the brands they interact with to share these values ​​and limit their impact. An example of a brand that does this well is Amtrak. By sharing information about their limited environmental impact and work options along the way, Amtrak speaks to and engages Generation Z.

Going forward, Gen Z is sure to have a big impact on the evolution of the travel industry as they seek flexible travel options, regenerative tourism, and inclusive brands. For more information on the latest travel insights on sustainability and inclusive travel, check out our Sustainable Travel Study and Inclusive Travel Report.

3. Rural tourism and hidden gems are booming

The rise of over-tourism and the desire to escape the crowds with the pandemic has sparked strong interest in rural tourism. With the resumption of travel, interest in rural tourism and the discovery “hidden gem” destinations remained.

Amy Zeigler, state tourism manager at the Iowa Office of Tourism, shared how Iowa has used state park digital passports to increase interest in exploring rural areas of Iowa. ‘Iowa. In partnership with Travel Iowa, they released the passports in June 2020 for all 100e anniversary of the state park system, encouraging travelers to explore new areas. The campaign proved successful, resulting in 25,000 sign-ups and 50,000 check-ins. Due to the success, Iowa expanded passports to create ones for beer, wine, and distillery tastings.

The South Dakota Department of Tourism also launched a passport program several months ago, with the goal of highlighting each region of South Dakota to disperse travelers across the state. They have put together a hidden gems location program, coordinating with state partners to include destinations throughout the region. As a result, 75% of locations received recordings from all regions.

Data from our Sustainable Travel Study shows that consumers are increasingly looking for opportunities to travel sustainably and access off-the-beaten-track experiences on future trips. As destination marketers think about the value their location has to offer, it’s important to think about how best to showcase lesser-known places.

If you want to learn more about the latest trends in traveler behavior, download our recently released Q2 Traveler Insights report to learn more about how your brand can connect with travellers. We hope to see you next year at ESTO 2023!

Download the report.

About Expedia Group Media Solutions

Expedia Group Media Solutions is a global travel advertising platform that connects marketers to hundreds of millions of travelers across Expedia Group brands. With our exclusive access to over 70 petabytes of Expedia Group traveler search and booking data, we provide advertisers with actionable insights, sophisticated targeting and comprehensive results reporting. Our suite of solutions includes Display, Sponsored Ads, Audience Extension, Cooperative Campaigns, and Custom Creative Campaigns, all designed to meet the goals of our advertising partners and add value to travel buyers on our brand sites around the world. With a consultative approach and over 20 years of travel and media experience, we help our advertising partners inspire, engage and convert travelers for meaningful results. For more information, visit

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