As we’re heading into the last half of the summer, destinations in the northern hemisphere are beginning to examine how successful the season has been and what caused it. In those cases, destinations examine the market conditions – how the oil spill affected the Gulf, for example, and the various economies around the world – to put the results in context.

Those things are important, but the destination and tourism industry fails to examine what is most important: Who the travelers are when they choose the destination.

destinationsI thought about this after considering vacations options this summer – including Maine, the Mountain West and even Tahiti and other tropical locations – and finding destinations still marketing themselves as a list of product benefits.

What is especially amazing to me is that those industries more damaged by the recent economic slump – destinations, airlines, banking, etc. – are the ones more likely to conduct business as though nothing has changed.

More now than ever, destinations need to have a brand that is a direct and aspirational reflection of who the traveler wants to be in order to ensure long-term growth.

Instead, they are playing a much less efficient game: Coming up with reasons why the trends are as they are without looking at the problem, and ultimately staying in the same place as they were before – at great cost and effort – and wondering why the problem still hasn’t been fixed.

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