Deep Dive with Frank Librio
ABI spoke with the Chief Marketing Officer of VisitDallas, Frank Librio, to better understand the travel landscape before and after COVID-19. Originally from Connecticut, Librio was in broadcast news for the first 20 years of his career before landing an opportunity in Dallas. After six months of living in Dallas, Librio fell in love with the city and never left.
VisitDLibrio called out the chief challenge of marketing Dallas. “We don’t have a beach. We don’t have a casino. But there's an aura the city emits. It's hard to market and capture the feeling. We don’t want Dallas to be a one-and-done kind of city. And we’ve worked hard to determine who our best customer is.”
“We’re a drive-in market,” he said. VisitDallas is targeting the drive-in, staycation traveler from surrounding areas like Oklahoma, Louisiana, and of course, Texas. “We are focused on our staycation campaign. It’s that family in Frisco that couldn’t go to France.”
What Is a Margarita Mile?
To best capture that “feeling we want to convey,” the VisitDallas team zeroed in on the fact that the frozen margarita machine was invented in Dallas. “This led my team to create the Margarita Mile,” Librio said. Margarita Mile Dallas is a collection of 20 restaurants and bars that serve a variety of top-notch margaritas. It’s also an app.
Librio said he expected no more than a couple of hundred downloads but was blown away with the more than 26,000 downloads the app received. The app tracks the locations you go to and can earn you freebies along the way. The Margarita tour has been a fun way to allow visitors to explore the city and much of its fantastic cuisine.
Marketing Tourism in a Pandemic
What did VisitDallas do when the pandemic hit? “We pivoted,” Librio said. After pausing all paid advertising, VisitDallas focused on becoming a trusted resource for the communities they serve. “We helped restaurants get the word out about curbside pickup and amplified that on social media. We helped the arts and culture community by creating new virtual content.” And they looked for ways to use online resources to help people in the hotel industry hurt through job loss.
When asked what would stay with us once the pandemic ended, Librio said “cleanliness.” VisitDallas was the first organization to partner with the Global Biorisk Advisory Council to implement a 20-point cleaning program that certifies trainers. Librio said this has helped instill confidence in visitors and residents. And he believes this attention to cleanliness will continue post-COVID. “It’s not specific to hotels. Love Field and DFW Airport are on board, as well as some restaurants and the hotels.”
As the pandemic progresses and people begin to travel more, the next step, said Librio, is to build confidence again through word-of-mouth. “We want to continue to develop marketing to inspire future travel and not fall of the radar,” he added.