5 Takeaways from DCI’s Talent Wars for DMOs

By: Katherine Saunders, Development Counsellors International (DCI)

As the tourism industry recovers from the impacts of the pandemic, the world is faced with a global shortage of skilled labor across the travel and tourism industry. In June, there were more than 12 million open positions and only 6 million actively unemployed people to fill those jobs. When the labor market was tight back in 2017, we hadn't seen anything yet.

So, how do we fill open jobs and help local businesses fill those roles? To better understand why talent relocates to a new location, DCI’s Talent Wars research study explores the behaviors and preferences of relocating talent. Talent Wars takes a deep dive into the top factors that talent considers when making a career or location change, where talent looks to inform their decisions, and how tourism and visitation impacts relocation decisions. Below, we dive into five key takeaways:


1. Collaborate with your Economic Development Organization (EDO) or Chamber of Commerce

You need talent, and so do your local businesses. By working with economic development organizations (EDOs) and your local Chamber of Commerce, you can help one another fill open roles. Clear, strong messaging and visuals pertaining to lifestyle factors (in addition to career factors) appeal to talent on all fronts. This historically has not been in the wheelhouse of economic development organizations; however, DMOs are experts at selling the livability and lifestyle aspects of a community. Consider partnering on talent attraction campaigns to streamline messaging so it aligns across audiences.

2. Get your "digital front door" in order

This year’s data shows that 52% of talent reports visiting a state and/or local tourism website when considering relocation. It is critical to promote a destination’s public image via this channel as a good place not just to visit but also as a place to live and work. While firsthand experience was once the leading factor when considering relocation, the pandemic forced people to get creative in their efforts to learn more about a community. To attract talent and visitors, you want your digital experience to be as straightforward and user friendly as possible, keeping all the information they need in one place.

3. Focus on work-life balance

We know that often the first introduction to a community is through visiting and creating that first, positive impression is critical to moving people down the funnel toward relocation. Our research shows that work-life balance was the second most important factor when considering a new job opportunity. Showcasing the ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance in your community not only appeals to visitors turned residents, but the remote worker looking for a café to work from before they log off for a long weekend of exploring your community. It’s important to remember that clear messaging on livability and job-related assets in the destination will begin to plant the seed of what it would be like for someone to not only visit, but live and work there as well.

4. Make sure internal residents and stakeholders are prepared for battle

Creating positive resident sentiment is critical when it comes to attracting talent. Research shows that 50 percent of talent cite “word of mouth” as a key influencer in forming perceptions of a location. Arming your existing residents with key messaging is a critical—and often overlooked—step in advancing an area’s talent attraction program. To do so, consider creating messages and sharing them with any front of house staff so they know how to properly sell your community. Your residents are some of your best champions – partnering with them not only shows your commitment to the betterment of your community but that you value them just as much as you do new talent.

5. Demonstrate value beyond room nights

As champions of communities, we know that DMOs bring more to the table than just room nights. Show stakeholders how tourism dollars not only improve your region as a place for visitors but for businesses considering relocating to the area. From welcome events for new residents to annual festivals and concerts, amplifying the things that make the community a great place to visit, live and work will help build the case for business and talent relocation.

The fight for talent isn’t going away anytime soon, but through collaboration and unified messaging, DMOs are ready for battle.

About the Author

Katherine SaundersEVP, Client Strategy & Talent AttractionDevelopment Counsellors International

About the Author

Kat Saunders is the Executive Vice President of Client Strategy for place development marketing firm, Development Counsellors International, or DCI, based in New York City. A specialist in economic development, talent attraction and real estate, she advises clients on building effective marketing and public relations programs that leverage PR, digital marketing, and research to produce results that shift perception and reputation of client communities while engaging stakeholders in the overall economic development efforts. 

She is DCI’s go-to counselor for crisis communications as well as the lead advisor on public sector and elected official communications.  She previously worked at Hill & Knowlton where she managed corporate clients like Deloitte Real Estate, the Staubach Company and Nixon Peabody LLP.

Kat is a graduate of Florida State University, where she studied public relations, business and political science and was elected to the FSU Senior Hall of Fame.

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