Visit Orlando – on why customer experience is so important to them!

Purple Square have been speaking to customer experience leaders from top global brands about Reimagining Customer Experience (CX). In this interview our CEO Andrew Addison talks to Danielle Hollander, CMO of Florida-based tourist association Visit Orlando, about working with an entire city to create superior experiences. 

When it comes to the importance of creating the best possible customer experience, it’s hard to imagine an industry where the stakes are higher than in the hospitality sector.

CX and customer journeys need to be spot on, and building loyalty with business and leisure customers alike are paramount to success. Hospitality brands are not only competing with a host of other leisure providers, but for the spending money that consumers may designate to anything from buying a new wardrobe, car or house. In other words, they can’t afford to get it wrong.

Even in the current turbulent times, Orlando is a city that’s getting it right. As one of my favourite cities in the world, I’ll admit I’m biased, but the numbers don’t lie: tourists typically account for more than 50% of sales tax revenue in Orange County, where Orlando is located. This translates to contributions of tens of millions of dollars each month, which help to support the county’s arts, cultural and sporting venues.

So how do they do it?

“Hospitality is in the DNA of everyone who works in this industry,” explains Danielle Hollander, CMO of the tourist association Visit Orlando. “CX is very personal and that shines through in everything we do. We treat people as humans, not simply customers.”

Visit Orlando’s vision is to make the city the most visited, welcoming and inclusive travel destination in the world. It is a not-for- profit trade association representing more than 1,300 member companies from Central Florida’s tourism community.

“We don’t sell travel, our job is to sell memories,” says Hollander. “Whether they are visiting Orlando for business or pleasure, our engagement with guests begins long before they arrive in our city. And the possibility of their return visit starts the minute they’re here. We’re a life-long destination.”

To support this ethos, Visit Orlando has an ambitious strategic plan with the goal of attracting 80 million visitors by 2024. “Post-pandemic, we are leaning into growth and multicultural segments,” continues Hollander. “We are already connecting more with visitors in smarter ways, telling our stories better.”

Telling a deeper story

Digital marketing plays a big role in helping to personalise these stories and goes hand in hand with Visit Orlando’s more audience-focussed strategy.

“We know that everyone connects with us a bit differently – whether it’s through FaceBook, Tripadvisor or other online travel sites and apps,” says Hollander. “We try to make it easy for them to engage, answer their questions and generally do business with Orlando.”

“There are no shortage of experiences on offer here,” she explains. “We lead with our strengths; our collection of theme parks is the largest in the world, but people want to experience more. We tap into their excitement and encourage them to try something new. We want to tell a deeper story.”

To do this, Visit Orlando’s communications are typically 50% theme park-driven, layered with a more tailored message, generally an adult or family-related spot. “To do this effectively, we learn more about our individual customers based on each of their interactions with us and tailor the messages they receive accordingly. Our team is super smart. We have a lot of stories to tell and it is all about figuring out how to tell them and who to tell them to.”

Building true partnerships

Access to the right data plays a key role in Visit Orlando’s digital communications. Their members support these targeted efforts by sharing their data and visitor information, knowing that Visit Orlando’s success contributes hugely to their own.

“When it comes to data, we aggregate everything,” says Hollander. “We think about the whole and the sum of the parts, inviting everyone to come and experience the full package. These campaigns drive awareness – and visitors – to our member businesses. Everybody benefits.”

Creating tailored experiences does not stop at digital marketing. Visit Orlando has a truly multichannel approach to their CX. They train travel agents through their Orlando Travel Academy, keeping them informed about all the city has to offer travellers ranging from young families to business audiences, newlyweds and grandparents.  

“Travel agents are trusted sources for a lot of visitors and as such, are important ambassadors for our city. We train and work with them to ensure they are in the know and well versed in all aspects of our city,” explains Hollander. “We want to ensure that whether they interact with us on or offline, our visitors have access to all the tools and information they need to plan their holiday or business trip to Orlando.”

Delivering CX together

Of course, engaging with and attracting visitors to Orlando is only the first step of their customer journey. To retain their status as a life-long destination, the city has to live up to the high expectations they promise to visitors and deliver an unparalleled CX from the booking process through to when they board the plane to fly home.

“Nobody wants to be the weak link in the chain. The level of customer service required is understood by everyone from airport and transport staff to hotel porters and theme park operators through to golf course grounds staff and restaurant servers. Even our mayor started off as a dishwasher and was key to designing safety protocols that allowed us to open up, get people back to work and get visitors through the doors during the pandemic.

“Everyone in Orlando knows the importance of creating a magical experience for all of our guests.”

It is this common goal that drives competing businesses to get in the same room and work together to create “authentic, playful and fantastical” experiences. We all want to get people to visit Orlando, concludes Hollander. “And anything is possible if you can imagine it.”

This interview was also featured in a related article on on 19th April 2023. Read it here.

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