In a recent webinar the CEO of the ETC (European Travel Commission), Eduardo Santander defined the DMO’s future role in tourism as being one to, “connect everyone in the ecosystem.” In all likelihood, he is right. For a start who else will fulfill the role? Surely it is not the local Marriott hotel, or a DMC or even the city council.
DMO’s occupy a privileged position as being seen to represent their region both impartially and for its greater good. Furthermore, sitting on the intersection of the public and private sectors is surely an ideal position to lead a partnership based recovery, inclusive of all stakeholders.
However, as always this is easier said than done. One prominent and successful National Tourist Office recently surveyed the travel trade in their own country and found that 70% judged visibility and engagement levels "insufficient." This begs the question, if this is the percentage in their own country, what are the levels in all of the international markets they wish to penetrate?
It’s already been established that much of the answer lies in the “M.” Destination “Marketing,” must become Destination “Management” with all the additional complexity and challenges that this suggests.
So what does this entail in practice? The following six points should be addressed:
1. Set a clear sighted strategy
In 2021 having a clear strategy is more important than ever. March 2020 pressed the reset button on tourist flows back to zero. Now there is the opportunity to plan a rebuild with a holistic strategy, one that is appropriate for the challenges of today and also recognises tourism’s problems that were all too apparent pre-pandemic. Copenhagen is gaining significant traction here, with a clearly defined character around all things sustainable.
But the impulses of the marketeers to lead, should also be held in check. Succeeding as a “Connector” will require more than marketing. Wider skillsets will be required to build a broad coalition of stakeholders to take forward as one community, rather than letting a minority of “power-brokers” call all the shots.
Moreover, passed an initial push, long term objectives may well be more complex than simply attracting more visitors to the city, region, or country. So what are the new KPI’s and how will these be achieved? Now is a good time for a smart rethink of routes to market. For example whilst a DMO night go it alone domestically, its highly likely that strategic collaboration will be required at a regional, national or even continental level to attract international travelers, all dependent on the source market involved.
2. Do “more with less”
Regardless of the funding model, the vast majority of DMO’s are being squeezed for cash. So how can money be spent wisely? Again partnerships are a compelling model. Funds pooled between cooperative entities with common goals can go further and be a win-win.
Further adaptation is also needed to the digital world. DMO’s need to figure out how digital assets can be used in conjunction with face to face meetings to achieve their aims. As a side benefit less time spent on airplanes will also benefit the carbon footprint, which is no bad thing.
3. Demonstrating the Return on Investment
All this will mean being smarter in demonstrating return on investment, and this needs data. Many initiatives still lack concrete data to support outcomes, especially in the off-line world. DMO leaders should up their efforts to find better data-driven solutions to support their decision making.
4. … And deliver a more nuanced message
It’s accepted that “bums on seats” might not a good strategy in a Post-Covid world. Tourism will therefore become more complex. This means personalising messaging to niche groups; as well as publicising experience based events and more rural destinations. All this to support their coalition of stakeholders.
How can this be done with purpose and authenticity? Better education is clearly a more sustainable way of achieving this long term goals, rather than one shot marketing communication that is here today and gone tomorrow.
5. … And adapt to a digital environment
New technology in the e-learning space can be invaluable for this purpose. Such tools have the capability to cultivate the education needed, build a community, as well as provide the all-important data to justify the ROI. They also facilitate the dynamism to respond to the fast moving realities of the digital-age.
However a key problem is overcoming the “fear factor” of making such investments. DMO leaders need to gain the skillsets in making smart, well informed choices. These must reinforce the strategy, not act as a substitute. Often a pragmatic approach is best, adopting a variety of well-priced tools to piece together a “jigsaw” approach, as opposed to a single “big bang” solution.
6. … And don’t forget the travel trade
As travel becomes more complex, both due to the hardening of borders as well as a long term shift to unique experiences and personalisation; then the travel trade becomes ever more central to a strategy. There is evidence that consumers (especially high paying ones) are more committed than ever to using the services of travel professionals. So DMO’s must develop strategies to engage with tourism professionals, improving their knowledge and using data to support results.
Do you have thoughts on the above to contribute? We’d be pleased to speak further at LVG Learning.