I was recently asked to write a paper on the likely changing role of DMOs. Having spent my entire career working with this institution in various parts of the globe, and intending to do so going forward, I’ve a keen interest in an accurate answer.
This afternoon, two blog posts from very reputable sources caught my attention:
Douglas Quimby from Phocuswright wrote a post titled Destinations: The Online Marketing Disconnect, justifiably bemoaning the fact that DMOs seem so unwilling to move significant chunks of their marketing budgets into the online space. I don’t know Douglas personally, but hope to meet up with him at the PhocusWright Conference in Florida mid November. I imagine him to be a bright, talented Gen X or Yer who ”gets it” i.e finds it impossible to imagine how destinations couldn’t see the obvious benefits of playing aggressively in the online space.
The commentators to his post are each highly credentialed to speak and deplored the lack of appropriate measuring tools, lack of expertise and education. I suggested that the real problem is “culture” and to see why, please follow the thread…here. As further evidence of the challenge, I’d also recommend you read the last blog post from Vicky at Highland Business Research: It Shouldn’t be This Difficult. In this post, I can hear the frustrated anguish of someone who is incredibly talented and productive appear to hit a wall or be pushing a boulder up hill. I’m hoping it was her last blog post because she is sunning herself on a beach and has not given up the DMO community for good.
The second very different post was from a DMO executive – one of the leading lights in social media (and, don’t get me wrong, there are many very talented people in DMOs pushing the edge of the envelope- see my blog roll as a starter. Troy from Denver was writing for the new e-marketing and travel site called, Toonz.com that should be bookmarked quickly by anyone in travel marketing. His post was called How The Industry Will Save the World – so you can see why it got my attention!!
Troy has a brilliant reputation for applying social media to marketing destinations. So this was quite a step away from his normal territory. Having identified that climate change is an important issue, he appears to be applying travel marketers’ normal and contagious enthusiasm and proposes:
The time has arrived to lend our voice to the congregation and become a part of the solution. The travel industry…utilizing technology…can help lead the way.
Well I really hope so. And I welcome Troy and his highly talented e-marketing peers to join the conversation – quickly. But I doubt that the travel industry will save the world – if it’s at all fortunate, it might just save itself. But only if the DMOs recognize and own up to the fact that they are a major part of the problem. The transport cost of most international tourists constitute the bulk of carbon emissions. No one currently takes responsibility for that. Tourism has to change if it is to make a positive contribution to a very different economy that is emerging from the melting rubble of the old.
Take my word for it. There are no quick fixes. The current leadership of the tourism “industry” has first to shift its perception and see tourism as the analogue extension of the IT community – both simply connect people and places. They need to work together and fast to find a way of enabling the act of travel to coexist with the act of communication. Both have to find a way of delivering value without living beyond the physical means of the environment to support it.
In summary – there are two major forces threatening and re-shaping DMOs:
1. The need to deploy technology effectively or get out of the way; and
2. The need to ensure destinations can live within the physical limits set by the host environment.
DMOs could play a positive role in each endeavour but it will mean seeing things differently (a mindset shift); doing things differently ( a culture shift) and doing different things – a role change. Nothing serious – but certainly NOT “business as usual!!!”
To quote Troy – let the conversation continue but PLEASE may it soon lead to action. A good place to start is to join and support The Icarus Foundation, formed some 3 years ago to encourage the tourism industry to become more climate friendly.
But now we've started a conversation: what do think DMOs have to do to survive the next decade?
* DMO is the acronym used to describe Destination Marketing Organizations (responsible for attracting visitors to a place).