5 Reasons We Need Destination Marketing Organizations More Than Ever

October 08, 2021

We’re recovering. We’re rebuilding. We’re rethinking. For any destination to succeed in these efforts, it needs its destination marketing organizations to lead a concerted and solutions-oriented effort. It’s not just the tourism and service, however, that benefits from the DMO’s activities. Everyone in a destination is poised to reap rewards.

A DMO, or destination marketing organization, is central to the tourism efforts of a city, region, or country. Often funded by elements like hotel taxes, just about every single DMO worldwide was left with the wind knocked out of them during the pandemic. 

Now, however, by thinking more holistically about their destinations, leaders are proving that we need DMOs to do more than simply increase visitation.

This is new territory. Renewed calls for a DMO to participate in more of a destination stewardship approach accelerated during the pandemic. Now, it’s clear the DMOs will not only help guide recovery of local economies, but will help brand a destination as an advantageous place to live as well as visit.

For some DMOs, these conversations haven’t even begun, but they need to. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why we need DMOs more than ever before and get the ball rolling.

1. Unify partners

Without a destination marketing organization, a destination is a little like a kitchen staff without a head chef or a ship’s crew without a captain. All of the raw talent and potential is there, individually, but without guidance and leadership, there’s no way to get the job done together.

That’s where DMOs prove their worth.

A group of fragmented tourism partners in times of difficulty, especially an unprecedented pandemic, is hopeless. As we continue to recover, we are still reeling from the effects, but DMOs are the unifying force between partners in a destination. When it comes to streamlining health and safety practices, reopening, enforcing masks, local governments are of course at the helm, but having an advocating body like a DMO to express the interests of the local travel industry is a critical factor.

2. Create solutions

More than just unifying the ship’s crew, the DMO is the one who helps them navigate murky waters or dangerous icebergs, or who develops ways to avoid the sirens’ calls if mythology is more your thing!

The point is that DMOs create solutions. Perhaps without a destination marketing organization, hotels and restaurants could band together and figure out how to attract travelers, but eventually someone has to step up and take the lead. DMOs are the logical answer to that call. They are working for every partner and community member in a destination and succeed when they do.

As destinations seek creative solutions and innovations to bring back visitors in the short-term, DMOs are the ones providing the vision to allow hotels, restaurants, and other elements of the service industry to focus on their jobs without also having to worry about rebranding the entire destination.

3. Maintain branding

We keep saying it over and over, and the industry is not letting down on the idea. DMOs are here for visitors and locals alike. This shift has been almost tectonic in speed, but now it’s almost a mantra for many destination marketing organization leaders. From marketing to managing, Travel Weekly described it

Today, destinations need DMOs to be stewards of a brand that goes beyond the visitor experience, focusing also on elevating the local experience. The messaging is shifting from come visit to incorporate come live.

Concretely that could mean everything from branding a destination as a quality place to live or making decisions with community input. Either way, destination marketing organizations create a brand that encapsulates every aspect of a destination and includes everyone.

4. Act sustainably

It’s not just being eco-friendly. Sustainability means so much more than that. Instead, destination marketing organizations are forging paths to sustainable solutions to prevent future problems brought on by events like COVID in the long-term. No single restaurant or hotel could do that on their own. At least not effectively enough to benefit an entire destination.

By rethinking KPIs , re-evaluating funding , and creating new ways of operating moving forward, DMOs are imagining and enacting destination-wide action to stay ahead of any problems. Having experienced what happened when travel halted, they are helping their destinations stock up on solutions should another famine befall the industry, locally or globally.

No one in the tourism industry could have foreseen COVID per se, but the lessons learned will help the entire industry prepare better for whatever comes next, and DMOs will be pivotal for centralizing these preparations.

5. Build new bridges 

Destination marketing organizations traditionally served partners and visitors, but the new bridges being built with local communities is inspiring a new, revitalized role for these organizations. We keep talking about stewardship, and how a destination is a brand for everyone across the spectrum.

DMOs are the ones creating training programs for local students or soliciting communities for input before making big decisions or launching pervasive campaigns. If that doesn’t sound familiar to your DMO’s efforts, it’s high time to reassess your activity.

From a DMO perspective, this is exciting. From local community perspectives, this is a welcomed change of focus. Many leaders are insisting that their efforts at DMOs are not just for visitors and partners, but that their overarching goal is to better the lives of the residents while creating an attractive and inclusive destination.

Destinations need DMOs to continue expanding their scope of work and reinventing how they operate. The next challenge may not be as big as COVID, but by building a more developed and sustainable network of partners and local communities, a destination will be ready no matter what.

Interested in discussing how we need DMOs more than ever? With more than 60 years in the destination marketing business, DCI’s team has a lot to say on this particular topic. Get in touch with Karyl Leigh Barnes at [email protected] to get a conversation started and find out how we can bolster your DMO’s relevance in this reimagined normal.