This Is The Top Mistake Made By International Tourism Boards

June 26, 2024
Diverse staff working to avoid adopting a fully dedicated staff model.

What’s the easiest way to waste your destination’s marketing budget? Hire a marketing firm or agency and demand a “fully dedicated” account model for your destination.

This approach is a major misstep for international tourism boards entering the U.S. and Canadian markets, squandering funding annually. 

A tourism board assumes that having pseudo-employees who work full-time on their brand will increase market recognition. Spoiler Alert: No journalist, travel advisor, tour operator, or meeting planner cares. Literally… nobody….well, except the tourism board. 

The fully dedicated staffing model has inherent issues. It doesn’t leverage the agency’s value (why did you choose this agency as your representative in the market in the first place?) or maximize your investment in the market. Instead, it restricts the strategic inputs and collaboration that will provide the direct benefit your destination needs. 

Destination organizations are paying a lot of money for fully dedicated staff, and yet they are missing a huge opportunity to think bigger and be more effective. Let’s break down some of the pitfalls of a fully dedicated staff model at an agency.

1. You Will Limit Your Potential With Limited Perspectives

Fully dedicated account staff are focused on your destination’s needs. However, with this singular focus, they don’t always have a holistic view of what’s happening in the industry. 

How could they, when they are focused specifically on, say, implementing your surprise five-city roadshow in four weeks? This type of tunnel-vision means the perspective you are receiving is far more limited than your CEO believes it is.

Agencies have many people working in them who bring strategic intelligence to the table. But you are not accessing this broad intelligence when you have a fully dedicated team. 

Instead, in a fully dedicated model, you benefit only from the knowledge of the few staff who are in your business. Even when that team is amazing, you’re missing out on broader strategic input.

2. You Don’t Benefit from Cross-Functional Expertise

A team composed solely of dedicated account staff miss out on the benefits of vertical experts. Complex problems require complex solutions and having individuals involved with diverse skill sets and deep expertise leads to more innovative and effective solutions. 

Seeking input and collaboration from all aspects of an agency—creative, branding, digital, advertising, social, PR, etc.—results in a more holistic solution that benefits the destination.

In a fully dedicated model, a destination organization misses tapping the best brains in the agency and expecting your fully dedicated team to be a Jack of all trades. In America, we have a saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none.”

3. You Lose Opportunities To Innovate

Every destination wants innovative solutions to their marketing challenges. Innovation, however, arises from collaboration between different teams and disciplines. A fully dedicated team misses out on ongoing opportunities to bring fresh ideas and innovative solutions to you as a destination.

The exclusive focus on client interactions results in tunnel vision, where the team becomes overly fixated on immediate client needs and neglects broader market trends or competitive landscapes.

4. You Won’t Have Access To Human Resources When You Need Them Most

Every destination organization knows that marketing and sales programs have peaks and valleys throughout the year. There are even surprise shifts in direction for which you could not plan. Being flexible with agency talent ensures you can have the extra hands, and intelligence, exactly when you need them most. 

It allows you to staff up for a big roadshow, or shift entirely to a digital marketing strategy when time is of the essence. Unlike a fully dedicated team, flexible staffing allows for faster implementation of creative solutions by specialized individuals exactly when you need them.

5. Your Team will Face Burnout and Boredom

Destination organizations need to remember that individuals don’t join agencies to work on a single account. In our 60+ years of experience, we can tell you, fully dedicated team members get bored without a path to promotion or growth, which often is not available on fully dedicated accounts, since the budgets for professional fees are not increased annually. Few folks seek a promotion that doesn’t come with a raise.

Additionally, a fully dedicated team can face high workloads, especially in busy periods, trying to juggle robust demands without augmented support by others in the agency. Ultimately this leads to burnout. This impacts workers’ wellness, of course, but also the well-being of a destination’s marketing efforts. Neither is ideal.

6. You Will Depend Too Much on Individuals and Be Frustrated When They Move On

Relying on dedicated account staff can create dependency on specific individuals. This is a pitfall that many destination organizations don’t consider and only realize if a key account person leaves the agency, takes parental leave, or gets sick. Since the rest of the agency isn’t keyed into the destination, there is no one who can easily take over and keep the workflow streamlined.

An agency should be able to support a destination no matter who is sick or on leave. Heaping too much responsibility on one individual at an agency sets the destination organization up for headaches later. 

If a destination organization really wants a fully dedicated team, it’s more strategic to engage a staffing agency to build a new team that reports directly to you. You’re not getting what you’re paying an agency for anyway. If a destination organization wants to tap into an agency’s multi-faceted, diverse, and innovative strategies, then just be prepared to meet the broader team. You’ll stop wasting your money.

For destinations eager to collaborate with an agency and maximize their marketing potential, get in touch with Karyl Leigh Barnes, Tourism President, at [email protected] to learn more about working with DCI.

Written by

Karyl Leigh Barnes

President, Tourism Practice