DMOs need to morph into DMMOs—Destination Marketing and Management Organizations—in order to align with the trends that are shaping travel and tourism in the very near future. Here’s a sneak peek at my upcoming keynote about this very topic.

By Chris Fair

As I prepared my keynote for the European Cities Marketing summit in Gdansk, Poland, later this month, I considered several ‘big questions’ facing the role of destination marketers around which I could build my talk, “From DMOs to DMMOs.”

The transformation of the destination marketing organization is so profound that the organization’s name itself is changing. Why now? And how should the DMMO move forward? Here are my thoughts on these foundational questions about the future of marketing and managing places.

1. Why at this point in time do DMOs have an important choice to make as they consider how to lead their destination’s success? Why didn’t this existential question loom large in previous years?

Destination Marketing Organizations have traditionally been focused on and measured by their success in driving hotel occupancy and the number of meetings and conventions held in a destination. But the rapid growth in global tourism has caused the ratio of visitors-to-locals to change significantly in cities ranging from Amsterdam to Asheville. And as tourism grows, residents in many cities and destinations are beginning to ask at what point growing tourist arrivals begin to detract from their local quality of life. So the perception of tourism can change quickly from being a nice addition to the local economy to a threat to local quality of life—and  DMOs can go from being perceived as community boosters to community detractors. Those DMOs that don’t get in front of this issue can quickly find themselves on the wrong side of this conversation.

2. As destination marketing organizations think about evolving into destination marketing and management organizations, they need to look at all aspects of a destination’s needs and overall development. What are some ways a traditional marketing organization can undertake such a massive new mandate?

DMOs currently have very little influence on city planning, policy and programming. The first step towards becoming a DMMO, in our view, is to foster stronger connections with government and planning authorities to make sure that tourism has a seat at the table. Creating a Tourism Master Plan in partnership with the city can be a good first step in this regard. The next step is developing the roles and responsibilities within the organization, with appropriate funding to support them, to ensure that the recommendations within the plan are implemented and monitored over time. Lastly, DMOs can play a more significant role in managing the guest experience within the destination. This goes way beyond staffing a visitor center, and should take into account how tourism affects the experience of locals as well.


Amsterdam city brand

Amsterdam empowered residents and city agencies with a nimble identity.

3. What are some new responsibilities and metrics for DMOs to drive and pay attention to under that new “management” M in their duties?

DMOs often monitor visitor satisfaction with the destination, but they rarely interact with local residents. Evolving into a DMMO means the organization needs to spend as much time communicating with, monitoring and measuring resident satisfaction as they do with visitors.

4. We all know the role that technology has played in driving and changing visitor behaviour. How can technology help with the management mandate?

Few industries have been more disrupted by technology than travel, and DMOs’ approach to marketing has changed significantly as a result. But for all of the attention paid to leveraging technology as a marketing channel, scant attention has been paid to how technology can be used to enhance and manage visitors’ experiences once they arrive in the destination. DMMOs should be modifying their existing digital channels or creating separate mobile-first websites, apps, and booking systems for visitors to access upon arrival so they can  better manage their own experiences, while the DMMO also deepens their connection to and knowledge of the visitors on the ground.

5. How can DMOs clearly communicate the “management” value they’re driving?

DMOs need to expand their roles within cities or destinations, and position themselves as the stewards and managers of the city’s brand—not only for tourism but for talent attraction and investment as well. No other organization in a destination has the funding or expertise to do it, and by assuming that role, a DMO can expand its value proposition to the community it serves.

6. What are some good examples of local or national organizations pivoting from marketer to manager?

We’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of destinations on these issues ranging from creating Tourism Master Plans for Vancouver and Portland, to an Event and Festival Strategy for Cleveland, and a Destination Development Strategy for Tulsa. The first step in the process is building a shared vision with the community for where you want to go and then creating a plan that articulates how you’ll get there. Of course, the plan is just the first step. Implementing it is the hardest part and that takes budget and staff to do so. DMOs like Dallas, which has appointed a Chief Experience Officer, and Cleveland, which has a Vice-President of Destination Development, are heading in the right direction.

Cleveland city brand

Cleveland created a “VP, Destination Development” role to help its management mandate.

All destinations face challenges that threaten their brand equity, perception and livability. The key to developing and managing a successful place brand for all cities and destinations today should start with an understanding of comparative advantages and weaknesses versus their competitive set. With data on more than 200 cities worldwide, Resonance can help your city—large or small—analyze and understand your key strengths and the differentiating characteristics that define your destination’s brand. To learn more about our approach to place branding, check out our services and expertise or get in touch.