5 inspiring stories from destinations making a difference

David Archer

8 June 2018

Our team is always looking for bright lights in the destination marketing industry – the stories that keep us optimistic and excited about the future of travel, tourism, destination marketing, and the way destination marketing organizations (DMOs) are improving people’s lives.

Readers of this blog are watching too. After reading one of our articles about profit and planet, Suzanne commented that when discussing goals for the destination, it’s important for DMOs to ask, “Whose profit?”

As in, who benefits most from tourism?

“Local community growth & benefit have to be part of the story, as should measurements around resource usage, environmental and local impact etc. Examples of how this is being done well that we are able to share will help,” she said.

So we thought we’d share some examples of DMOs and destinations that show they are committed to building a better community and seeing success beyond visitation numbers and revenue. These five destination marketing stories have recently inspired our team as we work to make the world a better place through travel.

Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A. – Destination Cleveland looks to expand its work

What’s inspiring: Destination Cleveland’s mandate is moving beyond destination marketing to management to make life better for residents. It seeks to “improve the places that are of interest to travellers and also play a role in public planning policy to help shape the kind of community residents want.”

This DMO – represented among our Forum 2016 alumni – knows that its value and relevance extends far beyond promotion and other traditional marketing activities. Visitor perception of Cleveland today is shaped in part by a recent groundswell of community support and, according to the study mentioned in the headline article, is one of the factors that affect Cleveland’s desirability as a place to live and work.

By recognizing and communicating this, Destination Cleveland has earned a voice at the table of community planning.

New Zealand – Foreign tourists to pay double to use New Zealand’s great walks

Profit and planet comment

Ray refers to our interview with Anna Pollock: Your DMO’s positive role in a new vision for profit and planet.

What’s inspiring: It’s a bold move to manage visitation. The government of New Zealand is responding to overcrowding at popular sites like the Milford Trail by imposing higher access fees for foreign visitors.

New Zealand could become an example for destinations facing similar congestion problems. Beyond managing crowds, the raised fees could also help disperse visitors to lesser-known sites, while keeping the trails accessible to locals, and providing much-needed funding for maintenance. Healthy tourism planning means more than economic growth.

Flanders, Belgium – How Visit Flanders affects lives through social media, inspiring people to visit Flanders Fields

What’s inspiring: Personal stories from a passionate community led to a meaningful impact on travellers and the destination.

Through a social media program called Flanders Fields 1914-18, Visit Flanders gives people a place to respectfully discuss the history and legacy of the First World War. The program has helped many learn about the war, explore personal heritage, and discover opportunities to travel and commemorate important dates during the Great War centenary. Our team at Destination Think is honoured to continue managing this effort and seeing its impact on people who travel to witness history first hand.

Slovenia – Tourism Board: Slovenia Should Aim for Boutique Status, Not Mass Tourism

What’s inspiring: The Slovenian Tourism Board (STO) is matching promotion with development by focusing on what it can do best, with an emphasis on sustainability.

“We must focus on niche, boutique tourism and the sustainability aspect of it is crucial,” said Milan Brglez of the Slovenian Parliament.

Through its Green Scheme, the STO encourages its operators to create 5-star experiences that the DMO will then help promote. Slovenia clearly understands the direct connection between positive word of mouth, experiences, and brand, while aiming to avoid the problems mass tourism can bring.

Victoria, B.C., Canada – The Ultimate South Vancouver Island Road Trip

What’s inspiring: It’s your daily reminder that a rising tide lifts all boats. Through this simple blog post, Tourism Victoria shows that its team considers the whole visitor experience, which sometimes includes the surrounding region of Vancouver Island.

Visitor experiences don’t begin and end at municipal borders, after all, and the DMO knows that one of Victoria’s strengths is its location. We see this kind of cross-promotion as a sign of meaningful cooperation that can be much more effective than competing with neighbours.

Tourism Victoria brand shoot collage

Tourism Victoria is in the midst of a Place DNA® and brand project with Destination Think. Here are a few photos from a recent video shoot. #ExploreVictoria

More on these topics:

Destination management

Boutique destinations and passionate communities


Destination Think is an international agency and consultancy of destination marketing specialists. Contact our team for help with cutting edge strategy and inspired execution.

Featured image credit: jchapiewsky, Flickr

1 Comment

  1. Gug Girard

    We here enjoy your articles very much. What is most impressive is you talk about the pros and the cons of DMOs. That is rare to see in a monopoly industry. We find you one of the more real tourism platforms online. Thank you. That being said, I am from Vancouver Island, Canada and know the region very well. For Victoria to say they are working with neighboring communities I know is inaccurate and just another spin-tactic by a monopoly. Communities like Sidney, Sooke, Port Renfrew, and even the Cowichan Valley have and still have to fend for themselves, with very little teamwork among themselves let alone Victoria. Dealing with some of the businesses in these communities on a regular basis this “love-in” Victoria is talking about is a tad on the wishful-thinking side.


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