The Destination Think team has researched the challenges faced by the world’s leading destination marketers. Through an extensive series of 2016 interviews with dozens of destination marketing organization (DMO) leaders from Norway to Australia, Israel to Greenland, the Maldives to the Netherlands and from Canada south to the USA, we have learned the most important issues and the most exciting opportunities that they see for their destinations. The results are compiled below.

It’s clear that almost everyone we talked to in the industry is struggling to find the right organizational strategy, structure and business model to deal with the upended landscape and a new consumer economy.

Here, we have grouped the leading 50 concerns into four main themes, and highlighted another – leadership and organizational change. These are the greatest challenges that DMO leadership told us they face:

Profit and Planet

  1. Generating short-term revenue without compromising long-term planning
  2. Managing, developing and improving destination experiences
  3. Capacity planning and establishing organizational requirements to meet changing consumer needs
  4. Ensuring accessibility and adjusting to an aging population
  5. Developing sustainable tourism products, addressing impacts and planning responsibly
  6. Creating systems that identify environmentally friendly tourism experiences, aka “green labelling”
  7. Creating new pricing strategies
  8. Reviewing socio-economic impacts and developing destinations without compromising quality of life for residents

Cost and Revenue

  1. Seeking out alternative funding models and new opportunities in order to secure budget and create long-term strategies
  2. Considering tourism taxes, levies, grants and assessment opportunities
  3. Exploring unique hybrid, mezzanine financing or crowdsourcing funding models
  4. Making the best use of new measurement capabilities in order to prove relevance to stakeholders and the return on the potential for investment
  5. Shifting away from a reliance on government funding models
  6. Collaborating with industry, and new stakeholder partners
  7. Communicating value to stakeholders, government and residents
  8. Securing future revenue come in an economy fragmented by companies like Airbnb
  9. Measuring the economic impact of marketing efforts

Product and Promotion

  1. Addressing how consumers are shaping destination marketing through digitalization and democratization
  2. Using and learning new tools and technology to provide measurement
  3. Measuring brand efficacy
  4. Moving from inflated marketing promises towards more honest or modest approaches in order to under-promise and over-deliver
  5. Filling seasonality gaps in visitation
  6. Examining the role of visitor servicing in an environment where people use technology and are more connected than ever before
  7. Dealing with the impact of an always shifting social media landscape and access to dozens of content marketing tactics
  8. Identifying a destination’s “inner DNA” in order to brand and market itself effectively
  9. Moving from mass to niche marketing and the effects on destinations
  10. Measuring and managing word-of-mouth communication about your destination
  11. Evaluating and implementing consumer feedback, and determining what to measure across all digital and traditional media
  12. Setting effective KPIs and establishing or contributing to industry standards
  13. Understanding the whole of the buying cycle and identifying where to focus strategy
  14. Attracting and managing specific foreign visitors
  15. Identifying cost-effective digital strategies to affect niche segments and best practices to approach this. Where in the buying cycle do we find them?

Community and Collaboration

  1. Managing fragmented earned media at scale
  2. Co-ordinating the destination experience and managing the destination story
  3. Collaborating with the traditional tourism industry in more creative ways to secure funding, and market more efficiently
  4. Working with other partners, including culture, heritage, sports and nature departments for funding and promotion
  5. Leading and collaborating with industry to bring tourism product up to standard
  6. Engaging local residents in tourism promotion in order to gain valuable internal advocates
  7. Sharing the authentic stories of consumers, influencers and advocates
  8. Improving trade relationships
  9. Finding innovative ways to work with new non-traditional partners
  10. Engaging the industry and working collectively in order to develop product that gets people talking
  11. Collaborating with local advocates in sector niches in order to attract MICE market

Leadership and Organization

  1. Refining approaches to change management
  2. Improving collaboration between global offices
  3. Ensuring efficiency as an organization adapts to the change in consumer behavior, tools and technology
  4. Working effectively with limited resources and budget
  5. Changing long-held processes and mindsets from within
  6. Demonstrating value as a business unit within an organization
  7. Securing buy-in from the board of directors

From these 50 challenges, we’ve also identified key themes and created a four-part series for further exploration. These are:

1. Profit and Planet – A new way of thinking about the supply chain. Can we see problems as solutions?
2. Cost and Revenue – New ideas imply new business models. Can we apply creativity to rethink the way we produce revenue?
3. Product and Promotion – Develop what you promote and promote what you develop. Are you equipped to create experiences?
4. Community and Collaboration – People, not product, are your most important assets. Can you market a destination and attract visitors without engaging residents?

The conversation doesn’t stop here. Do these challenges resonate with you and your organization? Which of them are most important to your DMO? Which is the greatest challenge? Which ones are we missing?

Featured image credit: Will Fisher, Flickr


  1. Zafer Cengiz

    DMO Approach clarified: Destination*Marketing* is necessary BUT not sufficient- Since the need for “Destination*Management* requires to be provided” in order to attain regional production of all services towards the best practices in efficiency and effectiveness!

  2. Gaynel Marie McCary

    Destination Marketing goes hand-in-hand with Destination Management.
    In essence…DMO has evolved into DMMO these days.
    NEL in Vero Beach, Florida!


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