Ask the leadership of most major destination marketing organizations (DMOs) around the world about their primary challenges (we did, here, in this 50 challenges by 50 DMOs article), and “collaborating with stakeholders and partners” ranks well up there.
Today’s destinations need to ensure that these elements are a part of their strategy, if they’re not already: seeking new ways to co-ordinate the destination experience; partnering with traditional members of the tourism industry to establish new sources of revenue or to market collaboratively, creatively and efficiently; improving relationships with Trade and Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events (MICE) groups; and reaching out to non-traditional partners or sector niches in order to work collectively.
Our chief strategist William Bakker believes that collaboration requires a culture shift, and that a change in culture has to come from the top down AND from bottom-up.
“At the top, it’s really important that CEOs and executives help their stakeholders understand that yes, we are going to take some risks and we are going to make some mistakes, but we’re going to move forward and this really is the only way.
“There are tons of examples to draw from the private sector, the Googles, the Facebooks. How many times has Google launched a product that didn’t work, before they killed it? Or Apple, for that matter? But they keep moving forward. DMOs need to get their stakeholders comfortable with that approach.
“And on the product side and experience side, a DMO is the only organization that can protect its brand and reputation by bringing the right people together behind a common vision, a common story and a common brand, and can then deliver on it. Individual businesses deliver on their own individual pieces.
“The DMO’s responsibility is to bring all the pieces together and act as a leader.”
Do DMOs agree? Heidi Sørvig, CEO of USUS AS (formerly Visit Sørlandet – Southern Norway) certainly does, and is one leader in industry development and collaboration. Meanwhile, efforts are shifting at other DMOs around the world.
We asked the world’s most innovative DMOs for their thoughts on working with stakeholders in this changing tourism ecosystem. Destination marketing CEOs and leaders who attended our Destination Think! Forum in New York City shared their insights as part of our Leading Thinkers interview series.
Here’s how some destinations view and are addressing the need for collaboration.
On building new partnerships and networks
“The definition of the ‘visitor economy’ has contributed to new partnerships. More and more related sectors got convinced (and evidence) that leisure and/or business travellers contribute to their business and bottom-line, e.g. retail or culture. Subsequently this has led to a more open attitude toward partnership and cooperation.
Some of the key benefits/solutions [of Holland’s public-private partnership model] are strong connectivity and alignment between long-term and short-term interests and goals (i.e. awareness and conversion), sharpness and marketing effectivity due to the involvement of ROI-driven private partners, and financial commitment (beyond moral support).
The PPP model fits our DNA, which is expressed in what we’d like to call the “polder model”: coming to a joint agreement/compromise based on a joint interest or goal and as a result of intensive involvement and interaction of/with all relevant stakeholders.”
–Jos Vranken, Managing Director at NBTC Holland Marketing
“[One of Destination British Columbia’s new strategic pillars] involves asking how we can create a more powerful network of businesses and DMOs. That speaks to how we can share information and insights among all DMOs so that they can plan more effectively. This includes the regional and community DMOs in British Columbia. We have a vast amount of knowledge we hold quite closely, as we start to plan.
We would like to inform this network with the best and most current insights. We looked at other ways to create more efficiencies using technology tools. If we’re all trying to develop and use technology, we probably could do it a more efficient way if we define what the tool is, and look towards scaling it and allowing it to be used by everyone. That way, we save everyone the costs of duplicating that effort.”
–Grant Mackay, DBC’s Vice President of Destination & Industry Development
On leading the destination to a common goal
“One important question for today is, how can you get your industry all working together? One of the challenges in the tourism industry, wherever you are, is communication. Robert Skrob, Executive Director of the Florida Association of Destination Marketing Organizations, once told me that our business is about leading a parade, not speaking to an audience. You have to consistently communicate what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and how partners can get involved and leverage it.”
–Will Seccombe, President & CEO of VISIT FLORIDA
“Ensure that everyone who profits from tourism is contributing to it. In Switzerland, shopping, finance, medical services, watch making, etc., are making big bucks from tourism, but just a few are actually supporting the industry. Second, “pro up!” Tourism staff are seen as nice, friendly and creative people but often lack the image of tough negotiation partners. We had to learn this the hard way and too many times our partner was way ahead of us with tactical negotiation skills and rhetorical brilliance.”
–Martin Nydegger, Director of Business Development at Switzerland Tourism
On improving the destination’s experiences through bold collaboration
“To be able to create state-of-the-art experiences, we need to work on the development of the product within the destination and create product experiences that first, match our destination’s DNA, second, meet high standards for quality, and last but not least, are tailored to certain markets or market segments. To make this happen, we also need to involve and work closely with tourism and other stakeholders responsible for delivering these experiences.”
–Elke Dens, Marketing Director at VisitFlanders and Chair of the Marketing Group at the European Travel Commission (ETC)
“Without a doubt, our top priority is to take advantage of a momentum and community self-confidence not seen in decades, and not be afraid to take risks in the process. We need to coordinate the efforts of our entire staff and an ever-expanding number of partners and collaborators, giving each a stake in the outcome.
“It is like sticks that we constantly rub together. The more we do it, the more sparks fly.”
–David Gilbert, President & CEO at Destination Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission and the 2016 Republican National Convention Host Committee