Carl Ribaudo, on strategy in the tourism industry


The word strategy is one of the most misunderstood words in the tourism industry marketing lexicon. To start, it is essential to understand the context of how the word is used. Ad agencies, pr firms, digital agencies, and the like use the term strategy within the context or function they are working to implement. For example, advertising agencies will often refer to implementing a branding strategy or an advertising strategy. A public relations firm will refer to implementing a communication strategy; likewise, a digital firm will tell you they are implementing a digital strategy.


From a market strategist perspective, the word strategy and its related term strategic thinking are used differently when it comes to Destination Marketing Organizations (DMO's) and tourism. When applied in this context, strategy and strategic thinking involve the creative development of unique insights and opportunities to create a sustainable competitive advantage for a DMO or a destination.


Ad agencies, public relations firms, digital agencies are talking about implementing the programs and tactics they are responsible to a DMO for their specific task. In contrast, the market strategist is concerned with how to change the competitive playing field to give a DMO or destination a sustainable competitive advantage.


At SMG Consulting, we develop DMO strategy differently. First, our approach is called Jazz. We call it that because it's spontaneous, improvisation unique and authentic to your destination. It starts with what's called an emergent approach. That it does not start in the traditional top-down approach but rather strategy emerges from your organization, destination, and community by listening to various voices and studying resident and consumer behavior patterns. Secondly, our strategy development is agile.


Agile planning is the ability of your organization to adapt rapidly to changes in the marketplace

Reduces the time to tangible value and results

It helps the DMO maintain momentum in implementing long-range strategic plans through shorter, iterative implementation cycles meeting both medium and long-term needs.

Enables DMO's the ability to pivot or adjust course to adapt to changes both inside and outside the organization

Agile organizations learn instead of just plan; your organization stays relevant because it's stable while being agile.


As you think about a strategy for your organization or destination, here are five questions you should ask:


1. Given the changing environment in which your organization operates, how do you know your current strategy is the best one?

2. What is the best strategy to create value for visitors, the tourism industry, residents, and local government?

3. What are the capabilities necessary to create value for your destination in the current and emerging environment?

4. Can you create unique tourism and organizational strategy that is not just a copy of your competitors? Or just an extension of what you did last year?

5. Do you have a clear understanding of how your tourism strategy will add value and increase your organization's competitiveness and destination? How will you bring about needed changes in your destination and organization? How will you deal with those resistant to change? How will you judge success?

As I mentioned previously, strategy can be a confusing concept. It’s essential to get it right!

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