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DMO Destination Management – What is Realistic?

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

Issue # 3 (839 Words/4 Minutes)

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DMO Destination Management – What is Realistic?

(One size does not fit all destinations)

While many DMOs have taken the lead on shifting from destination marketing to destination management, many of those plans have fallen short both in implementation and results. The reality is that DMOs who, over many years, have built sophisticated marketing and communication expertise and are the center of tourism promotion often times do not have the capability legally or administratively to implement policy changes to support destination management strategies and plans. They simply can’t make and implement policy or regulatory changes like a city or county can, or even like other agencies can such as the US Forest Service or state parks.

This recent article in Skift illustrates this challenge first-hand. The article “The Key to Hawaii Tourism’s Future Rests With State Elections in 2021” recognizes that true changes and destination management will ultimately rest with state and local makers. The key point in the article is that the Hawaii Tourism Authority doesn’t have the authority and all the powers needed to ensure the state embraces sustainable tourism growth. The article also points out that next year’s elections could be pivotal to elect candidates at the state level that do support destination management and tourism sustainability concepts.

My own analysis conducted for the Insights Collective Tourism Think Tank (located in Denver CO, of which I am a part of) also bears this out. We identified twenty-three destination management strategies for overnight and day visitors as well as for year-round residents and second homeowners. It is important to note that out of the 23 strategies identified, there were only six that a DMO actually had any control over.

The challenge of not having control over the implementation of a destination management plan is a major/considerable one for DMOs. For example, they don’t have budget availability to develop capital projects like a municipality can; they can’t change vacation rental ordinances, provide parking, manage trailheads etc. In fact, they control very little except communication.

But there is an additional challenge beyond not having the ability to implement needed policy or regulatory changes. A second challenge has to do with setting community expectations. From a community perspective, the most visible manifestation of peak tourism comes from residents concerned with traffic, crowding, and congestion everywhere, from the grocery store to parking lots at favorite trailheads. Additionally, residents are concerned with how some visitors impact the natural environment with overuse, parking issues, and often abandoned trash. It is because of this disruption and oftentimes the resulting political pressure from local government that many DMOs have moved to the destination management model. When a DMO develops and releases a destination management plan the local community expects the issues like crowding, traffic, and congestion to subside. A year or two later those sam