The following is Part 1 of a two-part essay on how DMO's need to not only going beyond the tourism industry for economic and other information and the benefits of broadening their information system. Part 2 to be published next week advises DMO’s to not just rely on one prediction, forecast or preferred outcome. But rather look to a verity of scenarios and plan accordingly.
For years DMO's have developed both an informal and formal way to collect information. Most of this information has centered around visitors and potential visitors, and most DMO's have gone to great lengths to capture visitor profile information, website user date, perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors of current and potential visitors. This kind of information impacts marketing decisions, including messaging and resource allocations. Likewise, periodically DMO senior executive collects information on the broader has implications of the organization. Economic information, social trends, legal issues, etc. that impact the overall impacts on the organization as a whole. The sum of all these activities has become an information strategy for DMO's. The process information collected can be a formal process and information process or both.
But the current Covid19 crisis is forcing DMO's to re-think their what might have been a more passive approach to the information to a much more urgent need. In the crisis of COVId19, DMO's are searching for the answer to one question. When will this be over and return to some level of ordinary? To get that information, most DMO's have turned to industry sources, either vendor economic firms, state tourism offices, or Brand USA. Theses sources have been the "go-to" for years, and so there is an excellent comfort level there. Much of this kind of sourced data has made its way into presentations and marketing plans without a second thought. As might be expected, many DMO's turned to these same sources for insight as to when this crisis would be over. As we move into the second month of what could be a very prolonged situation, it's clear that many of the sesame industry sources forecasts are off the market, many reports have been published, and many "experts' have been quoted. Still, these forecasts and opinions have been wide of the mark. One reputable firm suggested the trough would be April, and full recovery would start in June. Another, the CEO of MMG Worldwide, suggested: "The hopeful among us, however, will recognize that this will be over relatively soon, and albeit difficult to see, perspective and future planning is now what is necessary."
Neither of these seems to ring right, yet many DMO's are looking for that elusive answer. Why were they and others off the mark? We now know these examples, and others like them were overly optimistic. The tourism industry is looking for optimism, but that may not be realty. What could be the reasoning as to why they are wrong? For one reason, many forecasts often look backward for insight. Forecasters have looked at the 2008 recession, the 9-11 tragedy, Ebola virus, and more looking for any kind of idea they can find. It reminds one of those days when water diviners would look to find water with a unique y shaped stick.
We think the Covid19 crisis offers DMO's an excellent opportunity to re-think their information's target. The challenge is for DMO's to understand the situation better to improve your organization's survival for some and effectiveness during the Covid19 crisis. But how can and organization do that using the same tools and approaches in a completely different situation? One the industry has never seen before. We are going to suggest at worst you can't, or at best it's tough to do.
We think the time is right for DMO's to re-think their information strategy. How? First, define your goal information system goal. For example, Make the best possible decision for your DMO and Destination. Given the information available, the decision process should make the choice that produces the best results for the organization. How can you do that?
Broaden your sources of information beyond the tourism industry.
Think in terms of scenario outcomes, not just one result.
Why does broadening your organization's sources of information matter? The most important reason for getting broad input outside the tourism industry is that it increases the quality of the decision. Combining information from as many reputable sources will produce a better outcome than just using information from within the industry.
Here is a basic framework to consider for your organization's information strategy. As you can see, if your organization is relying primarily on industry sources, you are missing a whole segment of information and perspectives that may be impactful and useful to your efforts.
Here is a sample of sources OUTSIDE the tourism industry that may provide you with a broader perspective and insight into your organization's efforts.
What's the point? If the majority of information sources originate from the industry, you will tend only to get an inside out view of the world. The goal of broadening and redefining your organization's information system is to create an outside-in look to complement the one you have.
There is no question the Covide19 crisis has been crushing on the tourism industry. But in every crisis, there is an opportunity, and re-thinking your information strategy could be one. After all, the forecast and predictions, you have seen so far have been full of the mark. It might be time to make changes and, in the process, broaden your perspective.
About SMG Consulting
SMG Consulting located in South Lake Tahoe is a strategy consulting firm specializes in the tourism and recreation industry. For more information www.smgonline.net