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So, Your DMO has a New Strategic Plan, Now What?


Issue #18 (706 words/3 Minutes)


"If you plan, that's a way to guarantee losing. If you do strategy, it gives you the best possible chance of winning."

Professor Roger Martin, University of Toronto


You have a new strategic plan you have spent months choreographing and spent a significant budget on; now what? Well, if Professor Martin is right in his thinking, now might be the perfect time to reevaluate the process and the plan. As I reviewed in Part 1 of this three-part series Strategy is Not Planning. What you may have in your new strategic plan is a list of your organization's expenditures, not a strategy to win on the competitive playing field.

A great place to start is how your organization formulates a new strategy. Clearly, the kinds of strategies that would work before 2020 have changed as we see today's very different market environment and moving forward.

The essence of this article is about developing your organization's strategy to fit the situation. The situation for most DMOs before 2019 was pretty consistent as the industry had experienced a tremendous run-up in success post-2008 recession, and for the most part, planning had become routine. There was a strong economy, and many DMOs had plenty of money for tourism promotion; many jurisdictions had recognized tourism as an essential part of economic development. The market had become very consistent and predictable. But all that changed.

Underneath that success, significant issues were lurking; Overtourism had emerged internationally and was emerging in this country, climate change was once seen as a hurricane here and tornado there, and for the most part, DMOs, went about their business of promoting in a very stable environment. That is until 2020 and COVID which brought about many changes all at once.

Since then, many destinations have been impacted by forces that have reshaped the industry. Some of these changes include the following:

· REMOTE WORK

· CLIMATE CHANGE

· ECONOMIC SHIFTS

· IN-MIGRATION

· OUT-MIGRATION

· LODGING & HOUSING

· PRICING

As the marketplace has radically changed, it's imperative that DMOs also change how they create their strategy, if they create a strategy at all. In previous papers, we have articulated that just because you have a strategic plan doesn't mean you have a strategy. DMOs should consider developing a different strategy from their strategic plan. To do that, everything needs to be completely different. The strategic planning process and who's involved in developing a strategic plan may need to be augmented.

In a classic Harvard Business Review article, "Your Strategy Needs a Strategy," The authors identify four basic strategy-making typologies. They include the following:

Source: Your Strategy Needs a Strategy, Harvard Business Review

Organizations that correctly match their strategy-making process to the competitive circumstances they find themselves in will perform better than those that don't. Too many DMOs utilize approaches appropriate to a predictable environment.

For the DMO, a tremendous amount of change has occurred because of COVID. Things as affordable housing for the tourism industry employees, wages, and benefits for hospitality employees, Overtourism, climate change, the rise of resident involvement in tourism, and more. Additionally, many DMOs recognized they needed to shift to a new concept called destination management (albeit with mixed success).