Tag: Destination Management Organization

DMOs destination management planning across many maps

DMOs are crucial organizations within the tourism industry. They were primarily established to promote destinations. However, with the rapid growth of tourism, the need for its sustainability and management of the sector eventually emerged. Therefore, whether DMOs should focus only on marketing or broaden their activities and be a management organization is part of the future agenda. At Solimar, we have seen time and time again why the M in DMO must also be about destination management, and not just destination marketing.

Let’s define what a DMO is, what roles they fulfill within a destination, and find out why these roles are mostly related to the management of the destination:

What is a DMO? 

DMO stands for Destination Marketing/Management Organization. At times, the role of a DMO is mistakenly perceived to be limited to the marketing efforts, but in reality, DMOs contribute majorly to the development aspects of a destination too. Effectively, the UNWTO defines it as “the leading organizational entity which may encompass the various authorities, stakeholders, and professionals and facilitates partnerships towards a collective destination vision”. Thus, DMOs are not only about marketing, but also about management. But what do DMOs manage exactly? 

DMO destination management planning with brainstorming

Why are DMOs important? 

Originally DMOs were established to competitively market the destinations by image-making, branding, and advertising what a place has to offer to tourists. However, in order for a destination to be successful, applying good marketing strategies or setting up an outstanding promotional campaign is no longer enough. Strategic management of the destination is also extremely important. Thus, it is clear that for the future of more sustainable tourism, DMOs must take the lead, as they hold the skills and the knowledge to support the destination through the management of tourism activities. Additionally, they have the ability and the tools to monitor the destination’s performance, allowing them to create the most suitable and sustainable approach to destination development. 

To effectively manage a destination, DMOs should:

  1. Manage the variety of different stakeholders involved in tourism. This is also connected to the creation of a common website platform, where stakeholders can engage and contribute to the destination’s development
  2. Consult visitor-related sectors, namely, accommodation, food and other services related to tourism. To this regard, DMOs also facilitate the introduction of quality standards in service
  3. Help communities become more visible. Developed and advanced communities raise the sense of pride among their residents
  4. Support local economies
  5. Encourage sustainable development of tourism

As shown, apart from marketing and brand image creation, DMOs can truly contribute to developing sustainable destinations.

destination development planning

What is destination management?

DMOs are vital for touristic destinations, especially where national or local governments struggle to manage and control all the activities related to tourism. DMOs are especially crucial in the destinations with emerging economies and the tourism sector. The roles of DMOs involve destination development, management of all the available assets and monitoring of the tourism impacts at the destination. DMOs’ ultimate goal is to maintain the destination successful, competitive, and socially and economically developed, and in order to achieve that, it is necessary to create and implement the destination’s development plan. 

Destination Development 

DMOs’ main role is destination development. Destination development includes a range of different activities, such as marketing efforts, improvement or diversification of tourism products and quality of the services supplied. For DMOs, it is crucial to create a development plan which will lead all the activities in the short or long-term perspective. With the development plan, DMOs set the target goals and indicators for businesses, communication, marketing and product development. All the actions taken by the local stakeholders and the DMO itself should be in line with the destination development plan. 

Much of Solimar’s work is oriented on destination development, as many destinations and, consequently, DMOs need facilitation and support at their early stage. 

cityscape scaled DMO Destination Management

Management and coordination of destination assets 

Every destination comprises a variety of resources provided by different organizations, and these resources need to be coordinated accurately to develop a competitive and sustainable tourism offer. The development and maintenance of a tourism destination is a complex process, and it requires a strategy capable of generating and sustaining synergy among all the various elements involved in the sector. 

Local stakeholders, entrepreneurs, government, citizens and visitors have their own roles at the destination, and they are all part of the development process. It is the DMO’s prerogative to bring together representatives from each group to establish integrated and regular interactions and collaborations. These collaborations are essential to create the tourism product, the destination strategy, policy and crisis management plans to foster investments and funding and to evaluate the overall destination’s performance. Moreover, DMOs are also expected to provide services related to the improvement of physical and human resources, supply assistance and advice for hospitality and tourism businesses.

Solimar International’s examples of DMO and asset management

Solimar recognizes the value and importance of DMOs – collaborating with them is a key part of many of our projects. But most importantly, we strategically assist destinations where such institutions are inexistent, but are essential for a sustainable tourism development.

For example, in our current project USAID Visit Tunisia, we are supporting the country in differentiating its tourism offer by promoting six lesser known regions in the country. In most cases, tourism in Tunisia is solely managed by the national tourism organization. The lack of regional DMOs compromises these emerging destinations’ possibility to create and implement a tourism strategy and development plan adequate enough to support the emerging destination and its success. 

For this reason, Solimar is assisting these destinations by encouraging and facilitating the dialogue between the public and private sector and the local communities at a regional level. Under the guidance of our expert Solimar team, the local stakeholders are collaborating and drafting destination development plans, which they are also using to advocate for a local DMO to be established with the help of the national tourism organization. Through this project, we are also supporting Destination Dahar, the first DMO in the country. 

destination Dahar sunset

Why DMOs must monitor tourism impacts

As the tourism market and destinations change and evolve, they create an immediate urge of monitoring the impacts created by the tourism activities. This is crucial to evaluate and manage the change and respond to the challenges.

The main goals of monitoring are:

  1. To understand the effects of tourism
  2. To identify improvements or/and challenges. This will help the future planning and response
  3. To enable destinations to remain competitive

Another aim of monitoring is to find out how strategic goals of the destinations are met and measure the main indicators of the destination development. Monitoring impacts helps DMOs collect data on tourism activities. This facilitates the process of analyzing the tourism impacts and coming up with an adequate response, in particular to the most challenging ones. This way DMOs stay responsible, accountable, and fulfill their strategic goals.

DMOs destination management planning across many maps

DMOs track positive and negative impacts of tourism

Monitoring tourism impacts covers the following main areas: economic, social and environmental. Tourism impacts can be seen as negative and positive. Growing number of visitors positively contributes to the economic growth within the destination. However, it can also cause some threats to the cultural and natural assets of the destination if not managed and controlled properly. For example, in the case of cultural heritage, not well-managed visitor flows can cause damage to the sites.Or in the case of nature, tourism can cause major environmental challenges. 

As seen above, monitoring helps DMOs to evaluate tourism impacts and take the appropriate measures. Various projects implemented by Solimar across the globe cover supporting development of DMOs and naturally, this involves facilitating them to acquire different roles, including monitoring the tourism impacts and effectively responding to it. Solimar’s ongoing project Bangladesh Ecotourism and Conservation Alliance envisages supporting one of the most important protected areas – the Sundarbans. With the project, Solimar works to implement a series of interventions in order to improve tourism and natural resources management in the area. One of the outcomes is creating a local DMO, which will unite the private and public sector and contribute to the conservation of the protected areas through sustainable governance. 

Sundarbans Destination Management

So, why must DMOs make this shift?

DMOs facilitate the social and economic development of the destinations. This is especially important in the case of societies where tourism and the economy are in their emerging phase. In this process, fulfilling merely a marketing goal is not enough. Through proper management and leadership, DMOs can create inspiring and attractive destinations that will contribute to their socio-economic growth. 

 Interested in discovering how Solimar can support the management of your destination? Find more information about our services and training courses. And don’t forget to check out more Solimar blog posts to learn everything about the importance of DMOs: here and here.

Blog by Veronica Santapa and Teona Zhuzhunadze

Regenerative travel allows you to ethically view some of these stunning sites

Why Regenerative Tourism is the Industry’s Future

When not managed or appropriately planned, tourism can be a very extractive process that comes at the expense of local people and their homes. Often, multinational tourism companies capitalize on popular destinations to the detriment of residents. These destinations are “mined” for labor, culture, land use, and natural features. Extractive tourism, a term coined by academic Vijay Kolinjivadi, contributes to climate change and environmental degradation and commodifies indigenous traditions. Local residents are often priced out of their homes due to the gentrification caused by tourist demand to be catered to.

Sustainable tourism is the first step toward counterbalancing the destruction caused by traditional tourism. The goal here is to make tourism a neutral force in destinations, causing no net harm–but also no net benefit. Regenerative tourism takes a step beyond sustainability; it encompasses the notion that tourism should leave a place better than before, taking a holistic approach to improving the well-being of destinations. Often, regenerative tourism operations offer visitors concrete ways of participating in conservation activities to increase their appreciation of the destination.

What Does Regenerative Tourism Do for the Planet?

Regenerative tourism operations require tourism professionals to brainstorm creative ways to minimize environmental impacts. Nature-based solutions integrate natural processes into the built environment to increase resilience, and are great methods for creating a regenerative tourism framework. These solutions can be big or small, ranging from building submerged structures for coastal wave-breaking and substrate for coral colonization to making plates out of locally-grown bamboo instead of plastic or paper. Nature-based solutions, implemented within a regenerative tourism plan, can help make tourism a force for good in the world. If every tour in a destination contributed to restoring the landscape, the positive change tourists could bring would be enormous!

Regenerative tourism does not only apply to previously damaged ecosystems, however. When starting a new tourism operation, it is essential to consider its possible effects on the environment. Implementing a regenerative plan before damage can even begin helps to ensure that tourism professionals do not create future problems for themselves. Keeping rivers clear, forests green, and beaches clean guarantees that tourists can continue to enjoy a destination for years to come. An unhealthy ecosystem can cause severe damage to a tourism operation’s bottom line; healing the environment as the market grows ensures business can stay booming. After all, you can’t offer snorkel tours if there are no fish to see. Regenerative tourism provides the promise of stability in both the natural and business worlds.

Sundarbans Forest in Bangladesh
Preserving natural beauty, like in the Sundarbans Forest of India and Bangladesh, is a significant part of any regenerative vacation

What Does Regenerative Tourism Do for People?

Regenerative tourism is not only focused on the restoration of the natural environment. On the contrary, it is deeply concerned with the experiences of people. First and foremost are the residents of a travel destination. Regenerative operations are either run by or look to partner with local communities. This ensures that tourism dollars flow into the destination, not the pocketbooks of outside investors.

Close relationships with local and indigenous peoples also allow for the concrete preservation of cultural heritage. Native residents can choose how to present their traditions to visitors rather than having foreign companies commodify their way of life. It can even increase local support for tourism!

Many popular destinations have become the victims of “overtourism,” or the congestion of a location by tourists, which locals perceive to have a detrimental effect on their own quality of life. The indigenous of Hawai’i, in particular, have been righteously hostile to tourists for several years, with some factions pushing for a complete halt of visitor traffic. However, a recent study in the Journal of Travel Research suggests that regenerative tourism models make tourism much more palatable for Hawai’i residents, with 96.3% of 463 respondents looking favorably to tourists who would participate in conservation activities.

regenerative tourism helps with impacts of crowds
Crowds of irresponsible tourists can reduce local support for tourism

Why Should Travelers Look for These Tourism Opportunities Moving Forward?

Booking a trip from an organization that uses regenerative tourism strategies can contribute to peace of mind, as visitors know that they aren’t promoting the destruction of the ecosystems they want to experience. These tours may not be the most well-known, but that doesn’t mean they offer a lower-quality experience. Many of them are hidden gems that give travelers unique opportunities for interaction that other tours could never provide, with smaller group sizes making for a more personalized adventure.

Local guides are a great way to support a local economy
Utilizing local guides makes for a smaller and more tailored experience for tourists.

Experiential tourism is the name of the game these days, with travelers wanting to pursue immersion over superficial encounters. Regenerative tourism operations allow visitors to get their hands dirty with activities such as planting native trees, clearing invasive plant species, and removing fishing gear and other plastics from water bodies. Local guides offer in-depth glimpses of the reality of life in these locations. These enterprises seek to create a culture of reciprocity with residents, allowing both sides of the tourism equation to learn from each other. Tourists who participate in these kinds of regenerative pursuits have reported feelings of deep satisfaction and connection with nature and are likely to continue these behaviors upon returning to their homes.

picking up trash is a meaningful way to contribute to a place
Participating in conservation activities, like beach clean-ups, makes visitors feel more connected to a destination.

On a more practical note, a 2021 study by Booking.com found that 68% of tourists want to ensure that their money goes to an operation that supports local people and is distributed equitably. On a regenerative trip, visitors can be sure that their money supports the people who live and work at these destinations. Residents are the people who have the power to keep the world’s favorite travel destinations clean, biodiverse, and economically stable while offering an honest look into their cultures.  Recreational travel through regenerative tourism helps to support a bright future for the tourism industry on all sides.

To learn more about regenerative tourism and why it is the future of our industry, check out our Director of Conservation & Community Development Chloe King’s white paper about regenerative tourism here. You can also see Solimar’s regenerative tourism projects on our website.

Blog by Annie Combs and Deanna Elliott

digital marketing displayed in times square

The digital era is synonymous with a time of constant change. Innovations are transforming industries at incredible speed. The travel and tourism industry is no exception. Technology is driving the way in which travellers are searching, accessing and consuming travel content. But how much has the industry changed? Find out below! 

digital destination marketing remote beach vacation

According to Wex’s US Travel Trends Report 2019, technology influences the imagination and preparedness of travellers today – this cannot be overstated. More recently, Google Trends insights highlighted that the pandemic has resulted in consumers having even higher digital expectations.  They have adopted new digital habits, and changed their online behavior as a result.  Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) therefore need to understand the value of digital destination marketing as an essential part of the marketing strategy. Digital is now the norm and a tool to reach consumers around the globe.

Digital marketing refers to all marketing that uses an electronic device or the internet.

But, what is digital destination marketing?

According to HubSpot, digital marketing refers to all marketing that uses an electronic device or the internet. Today, 65% of global travel and tourism sales are made online (Statista 2021), leading digital marketing to be even more important than traditional marketing. DMOs can creatively engage with potential visitors to raise awareness for its products and services, increase visitation, and maximize benefits for all its stakeholders. 

Now more than ever, digital destination marketing matters. Destination Management Organisations are facing high competition for tourism dollars.  They must not only find the right customers, but they also must standout, inspire, and engage them in the most effective and efficient way. Digital marketing facilitates these goals.  

What is the value of digital destination marketing?

1. From local to global 

As DMOs look to grow visitation, targeting new geographical markets are a logical step. Digital marketing brings a destination’s products and services to an audience anywhere in the world.  Whether prospecting for new visitors using social media campaigns, or launching a paid search campaign, a destination can expand its presence beyond its immediate geographical vicinity.

2. Focused targeting

Using detailed customer data, perhaps from its website, DMOs can position its offering directly in front of its ideal consumer, that is, the audience which is highly likely to be interested. Messages can be personalized to increase the level of engagement with different segments. This reduces the wastage experienced in traditional marketing where one broad message is used to target everyone. Solimar’s work with destinations like Namibia integrates digital platforms in the marketing strategy to enhance the country’s awareness to its targeted audience.

3. Improved measurability

Tracking the results of traditional marketing activity is near impossible. With digital marketing, DMOs can see detailed performance throughout the life of the campaign. They can see precisely which activity is achieving their goals, and use this data to drive revenues and increase profitability.

4. Campaign agility

Due to its very nature, digital campaigns allow companies to make improvements at any point. Close monitoring provides data in real time and adjustments can be made rapidly. As a result, funds are spent smarter with less wastage. 

Virtual reality transports travellers to the destination through a multi-sensory experience

What are the top digital marketing trends to inspire a DMO’s strategy in 2022?  

1. Everything must be mobile, mobile, mobile

According to 2018 Google research, 45% of US and 48% of UK smartphone users are comfortable using a mobile device to research and book their entire trip to a new travel destination. Therefore, a ‘mobile first’ strategy is essential. DMOs will want to ensure that any action which they inspire consumers to take online, is easy to achieve on a mobile device. 

2. Content is King 

Content is at the heart of digital marketing. It refers to everything from text and images to video and audio, and more. It has the potential to increase search rankings, drive visibility to the right audience, enhance brand image and build brand authority. As travellers do more streaming and posting of content online, DMOs can reap big rewards with storytelling which showcases the authenticity of its products and services.

3. Go virtual

Accelerated during the pandemic, virtual tours are used to transport travellers through a multi-sensory experience. Viewers get an immersive pre-travel experience without leaving their home. DMOs can really create standout brand experiences with intriguing storytelling and short engaging videos. Even individuals who are unable to travel, can get a flavour of the destination. Virtual reality experiences can support a destination’s sustainable tourism goals, as they reduce the impact of physical footprints in vulnerable locations.

virtual reality destination marketing

4. The power of video in destination marketing

Videos are powerful. They fully immerse the viewer in a different world more impactfully than images can. Google research cites that 65% of travellers search for travel videos online by destination.  DMOs have an opportunity to create content in the format most appealing and likely to be found by potential consumers. Solimar International’s expertise in creating impactful videos was a key part of Jamaica’s successful community tourism programme. Four promotional videos, each showcasing a core theme of the community tourism experience, were launched on social media and other digital channels to raise awareness for the incredible sustainable initiative.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and, more recently, TikTok, are ideal for this.  TikTok is now mainstream – with over 1 billion active users, the average user spends 52 minutes per day on the platform. It gets the highest engagement of any social platform and is seeing the 25 – 39 age group as its fastest growing segment. The quality of the content and the collaboration with influencers are the keys to success on this platform. By offering fairly low-cost opportunities for influencers to experience the destination, museum or festival entrance, for example, the content can reach large audiences.

So, why should I care about digital destination marketing?

The value of digital destination marketing is significant. It enables DMOs to promote its products and services to a more targeted audience, it affords the use of cost-effective channels to reach wider geographic markets, and it helps to enrich content. All of these combined drives success for the destination.

Solimar International creates strategic online marketing strategies and social media marketing plans for destinations worldwide, including Rwanda and TanzaniaInterested in how we can help you with destination digital marketing? Contact us to learn more.

The Value of DMOs to Destinations

DMOs play a large role in contributing to a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable approach to tourism and destination development

A Destination Management Organization (DMO) is a non-profit organization that promotes a destination for tourism purposes. DMOs can vary in their official names (visitors bureau, tourist boards, organization of tourism, chambers of commerce) and geographic competence (local, regional, national, or multi-country) but they all have a pivotal role to play in sustainable tourism management. Particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a global shift in the focus of these organizations from marketing to management, and Solimar International is dedicated to supporting them in shaping better travel and tourism. This article defines the value of DMOs to destinations all around the world.

DMOs are first a critical and essential factor in the success of any tourism destination. Following the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) which defines a DMO as the “leading organizational entity which facilitates partnerships with various authorities, stakeholders, and professionals to achieve a unified mission towards a destination’s vision” (UNWTO, 2021). A DMO is therefore closely linked to a tourism destination which the UNWTO sees as “the fundamental unit of analysis in tourism” (UNWTO, 2002), by providing information to visitors on the destination features including available attractions, amenities, and destination residents.

DMOs are organizations such as the Madison County Tourism (NY), the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau (AZ), Visit Anchorage (AK), Visit California (CA), or Discover Puerto Rico, which are dedicated to developing tourism around one destination, be it at a county, a metropolitan area, a state, a country or a subcontinent. Given the historic surge in worldwide tourism in recent decades, with more than 1.5 billion people traveling around the world in 2019 (UNWTO, 2020), the value and the role of DMOS has evolved and their importance has amplified.

Photo of Puerto Rico's DMO
Discover Puerto Rico (Source: www.discoverpuertorico.com)

While the primary objective of a DMO lies in destination promotion, defining what a DMO is and its value largely depends on where you are in the world. First and foremost, each destination offers its own unique set of attractions, amenities, and residents. As such, each DMO is therefore unique as it provides specific information on unique experiences. The first-ever DMO, the Detroit Conventions and Businessmen’s League (now known as the Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau) which was formed in 1896 was unique and different from the Seattle Bureau of Information which was established in 1897 in that they both aimed at designing a tailored plan to maximize opportunities for travel and visit in their respective cities but promoted different activities and adopted different marketing strategies and tactics to advertise their attractiveness. Building economic prosperity and spreading a dynamic image of a destination rests on the unique offerings of that specific destination.

Detr
A moonlight tower in Detroit in the 1890s (Source: www.vintag.es)

Today, the main value of a DMO to a destination consists in its ability to convey specific messages and information at each of the various stages of the travel cycle. By branding its destination, a DMO invests in the DREAMING stage. By providing authority, credibility, and reliability as a source of information, a DMO supports the traveler in its PLANNING stage. A DMO further interacts with a visitor by offering a link or an interface to facilitate the BOOKING stage before directly intervening in the EXPERIENCING phase by engaging with destination stakeholders to ensure consistent delivery. Finally, a DMO is also involved in the SHARING stage of the travel cycle by providing a platform for contacts, reviews, storytelling, posts, and hashtags through social media following a visit.

In other words, a DMO acts not only as an information and services provider but rather as a solution finder for all stakeholders of a specific destination, including its visitors, businesses, public authorities, and local communities. From this angle, a DMO has truly emerged as a key element of success in the development and management of a tourism destination for its added value in branding, strategic planning, tourism policy and product development, cultural heritage dissemination, as well as workforce development, quality control, and crisis management.  From purely marketing initiatives, DMOs have therefore transformed into genuine destination management organizations which effectively and harmoniously address interactions between visitors, industry, community, and resources.

As such, DMOs have the potential to be a vector of positive transformation and genuine change toward more responsible and sustainable tourism. Beyond helping establish a competitive edge for the destination, they are essential to tell a vibrant story and build a strong identity around a destination. They are critical to the development of sustainable tourism management for their capacity to help design an inclusive strategy and to engage with all stakeholders.?

From Key West voting to ban large cruise ships from docking to the Italian government ruling by decree to keep large cruise ships out of Venice lagoon and to Thailand closing its national parks possibly during several months each year to help nature regenerate, there is a global awakening awareness among tourism public and private stakeholders and visitors themselves that tourism must play its part in reducing its carbon footprint and climate impact as well as in solving the various environmental issues it triggers. In 2021, especially after a year that sent people singing songs about their favorite destinations and preventing millions from being able to travel, established destinations and emerging tourism markets have a strong incentive to follow industry best practices. DMOs would be well inspired to follow the initiatives and innovations implemented by various islands which are already quite advanced on the protection of natural resources and the threat of climate change. The New Zealand Tourism Futures Taskforce notably recommends to re-orient the country’s tourism policy to improve ecosystems, provide meaningful jobs, enrich local communities, and respect Maori culture. Likewise, the Jamaican Minister of Tourism has recently voiced out his ambition to act on the imperative to imagine a more inclusive approach to tourism. As such, the value of DMOs to destinations is enormous.

100% Pure New Zealand (Source: www.newzealand.com)

As destinations slowly reopen, the immediate challenge for all DMOs will be to create value for their respective destinations by combining what might seem contradictory imperatives: help manage tourism sustainably while bringing in as many visitors as possible. Only a new vision on the benefit of tourism will have the means to pave a new way forward, especially for stakeholders whose immediate interest, after the pandemic, will be for travelers to travel again and for operators to reconnect with revenues so profitable until then. To learn more about the value of DMOs to destinations and what DMOs can do to pioneer in this new era of tourism, make sure to check out Solimar International’s Virtual DMO Development Program as well as all other courses available at our Institute for Sustainable Destinations

Illustrate Visitor Service Sign

Providing visitor services is an essential function of every Destination Management Organization (DMO)

Destination Management Organizations (DMO) are responsible for the management and marketing of a tourism destination to attract visitors and to offer them a good experience during their stay. One of the key functions of DMOs is the provision of visitor services, before and during the visit to the destination. But why are visitor services so important and what visitor services should a DMO provide? 

Within the booking process, all services and information need to be accessible for visitors. Potential customers may choose another destination if they do not get the information that they need. Therefore, DMOs must provide that role while informing potential visitors of information regarding their trip. DMOs also play an important role in facilitating the booking process, either directly on their website, or with the help of their partners. Apart from the booking period, visitor services can enrich the traveler experience, as more information and help can lead to an improved experience. This can result in a higher interest in returning to the destination and in sharing the experience, either with family and friends or on social media.  Within the destination, visitor services can also increase revenue and the time that tourists spend in the area, as a study from Philadelphia’s visitor center showed. Consequently, visitor services should not be neglected by DMOs as they have a significant impact on tourist satisfaction and revenue. 

There are different types of visitor services and DMOs should strive to provide a combination of them all. First, DMOs should provide materials like print collateral and maps to help customers find their way and to garner interest and demand for specific attractions. Although a tourist searches for information online every second each day, it is still important to provide printed information as many people like being able to hold and engage with the material. Nevertheless, the DMO should ensure the provision of information and services online, and it should become clear on their website what can be done in the destination and where tourists can stay.

 

Illustrate Visitor Service Sign
Visitor Service Sign

 

Providing accommodation with commission from hotel partners, packages, and discount passes on the website can also be beneficial for the DMO itself to gain income but also help the visitor prepare for the trip. The destinations’ website should also offer information about all activities and more specific topics like meetings and conventions so that all target groups can find the information they need. Importantly, customer service should also be provided as well so that concerns and questions can be answered and resolved. For that purpose, DMOs should offer contact possibilities via phone, mail but also social media and answer those inquiries as fast as possible. Customer service on social media platforms is gaining importance, especially for younger customers. DMOs should strive to respond timely, strengthening their brand loyalty through quality digital customer service. Alternative solutions like chatbots, that answer questions or guide customers through everything that they need to know, can also be a beneficial and innovative way to communicate with potential visitors. Regardless of what method is employed, rapid customer service needs to be provided, so that visitors can get the help that they need directly and timely. 

In the destination, tourism information centers are often the first and most important contact point between DMO and visitors. There, tourists can get brochures, help and first-hand tips from staff on what to do and where to go. Furthermore, visitor centers are an important point of sale, where experiences and packages, but also souvenirs, can be purchased. Within the destination, the DMO should ensure that visitors can find their way through the area that they are visiting, which is why signs about important sights and infrastructure should be supplied. Furthermore, public services like parking, toilets, and Wi-Fi should be provided as this allows for a painless, convenient stay. Finally, the DMO should also deal with complaints and conduct meditation if, for example, experiences or tours are not as expected. Providing this to visitors is beneficial and important to decrease potential frustration. 

DMOs should also identify gaps in their services and experiences, led by the question of if marketing is actually reflective of the destination’s marketing. All advertised promises should be fulfilled, otherwise, frustration and disappointment can occur on the visitors’ side. As such, a DMO must critically review their offerings. For example, if they promote themselves as an outdoor destination, they must make sure that trails for hiking or biking paths are accessible. If gaps in deliverance are identified, the DMO must work on developing the infrastructure to sync the expectation with the reality. Also, creating new experiences and packages attracts more visitors with broader interests. The DMO can then work together with partners to deliver and promote the new packages and experiences. The DMO should then help and support their partners with booking, marketing, monitoring, and adjust the experience as needed. An interesting example of a newly developed DMO visitor experience can be found in the city of Fort Worth in Texas, a historical place and connected to cowboys. However this reputation of a cowboy town did not actually reflect any Fort Worth experiences at the time. To live up to their international reputation, the DMO was thus inspired to create a new, engaging experience and hire a herd of Texas longhorn cattle to walk through the main street each day, attracting visitors from all over the world. This is an example of a DMO action that was highly responsive to visitor expectations and their global positioning.

 

Forthworth longhorn herd
Forthworth longhorn herd through town

Picture source: https://www.fortworth.com/blog/post/19-facts-you-didnt-know-about-the-fort-worth-herd/

Visitor services are essential to provide a good tourist experience and DMOs need to ensure that all types of services are available in their destination. Interested in learning more about visitor services in detail? Solimar’s online program in DMO Development emphasizes this topic through a learning course and offers valuable tips on how visitor services should be coordinated to fulfill tourist expectations. Through providing the required information and booking opportunities, answering questions before and during the stay and offering the needed infrastructure and services to developing new experiences, all visitor services need to be considered and can highly influence visitor satisfaction, experience, and expenses, which all benefit the destination. 

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Leila Calnan, Senior Manager, Tourism Services Cardno Emerging Markets

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