Tag: DMO

Welcome to Virginia

From its breathtaking natural beauty to its extreme historical importance, Virginia tourism is one of the most diverse in the United States. Travelers wanting to appreciate the outdoors, city life, or experience early colonial life in the United States will all find what they seek in Virginia. Learn about one of the most interesting Virginia Destination Management Organizations here.

In this blog, intern Daniel Segura has the opportunity to discuss various aspects of Southwest Virginia tourism with Irene Kilmer, the director of the Montgomery County DMO. Virginia is an unique US state who has nailed their tourism marketing messaging. What is the role of Virginia Destination Management Organizations in working with this national brand? Read more below.

1. As a Virginia Teach student, I’m curious about what you studied at Virginia Tech and if it had any influence on your decision to get involved with tourism and destination management?

I received a degree in Communication with a focus in Public Relations from Virginia Tech. I received a minor in Hospitality and Tourism which is how I learned about tourism management and destination marketing organizations. My predecessor spoke at one of my classes and you could say the rest is history. My degree gave me a unique view into tourism management.

2. With a population of almost 100,000, Montgomery County isn’t the most populated in Virginia. However, with its rich historical and natural backgrounds, Virginia as a whole often ranks as one of the highest states in visiting tourists across the US. Do you see the natural recreation and historical industries represented in Montgomery County?

Mountain biking the Poverty Creek Trail System in Jefferson National Forest

Montgomery County actually houses two of the largest towns in Virginia! We have so many outdoor and historical attractions that many might not know about. The Poverty Creek Trail System is located in the Jefferson National Forest and boasts some of the best mountain biking trails on the east coast! Our history is also unique to our area, and our various museums highlight the impact these lesser known people have had on Virginia as a whole. Even before 2020, our office focused on promoting our outdoor recreation because our area offers outdoor amenities that people of all ages and backgrounds can enjoy.

3. What are some benefits that come from connecting and working with all the various businesses in the region?

There are so many benefits from connecting and working with various businesses in the region. Throughout my meetings and connections I’ve been able to learn about the history of Montgomery County, Blacksburg, and Christiansburg from business owners that have been in business for over 50 years. So many business owners are able to spread a light on what their specific visitor is looking for and it helps the tourism office build a stronger visitor profile. Not only do they have information about their visitors, but they also have a wealth of knowledge from running a business and from marketing their own products. By working with and networking with partners across the region, we are able to expand on our mission and help build a community that speaks to visitors without prompting.   

4. Destination Management as a concept has only been in practice for roughly 50 years now. How new are the concepts of destination management, and coordinating local businesses in regards to tourism, in Montgomery County?

Drive the Blue Ride ParkwayOur office was formed by a cooperative agreement in 2011 between both towns and the county. While our office might not have been formed before 10 years ago, the local community, membership organizations, and various hospitality businesses were their own form of destination managers. Many of these partners still play an important manager role to the destination.

 

5. How well has the region adapted to the emergence of destination management? What is the role of Virginia Destination Management Organizations?

Our region welcomed the tourism office’s creation. Through regional and state-wide partnerships, our office has been able to expand the knowledge base to stay current on trends and receive grants that directly impact the community, partners, and visitors. The Montgomery County VA Regional Tourism Office is able to give the time needed to focus in on getting visitors to our area, advocating for hospitality and tourism, and planning needs for the future of the destination in a way that would be challenging to accomplish by individual stakeholders.

 

6. Solimar International places a significant emphasis on sustainability, since many aspects of tourism can be environmentally taxing. Are there sustainable tourism practices currently promoted by the local DMO for the county as a whole? 

Biking in Montgomery County, Virginia

Our office is a certified Virginia Green travel partner of the Virginia Green Travel Alliance. We utilize this resource to stay up to date on green practices in hospitality and tourism management. We also work with both towns and the county to make sure that our office properly communicates what visitors need to know to leave as little of an impact on the environment they visit.

 

7. What are some things that make Montgomery County stand out from other neighboring areas in regards to Virginia tourism?

Drive the Blue Ride Parkway

Of course, Montgomery County is well known for Virginia Tech, but we are also known for our sporting venues, including swimming and baseball. Montgomery County is located in such an area that it’s easy to hop off the interstate and experience history, arts, a university, the outdoors, and a rising culinary scene all in one place. We have many lodging options for a weekend stay, and people comment about the sense of community they get when they arrive.

8. What are some places you’d recommend visitors check out here in Montgomery County?

Pandapas Pond and the Poverty Creek Trail System is a beautiful place to experience no matter what the season. I’m not the biggest adventurist, but it’s beautiful to walk around the pond, and you can even veer off onto one of the trail loops if you’re looking to explore more. I would also highly recommend checking out the shopping and restaurants in Downtown Blacksburg. One of our visitor centers is located downtown, and I love walking down Main Street and College Avenue to see what’s new and attend the events that are held there. If you’re in Christiansburg looking for a fun stop, I love hopping on the Huckleberry Trail at the Uptown Christiansburg Mall. This rail-to-trail is paved and connects the towns together. Rent a bike from Roam NRV, and don’t forget to check out the bridge that the train goes under. It’s my favorite thing to Go To Town in Montgomery County!

Tourist in sunglasses sits on a boat in Thailand surrounded by trees and nature

How Can Tourism Be Regenerative?

Last year, Solimar International’s Director of Conservation & Community Development, Chloe King, conducted a first-of-its-kind study of 30 tourism operators around the world. These tourism businesses—ranging from Destination Management Organizations to community-based homestay networks to high-end eco-lodges—were assessed via in-depth interviews and surveys to understand how centering nature within their business models enabled them to shift from “sustainable” to “regenerative” tourism practices. Led alongside researchers at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, this study did not seek to define what regenerative tourism is, but rather how tourism can be more regenerative by embracing nature as the solution. While “regenerative tourism” seems to be the latest buzzword in the industry, this study sought to ground our aspirations as an industry with practical examples from around the world.

Realigning Our Values with People and Nature

In 2022, our society—and the tourism industry embedded within it—is at a crossroads. The COVID-19 pandemic, once expected to bring about a sweeping “green” transformation of our economy, has failed to catalyze this transition, while further deepening inequality across the globe. As vaccine access remains unevenly distributed across the world, travelers from the Global North feel secure in their ability to travel to the Global South for a vacation, assured in the fact that their visits bring economic opportunities to those who may otherwise lack them. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide emissions worldwide—following a temporary steep drop in 2020—have rebounded, alongside the tourism industry that contributes an estimated 8% of global emissions each year.

Tourism is both a place-based and global industry: it has hyper-local impacts (providing job opportunities to local people) with global ramifications (contributing to climate breakdown that limits the ability of the same communities to adapt and secure a just future). In a stark illustration of this juxtaposition, a recent study found that each Antarctic tourist effectively responsible for melting 83 tonnes of snow. For too long, we have justified these impacts through the economic benefits that the tourism industry brings, once responsible for employing 1 in 10 people globally.

Two elephants crossing a road in a safari park
Less than .5% of the total annual tourism turnover is needed to fund a global network of protected areas. However, emissions from tourism significantly contribute to climate change impacts in the same destinations.

Tourism must begin to fundamentally realign itself with the people and nature it claims to serve, to both rectify the impact it has on our global climate while driving more than just economic gains in the destinations in which it operates. Tourism is more than just money: it can be an opportunity to protect nature and demonstrate its intrinsic value; it can bring people together towards a common vision, such as through the establishment of a DMO;  it can build social bonds, bridge cultures, and raise awareness; and it can bring greater agency to local communities, to bring the life they aspire for into existence.

Regenerative tourism has the potential to transform how we value the act of tourism in itself, beginning a shift from a “visitor economy” to a “resident economy”, where the needs and values of local people are placed above that of temporary visitors. Regenerative tourism seeks to place greater value on nature and human well-being than growth and profit through a whole-of-the-system, place-based, community-led, and environment-centered approach. These regenerative practices can also help to reconcile tourism’s impact on climate with its positive impact on place, by both increasing industry responsibility for reducing emissions while helping communities adapt to climate change impacts that are already underway.

The research we conducted, through in-depth interviews with 30 tourism operators around the globe, shows how this shift is possible.

Embracing Nature in the Regenerative Shift

A regenerative shift across all sectors of our modern economy—from construction to agriculture to transport—will be essential to addressing both climate breakdown and the destruction of wildlife across the globe. This past decade saw the hottest temperatures on record as more species of plants and animals were threatened with extinction than any other time in human history. The research is clear that from ocean to alpine forest—our global ecosystems that collectively absorb 56% of all human emissions each year—we cannot address climate change without protecting and restoring nature.

Nature-based solutions—defined as actions that protect, sustainably manage, or restore ecosystems to provide both biodiversity and human well-being benefits—will contribute a significant portion of total emission mitigation needed over the coming years (estimated at 5 to 11.7 GtCO2e per year by 2030). This must happen alongside deep and far-reaching decarbonization of industries like tourism. But the nature-based solutions utilized by the tourism industry do so much more than just absorb emissions from the atmosphere: they can help communities adapt to climate change, like mangrove forests protecting against storm surges; they can diversify business revenue and enhance destination resilience against crises like COVID-19; and they can protect the intrinsic or cultural values of nature that go beyond attempts at economic valuation, such as the traditional significance of a forest or the beauty of whale song.

humpback whale jumping with a nature reserve in the background
When we value both nature and tourism only in economic terms, we bury things that money cannot measure, such as intrinsic or cultural values that destinations carry.

By embracing nature in the regenerative shift, tourism can begin to center local communities and ecosystems in its response to global challenges like climate change. This will require deep and far-ranging discussions with local stakeholders to engage in conversation around what to protect, restore, and let go of as they strive towards a common and just future. Whether using tourism revenue to restore 200,000 hectares of once pristine wilderness or using tourists themselves as citizen scientists to monitor a small path of coral reef near a resort, centering nature will be key to the regenerative shift in actively improving destinations, rather than just sustaining them.

As the economist and Harvard University professor David Korten wrote:

“The only valid purpose of an economy is to serve life. To align the human economy with this purpose, we must learn to live as nature lives, organize as nature organizes, and learn as nature learns guided by reality-based, life-centered, intellectually-sound economics.”

Regenerative Tourism: Seeking Net Positive Impact on Destinations

By quantifying tourism only through its economic impact, we obscure other aspects that money cannot measure, from vibrant intercultural exchanges and friendships to the nature of collaborative partnerships capable of protecting vast ecosystems. The Regenerative Tourism Framework born from this research process seeks to provide a guide for tourism destinations that wish to measure the impact we must begin to achieve, as the planet warms and wildlife is lost at an alarming rate. Each of the Five Principles, which will be expanded upon in an upcoming white paper publication, are inspired by nature-based solutions and seek to guide tourism practitioners in the regenerative shift. The principles echo other research in this space, underscoring that tourism can no longer be “done” to local communities; it must be done “with and for” them.

Regenerative tourism framework with five principles for tourism practitioners, surrounded by the UN Sustainable Development Goal symbols
The Regenerative Tourism Framework, born from an academic study conducted by Chloe King at Solimar International, aims to guide tourism practitioners in their regenerative journey.

In asking how tourism can be regenerative, we are not arguing that tourism practitioners forgo all attempts at sustainability; efforts that reduce negative impacts, such as transitioning to renewable energy, reducing food waste, or recycling products will be essential in achieving the transition we need. Instead, a regenerative mindset requires simply asking the question: When I travel, or when I receive travelers, what can I do to make sure I have a net positive impact on nature and people in the destination?

Simply sustaining our current system will not be enough to address the scale of all that could be lost if we fail to act quickly. Tourism is capable of doing so much more than just providing economic benefits to a destination, and in fact measuring the other ways it positively contributes to place will be essential in building a more resilient and diversified industry. Regenerative tourism asks us to take a step back and see the bigger picture, and the ways in which the health of communities, nature, business, and visitors intertwine.

The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that many facets of the modern economy—interconnected borders, international travel, the office workspace—are not permanent features. With crisis comes an opportunity to reimagine tourism as what it can—and must—become.

If you are interested in reading our upcoming publication with the results from this research, including guidelines and examples of the Five Principles within the Regenerative Tourism Framework for tourism practitioners and destinations, please add your email to an announcement list here. A second blog will also later be published summarizing this report.

Tatras Mountains Polad - Sustainable tourism poland

Red, White, and New: Efforts to Boost Sustainable Tourism in Poland

Here at Solimar International, we work to increase and promote sustainable and regenerative tourism around the world. We know that every country has its own unique challenges in implementing effective sustainable tourism. Poland has had difficulties creating and maintaining long-term plans for prioritizing eco-friendly tourism. The Eastern European country ranked number 112 on the World Economic Forum regarding sustainable tourism and development in 2015. Despite this low ranking, Poland’s potential for sustainable tourism is endless. With several UNESCO-listed heritage sites and biospheres available, most limitations to Poland’s potential are created from failure by local governments to communicate and educate citizens about sustainable development. In this blog, we will cover what has changed in terms of new efforts to help shift this lagging sector, and the immese tourism potential Poland has to transform itself into a leading global destination.

Tatras Mountains Polad - Sustainable tourism poland

Why Poland is Lagging in Sustainable Tourism

Before analyzing Poland’s direct control over its sustainability development, we must fully recognize the drawbacks of Poland’s history and tribulations caused by foreign control and influence over the region. One of the massive influences over Poland’s difficulty to regenerate to a healthier environment and tourism industry is the decades of Communist regime over the region that followed it’s Nazi occupation counterpart. Since the Communist regime and Nazi Occupation of Poland gave no breathing room for the country to have its own independence and development, the Communist regime squeezed out what little resources Poland had left. The communist regime heavily focused on shipbuilding and steel production, which ravaged nature within the region and destroyed much of the wildlife present, specifically within regions such as Katowice and Silesia.  Poland’s GDP only started seeing consistent uptakes around 1995, which, given the timeline that several other non-communist-controlled economies and countries had to develop mutual plans for sustainable development, is a minuscule amount of time. Additionally, given the sheer amount of poviats (Polish counties), it is difficult to process communication and collaboration for sustainable development efforts, with several of them holding other respective interests. When retrospectively looking at a countries’ development and what their major concerns are, we must also be considerate towards their drawbacks and their need to rapidly recover and industrialize due to the major temporal sink they’ve experienced. Although Poland has much to improve upon and change within their priorities, constant decade-long occupation shifts the countries’ collective priority and desires until those are met, which is why sustainable tourism was lower on the proverbial ladder. 

Gdańsk, 1988. Strike at the Lenin shipyard, photo: Chris Niedenthal / promotional materials
Gdańsk, 1988. Strike at the Lenin shipyard, photo: Chris Niedenthal / promotional materials

Poland’s New Efforts in Sustainable Tourism

Poland’s previously mentioned drawbacks do not, however, fully define its current attempts for change and a future outlook. As commonly known, Poland is part of the gargantuan EU, which grants its capabilities to focus on sustainable development on a larger and more assisted scale. Local and regional authorities across Europe have been pledging to work together to improve waste management and to make tourism more sustainable within their towns, with the city of Krakow being signed on the official charter. In specificity, this document will require these cities to “commit to reduce waste generation and improve waste management from tourists and tourism providers, including by promoting sustainable consumption”, with serious oversight by related authorities. 

Part of a better path towards sustainable tourism is also a clear recognition of the faults made by that region, and current active changes towards those faults. Poland’s CO2 emissions are notoriously high, with its 2015 emissions equaling almost 9% of the EU’s total emissions. A large aggressor contributing to this statistic is Poland’s large use of coal and lignite still present in its electricity making. But, with new proposed technology and policy solutions entering the frame, such as the Polish National Energy Conservation Agency and the Poland Energy Policy Simulator, these policies will help pull Poland out of its costly energy sinkhole. When progression within the reduction of unhealthy energy consumption is made, the sustainable tourism sector will be exponentially easier to maintain and create. Waste reduced and cleaner tourist attractions will help create a better traveling cycle in the first place!

Poland sustainable tourism destination development meeting

Poland’s Vast Sustainable Tourism Potential

Image Provided by the Polish Tourism Organisation. These are Wooden Tserkvas that could be a hope for growth in Poland's sustainable tourism
Wooden Tserkvas

How is it possible to consider the possibilities of tourism without envisioning what the country has to offer? Poland has a large variety of UNESCO sites that are listed on the Polish Tourism Organization website, including the multiple cultural attractions such as the Wooden Tserkvas (shown above) to the Malbork Castle! Poland also houses arguably the most important piece of history remaining from the second World War, with Auschwitz-Birkenau being built on Polish land by the Nazis. Poland also has a large amount of biosphere reserves to complement, with the famous Tatras, Babia Gora and Tuchola forest as popular tourist choices. Common sense dictates how tourist potential is actualized when people realize and highly anticipate going to that location, and Poland’s locations do just that. For everyone who values nature, history, and significant cultural locations, Poland is exactly the place.

Babia Gora, photo taken by Dawid Bernard showing beautiful mountains and potential for Poland's sustainable tourism
Babia Gora, photo taken by Dawid Bernard

 

Tuchola Forest, taken by Unique Poland-Discover Beauty
Tuchola Forest, taken by Unique Poland-Discover Beauty

 

 

How to Improve Your Destination Brand

A brand is more than just a logo

To start things off, first, it is important to understand what is a brand, what is the purpose of destination branding and how is it different from destination marketing. A brand is more than just a logo, a color and a slogan. Your destination brand is a reflection of your culture and its people, history and heritage, traditional and modern ways of living, built and natural environments wrapped by the totality of perceptions, feelings and thoughts that your guests have about your destination. It is the foundation of your marketing strategy and the most important marketing tool. Learn what is takes to improve your destination brand.

Destination Branding, commonly referred to as place branding, is thus the process of identifying, crafting and nurturing the unique identity of a destination, building a story around the key elements, values and the destination proposition, orchestrating consistent messaging that highlights just that and, ultimately, forming a reputation in the eyes of its visitors. In other words, destination branding is all about who you are. It is the focal part of destination marketing that, in turn, defines how you communicate and deliver your messaging to the right audiences. 

Tourism Northern Ireland – Winner of The 2020 Travel Marketing Awards, Category Destination Brand of the Decade, image courtesy of Monotype.

 

‘Northern Ireland – Embrace a Giant Spirit’ brand focusing on experiences, heritage and belonging, courtesy of Monotype and Genesis

Brand Purpose for Visit Estonia, courtesy of Lantern.  Estonia’s Repositioning and rebranding strategy focuses on telling a story about a lost paradise and an experience-first destinations that allow travellers to make the most of their time. 

Before the global pandemic pulled the carpet under our feet, tourism was one of the largest and fastest growing economic sectors, according to UNWTO. While the global economy and the tourism sector recovers, eager travellers are anxiously waiting for their turn to travel again. Though it may still be unclear what exactly will the tourism arena look like after recovery and when that may take place, industry experts say the tourism sector will be the last to recover

Not only are thousands of destinations worldwide planning and preparing for reopening, new destinations are created every year joining the competition for the valuable tourist dollars. In such a saturated marketplace, carefully crafting a brand story that will resonate with the key audiences is what will allow your destination to stand out. Differentiation is the ultimate objective of branding. Regardless of geographical location or size, effective destination branding that stands the test of time while remaining competitive, dynamic, innovative and agile to ever evolving industry trends and consumer behaviours, is what holds the key to successful destination marketing and tourism growth.  

How to brand your destination successfully

Instead of replicating the success of one’s competitors or trying to create something entirely new, building your destination brand should focus on the uniqueness of the place and its surroundings. Consequently, the first step to building a destination brand, according to the World Tourism Organization and European Travel Commission, should be an audit of the destination, the emotions and the perceptions associated with it. Followed by that, it is important to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of the destination as well as identify your target market. Understanding your target audience will allow for you to effectively wrap and deliver your destination’s unique selling point. A thorough competitor analysis should be carried out to identify a possible market gap and successfully position and improve your destination brand.

It is important to mention that stakeholder involvement is an integral part of destination brand development and branding process. A brand’s success is directly linked to the acceptance and support from local residents, local businesses and the government. You should consider all these entities as brand ambassadors that will directly impact the perception of your destination in the visitor’s eyes. After completing an inclusive and comprehensive destination audit, you’re off to a great start to build your destination brand. 

Practical tools for destination branding

Practical tools, such as the brand pyramid, can help in defining the destination and brand personality by considering all core components of your destination. The foundation of your brand lies in the rational attributes, the characteristics of a destination and its tourism offer, i.e. the activities, the landscape or the weather. Next, consider the emotional benefits and think about how the visitors feel about the destination and what feelings they take away from their visit. The third layer of the pyramid is the brand personality, the main characteristics and attributes of the brand, including the question of how the brand should be perceived and described by the audience. Is your destination calm, and charmingly intimate or is it wild, vast and rough? Perhaps it is a combination of the two? Furthermore, the brand positioning describes the uniqueness of your brand, led by the question of what makes the destination stand out from their competitors. Finally, the very top of the brand pyramid is the brand essence, the very heart of your brand and what wraps all other components and makes them into one.

After identifying all the components of your unique destination brand, it is time to build an engaging, empowering and passionate brand story that will resonate with locals and visitors alike. Your story will be the backbone of your marketing strategy and integrated marketing communications. Choosing the right visual tools and communication mediums will be essential to improve your destination brand. This means effectively and consistently communicating your brand promise, reaching the right audiences, building relationships based on trust and growing your destination popularity. 

Solimar acknowledges the importance of destination branding and provides more insights about this topic within the Destination Management Organisation (DMO) development course, which provides a deeper dive into the intrinsic components of destination planning, development, branding and marketing.

Interested in learning more about improving your destination brand? Get in touch with us today — we can help take your brand to the next level.

This blog was written by Lena Eckert and Emilija Zagere in July 2021.

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

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