Critical DMO Leadership Actions for 2015 – Part Two

TDAmeritradeBPCameraIt’s hard to believe that the stream of 2015 travel marketing trend and strategy recommendations continues through the first month of 2015. I found two more freshly published articles today alone. So to help destination marketers make some simple sense of it all, last week I published “Making Content Creation an Organizational Core Competency” as part one of a two-part series on Critical DMO Leadership Actions for 2015.

Only two? Like I said, I am keeping it really simple.

The second critical DMO leadership action for 2015 is around the need to develop new DMO partnership strategies.

DMOs have made developing partnerships to extend their marketplace visibility and strength of voice an organizational imperative. Being on the watch for new marketing relationships has become as important as doing the marketing itself. All of which has created a veritable red ocean of DMO partnership activity to the point where a DMO CMO said to me yesterday “Who doesn’t have a partnership with [profile industry enterprise]?” With DMOs eternally on the hunt for ways to create compelling new value for their constituents and their communities, why pursue partnerships with the usual suspects?

Today, a different partnership perspective is required. And it starts with reframing the DMO’s mission beyond the typical travel and hospitality value construct to embrace a broader community economic development paradigm for their destination.

Enlarging Your Territory: Forging New Partnerships With Economic Development

To get there DMO leaders need to get comfortable with the fact that they are in the business of economic development as much as in the business of tourism marketing (and certainly more than in the hospitality business).

destination-promotion-an-engine-of-economic-development-6-638This is not really new news from an intellectual standpoint. In fact Business Events Sydney (the Sydney DMO) explored the idea in 2010 and published the ground-breaking study A Scoping Study of Business Events: Beyond Tourism Benefits. And most recently Oxford Economics published Destination Promotion: An Engine of Economic Development outlining the opportunity that DMOs were staring at.

For Business Events Sydney, the results of activating the findings of the 2010 study were game-changing: “We also delivered a business case to government that now aligns the work we do with their economic development framework and secured additional recurrent funding that enables us to continue to secure events that contribute to NSW driving innovation, collaboration and global connectivity.” commented Business Events Sydney Chief Executive Officer Lyn Lewis-Smith.

Consider that at their core essence DMOs and Economic Development Offices (“EDOs”) are on similar missions: deliver incremental economic and social benefits/legacies to their communities to make them better places to live, work and play. However, like twins separated at birth they grew-up speaking different languages. To get the job done one was all about unleashing emotional inspiration and high-touch service while the other was all about showcasing business pragmatics. One developed relationships with event organizers and experience designers. One engaged with investment officers and policy strategists. And rarely did the two communicate let alone join forces – even though they would eventually end up at the same destination meeting or congress with their respective clients. In fact, they often competed with each other for local funding and visibility.

Does this sound effective?

So…what does a DMO-EDO partnership look like?: It obviously depends on the needs of community but consider some recent examples:

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While destination “ambassador” programs are nothing new as way to attract events to a destination, Liverpool’s community stakeholders have looked at the opportunity well beyond the typical tourism/events industry potential:

  • Community Engagement: By creating a branded club with an incredibly diverse community constituency, they have extended the community footprint and understanding of why the tourism/events are relevant and how it contributes to a better quality of life.
  • New Measures of Success: Club Liverpool’s leaders have made it quite clear that their objectives go beyond traditional tourism measures by stating: “…entice major national and international events to the city and attract inward investment from a global audience.” A key part of making that real is positioning Liverpool’s economic development leaders as equal partners in the initiative.

In other communities like Denver and Phoenix today’s DMO-EDO partnerships include collaborative development around such mutually beneficial initiatives as air services development, business development missions and branding. And its working!

With the intensities of today’s global competition for capital and visitors, and limited resources being what they are, the time to forge a partnership that leverages the talent, resources and networks of both enterprises to improve performance and the destination value created is now.

And I think we’ll all find that we do speak the same language: the language of business.

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