Connecting the Dots Between Destination Product Development and Destination Marketing

One of the most provocative elements in DMAI’s DestinationNEXT (Phase I) report is the expectation that DMOs should play a growing role in building and protecting the destination brand by extending the traditional DMO role beyond sales and marketing into the role of product development and even destination management. In fact, when asked in the DestinationNEXT survey where product development should rank as a priority for a new DMO, the response was as the #2 priority – three places higher than where it ranks with existing DMOs today.

Of course, the extent to which this is applicable to a given destination is a function of its position in the marketplace and also the specific interests of its stakeholders. Phase II of the report promises a diagnostic tool to help DMOs make that assessment.

The dynamics in-play around this transformational opportunity are complex. On one hand, DMO stakeholders expect DMOs to generate short and mid-term business transactions for their community in exchange for financial and political support.

On the other hand, the proper alignment of product-community-marketplace is increasingly impacting those transactions and the effectiveness of DMO sales and marketing initiatives. Consider two recent stories involving destination development and policy:

beach_06-1280x853In Guam: In order to remain competitive with other tropical pacific resort destinations the Guam Visitor Bureau invests up to one-third of its $22 million budget in destination development projects because the government is unable to deliver the necessary infrastructure at visitor marketplace standards. Tourism has continued to thrive as a result and local residents have enhanced public infrastructure in their community.

Naked Italians in BarcelonaIn Barcelona: The 7+ million annual visitors to the city are literally disrupting the quality of life for many of its 1.6 million residents. Claiming they are “…tired of low-cost drunken tourism”, residents are now taking to the streets to protest unruly tourists and local tourism policies. This can’t be good for business. Local authorities, including the tourism board, are now considering their options to manage the situation.

In both cases leadership from the local DMO was required to deal with product and policy issues impacting the overall tourism experience. No direct visitor transactions were generated. But in both cases the destination experience and ultimately its brand reality for visitors AND local residents was enhanced or preserved.

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 12.08.00 PM

There’s no doubt this will take many DMOs into a new, perhaps uncomfortable, space outside of their traditional sales and marketing space. But in a hyper-connected, socially-engaged, digital media world where DMOs can no longer broadcast to consumers about their brand, destination experiences (be they influenced by infrastructure, policy or environmental events) have more immediate and acute impact on a destination’s brand than ever before…significantly faster than what a destination’s sales and marketing machine can address through transaction generation. Which is why in today’s Destination Marketing 3.0 world, DMOs need to see their role in product development and destination management as an essential foundation for building an effective destination sales and marketing program.

And let’s face it, if not the DMO…then who else is going to do this remarkably?