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Why are DMOs trying to grow tourism backwards?



When people make the decision to travel someplace, they probably have a couple things in mind they’d like to do — see some attraction, wander through a city’s old town, hike on a specific trail.  These are the things that inspired them to buy the ticket, the destination drivers. They’ll stay in hotels, eat at some restaurants, take the airport shuttle into the city… but those aren’t the things that made them buy the plane ticket.  Hopefully, those things are good experiences as well —  at least, not awful experiences that will negatively color their entire experience.

Then there’s that middle ground between the destination driver and the hotel stay… some sort of extra experience they hadn’t considered or planned in advance. Maybe a wine tasting or a minor museum or some short excursion.  These “extras” might even turn out to be the best aspects of the entire trip.

But here’s the problem. DMOs, in an effort to be fair and spread their marketing influence more evenly, are trying to turn these “extras” into destination drivers.  It’s like trying to sell a BMW by showing that the windshield wipers work nicely (that’s not why most people would buy a BMW).  You sell them on the speed and comfort and look of the car, then let them discover for themselves how much they like the windshield wipers.

In a recent Skift story, “NYC Mayor Tries To Rebrand City as Tourism Destination With 5 Boroughs” you can see a classic example of this. It’s natural to want to spread the tourism dollars over a larger area.  But here’s where it’s putting the cart before the horse.  You don’t just tell people to go. You create something new and appealing to your target demographic, then let them know about it.  Put an amazing theme park or museum or street festival in a NYC borough and put out the word about that specific thing and people will go.  Florida didn’t try to get visitors to visit the humid swamps of Orlando until Disney set up camp.

This gets back to the weakness of a DMO. It’s a marketing organization, so all it can really do is tell people about what’s already there; it doesn’t create exciting new product that will attract them.  And if we’re looking into the future, I think the basic concept is this: DMOs are going to need to keep their product competitive, not just their marketing.


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One Response to Why are DMOs trying to grow tourism backwards?

  1. D'Arcy Dornan April 4, 2015 at 6:58 pm #

    Great analysis Doug! It is much as you are saying in the TED Talks presentation about tourism destination authenticity. What DMOs really need to be are Destination Management Organizations and not just Destination Marketing Organizations. I, like you, have seen this in far too many destinations. What I mean to say is that there is very often times only an emphasis on marketing and nothing on management. Fortunately some destinations are getting it right, let us keep helping the others do so as well…!

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