One change is needed more than all others in the tourism industry, it is going to make way for the future of tourism, enable greater sustainability and help prevent and alleviate overtourism.
The shift I am talking about is away from the concept of a Destination Marketing Organisation to a Destination Management Organisation.
What wrong with Destination Marketing Organisations?
Destination Marketing Organisations were born with the sole intent of promoting a destination to increase visitor numbers and other key statistics such as overnight stays and visitor spending.
Contemporary destinations require much more destination maintenance than promotion in key markets. Promotion should not be the top priority to destinations that are already well known and highly visited and destinations can have a larger effect on visitation by focusing on destination quality and the overall experience.
With destinations around the world suffering the effects of overtourism, the marketing of some destinations has been too successful, driving visitation that is beyond the carrying capacity. That is, the maximum number of tourists that the destination can handle sustainably without any ill effects.
It is easy to continue with the status quo, continuing to promote key destinations and attraction without turning to the broader picture of what effect rising numbers of visitors are having on the destination
A subtle change in thinking
If we were to remove ‘marketing’ from Destination Marketing Organisation and change it to ‘management’, would it have a meaningful change? I believe it would. Let me elaborate.
Marketing is just one of the functions that these newly named organisations would have, but putting the focus on management, it would enable the organisation to branch out into new initiatives that would benefit both locals and tourists without the guilt of not driving visitation.
The organisation would move from short-term marketing initiatives to long-term management planning, ensuring the sustainability and quality of the destination for years to come.
Tourism is such a complex industry with so many stakeholders each wanting different outcomes. A destination management organisation could be an organisation trusted by all stakeholders to provide independent recommendations to ensure the destination develops in a sustainable way, in line with community standards.
Marketing has the effect of only focusing on the tourist, influencing the tourist and understanding the tourist. This way of thinking is detrimental to the lives of locals who live in the destination, they are simply not being taken into account within the larger overview of tourism for a destination. The oversight and lack of care and thought for the local community is what is causing a tourism backlash in many highly visited cities around the world. We saw these effects with protests in Barcelona in 2017. Locals are only experiencing the negative effects of tourism due to poor planning and perceived lack of control of the situation, causing them to take drastic measures to be heard.
As a management organisation, the quality of the destination’s culture and heritage will remain high. All too often, we are seeing destinations blur into a monoculture of mass tourism. You find the same restaurants, same attractions, similar stores and stalls providing similar goods and food throughout the world. Destinations are losing their charm and turning into theme parks. They need greater control to preserve the charm of the city and balance between preserving the heritage and culture and meeting the needs and expectations of visitors.
There is a need for Destination Management Organisations to have greater access to policymakers and to educate stakeholders of the importance of cooperation and balancing the needs of locals and visitors. When the needs of visitors outweigh the needs of locals and visitors are prioritised over locals that concerns about overtourism come to the surface.
A Destination Management Organisation should primarily focus on the tourism industry for their destination, but managing and communicating the needs of local residents becomes important because unhappy locals cause harm the destination’s reputation and therefore negatively affects tourism to the destination.