Brand unification and superior destination management, portal to success in tourism?

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Pic : IBM SCC@Huizhou team presenting the report to Mayor Mai Jiaomeng, Huizhou city, China

I had to end my previous blog with questions instead of answers, however I hope to satisfy you with all the answers in this blog. Rightly, all the questions on Destination Management Organisation(DMO) are centered around viability and on how well proven the concept is.

  1. The first question focused on the difficulty in gaining trust from the service providers in a city, where tourism was already down. Also, a new organisation with government representatives, self-focused private operators, would they succeed in bringing back prosperity to tourism city destination?

I feel the best way to respond to this question is to stay on fundamentals. When tourism is down, all service providers have built up capability and are underutilized. In this situation, if the stakeholders have a champion, who shows them a way back to prosperity, slowly and steadily people will sign up. Sincerity of purpose, inspiring leadership and charter which would guide the new DMO organisation are good to get started. The road to prosperity is bound to climb steadily and at one stage take off to a bigger plane, by virtue of the enhanced attractiveness of a unified tourism brand, offering.

  1. The IT platform(front office and back office) was a critical enabling factor, could the DMO afford it? Who would take the risk and invest before members signed up to leverage this integrated platform? Who is the elusive but critical sponsor, putting in seed capital?

Physical organisation with a charter to guide members and leadership team is one thing, but to build a sophisticated Sales, Marketing, CRM, Analytics, Portal & financial is quite another thing. However, this digital online manifestation of a superior unified tourist centric engagement model, hence a must have. There was a challenge to make this affordable to a Tier 3 city. Firstly, the city in the case of Huizhou stood up and sponsored the program of unifying Huizhou Tourism Brand and integrating the tourism ecosystem. This undoubtedly was the first thing to tick off on the checklist. After this, the going is smooth if the charter for the DMO is ready, Tourism Bureau and the first movers nominate or delegate staff to get the DMO started.

  1. Have Tourism boards been successful with DMO approach? Is this a passing fad or sustainable?

I had to do considerable research on the track record of cities or counties which had implemented the DMO model. In the end, I hit gold. I came across no less than thirty case studies, documents outlining DMO concept, organisational recommendations, Three Recommended Practice Areas and considerable insights on the makeup of DMO. As a result, I can very confidently say that there are multiple success stories exemplifying Innovations done, Best Industry Practices which helped some DMOs establish a superior marketplace and Core practices which strengthened the unified city tourism brand. I also believe that this is the future of tourism, we will see more and more destinations promoting and managing tourist experience.

DMo best practice area

Pic : The three recommended practice areas

  1. Can we recommend to Huizhou a well thought of DMO based business model?

Yes, indeed! We could outline to our client the model, recommend practice Areas which ought to guide the charter for the new DMO they should build, Accreditations they need to go after, role of advocates and champions in helping the formative years of the DMO, examples of success stories and comforting statistics that more than 60% of the DMO organisation are ‘Not for Profit’. This was a perfect answer to the City provincial Government’s executive Delegate, who asked for a solution which would work for someone the size of Huizhou( a city of 5 Million people) and work inspite of them not being market leaders. We put out a clear message that there was a need for startup capital to kick start the DMO concept, for the city to endorse and bless this initiative.

Subsequent costs would be supported from revenue of sales and gains made by service providers due to the gains made by service providers due to the DMO digital platform. DMO statistics also show that almost Advertising, Pooled Promotion Budget and Membership Fees constitute more than 75% of DMO revenue.

DMO solution view

Pic : Solution view of Tourism ecosystem platform including the backend

Subsequent costs would be supported from revenue of sales and gains made by service providers due to the gains made by service providers due to the DMO digital platform. DMO statistics also show that almost Advertising, Pooled Promotion Budget and Membership Fees constitute more than 75% of DMO revenue.

Coming back to the media question ‘Is DMO a proven business model and how would it specifically solve Huizhou’s tourism problem?’ We have enough reference information to establish DMO as an emerging STAR, relevant to Huizhou Smarter Tourism approach, which would now interlock into Smarter City approach of Huizhou city itself. DMO would transform Tourism approach, equipping it with a State Of The Art Digital Platform. This would be a game changer making Huizhou tourism visible when tourist were researching about their holiday and when they were firming up their travel plans.

I also came across a brilliant DMO case study of Serbia. Serbia had a similar problem, shrinking tourism inflow, limited international appeal and no outstanding star attraction. Serbia commissioned a study and selected Events Hosting as a major focus. They shortlisted 150 upcoming events, presented these sales leads to the DMO members, got the interested members organized by opportunity teams. They bid under the banner of Serbia Bid Alliance, with a win rate of more than 50%. Happy with this new found success, they continued the focus into the following two years with similar success. There are innumerable examples, Wonderful Copenhagen(WoCo), Newport Beach and Micro Market Segmentation in Destination Canada program.

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Pic : Author at the Red Flower Lake, Huizhou

It appears to me that we are seeing a new trend in its infancy, I do believe that many of the aspirational destinations would adopt DMO approach, in the coming years. I am happy that, we could bring such a powerful emerging trend to the notice of our client.

Ravi Shankar S N, Global Leader Travel & Transportation Centre of Competence, IBM

These are the views of the Blog author and not of IBM

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