Today’s seminar in London will focus on the future of UK Government’s tourism strategy on the heels of international exposure created by the Olympics. Sessions will bring together key policymakers, destination management organisations and other players from across the sector – including accommodation and hospitality providers, visitor attractions, venues, event organisers and tour operators, as well as those working in ticketing, travel agency and the industry’s wider supply chain.
Delegates will have the opportunity to consider the future of destination management, as well as challenges for creating a more efficient and competitive UK visitor economy – looking at areas such as technology, consumer feedback, taxation and business regulation. Delegates will also discuss Government’s recently announced initiatives to create a lasting post-2012 tourism legacy – including proposed investment in domestic, sporting and cultural tourism, as well as a strategy for tripling visitor numbers from China as visa controls are lifted.
By far the most important topic facing UK tourism, however, is the future of destination management as opposed to destination marketing, discussed in an earlier posting.
Destination Management Organisations (DMOs), funded over the last decade by public money, simply haven’t come to terms with the dynamics of the new marketplace and have failed to deliver on the promise. There is a presupposition that they still have a role to play in ‘promotion’, which has been interpreted as consumer marketing and where the UK tourism authorities have fallen foul of Competition Law and State aid regulations. In doing so they have perversely filled coffers of technology companies and online travel agents at the expense of front-line tourism businesses.
DMOs are best placed to do what they should have done from the beginning, which is manage destinations to enhance the visit experience. This is the only legitimate marketing tool available to public-funded tourism bodies if they are to remain compliant. Destination brands are not created by advertising; they are the sum total of visitors’ experience of a destination and the stories they tell and hear about them.
The question to be asked at today’s seminar is how can DMO’s and local bodies use destination management to greater effect in building strong destination brands based on locations and themes; how quickly can they extricate themselves from the consumer marketing space before more damage is done to UK tourism’s prospects, and how can they distance themselves from those that have benefited most in the past from Governments’ largesse in marketing expenditure?
The answers will be reported in this space over the next few days.