Impacts DMOs Make Through Community Partnerships

I have been working as a strategic partner to Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) for more than 15 years. Over that time, I watched the role of the DMO expand from being responsible for attracting visitors from outside their community, to becoming leaders and conveners for the community to tackle some of its toughest challenges. This is a natural progression because leaders in the travel and tourism industry understand how to build partnerships, and collaboration is the key to solving our world’s toughest problems. The success of the tourism economy relies on collaboration as a strategic imperative.

DMOs, Community and Co-opetition

If you are natural at gathering folks at the table and getting them to work towards a common goal, you will be tapped to help your community in more ways than just marketing.

Are collaborations core to your organization’s success?

What about collaborations with your competitors?

I have been exploring the answers to these questions on my podcast for the last 8 years. It’s what I like to call co-opetition. You know how people like to put two words together to create a new word? co-opetition: cooperating + competition. It is where perceived competitors come together to create something bigger together than they can do on their own.

The brightest minds from the World Economic Forum identified co-opetition as the number two takeaway from Davos 2024. This insight was based on the global cooperation barometer published in conjunction with McKinsey in January 2024. The report concluded that:

“Cooperation is multifaceted and can coexist with competition. Leaders can practice “coopetition”—balancing cooperation and competition — to advance shared interests in specific areas, despite lack of alignment elsewhere.”

The Global Cooperation Barometer 2024

Showcasing Authentic Experiences leads to Economic Development Success

On Episode 337 with Danny Liedka from Visit Syracuse, I heard the story of how the tourism office was asked to help the area with the biggest economic development win in the history of the State of NY. The County Economic Development team was building a package to help attract chip manufacturer Micron. They asked the team at Visit Syracuse to create a video for the site selection team to sell the area as a great place to work and play.

Danny and his team realized people crave genuine experiences and prefer seeing real individuals rather than staged content. They decided to invest in various initiatives, such as professional photography and partnered with an agency to source a vast collection of authentic images. By showcasing real-life experiences in Syracuse, they aimed to establish an emotional connection between their audience and their brand.

One of the reasons the company picked Syracuse is what it has to offer future Micron employees and their families. The appeal is in their urban and outdoor lifestyles, an affordable cost of living and leading higher education institutions. This project will bring a $100 billion investment and 50,000 jobs to the region over the next 20 years.

Sustainable Destination Management

Visit Durango, under the leadership of Rachel Brown, evolved from a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) to a Destination Marketing and Management Organization (DMMO). This change in focus started with adopting a new organizational structure, including a change in by-laws, adding to the team and re-prioritizing the budget. They added a full-time Sustainability and Policy Manager to the team. Sustainability programs was added as a line item that now accounts for 39% of the annual budget. They expanded sustainability programs to include a local stewardship campaign, along with event marketing and advancement grants. 

The shift to sustainable destination management brought many benefits to Durango. It helped alleviate the negative impact of overtourism, ensured the preservation of natural resources, and enhanced the local community’s quality of life. By prioritizing sustainability, Durango became a more desirable destination for socially- and environmentally-conscious travelers. Attracting visitors who appreciate and support responsible tourism practices.

With the shift to sustainability, Visit Durango adopted a triple-bottom-line approach to sustainability, encompassing environmental, social, and economic factors. While DMOs have traditionally focused on the profit aspect, Visit Durango is committed to prioritizing environmental conservation, supporting local communities, and creating a balance between the three aspects.

Focus on Community

On Episode 352 of Destination on the Left, Kevney Dugan explained how Visit Bend balances the visitors’ needs with those of residents by concentrating on workforce development and prioritizing sustainability. The scope of work for the organization has increased 3X since 2019, in part due to the greater role they are taking within the community.

The organization hired a Workforce Development Director who focuses on helping businesses in hospitality and tourism with training and resources needed to support workers. One strategy for this initiative is engaging middle school and high school-age students and encouraging them to consider travel and hospitality as a viable career path. Visit Bend hopes this approach will help with the labor shortages they’re currently seeing. Workforce development is all about planting that seed early on that the tourism industry has some amazing opportunities.

They also hired a Director of Sustainability who focuses on managing the carrying capacity of the community and balancing the needs of the visitors with those of the residents. Visit Bend worked with the community to create the Bend Sustainability Fund that contributes to projects such as riverbank restoration and creating new trails. The vision is for these projects to change the future of the destination.

Community Partnership Impacts

Partnerships and collaboration within communities can lead to stronger economies and a brighter future. Our 2022 study on the operationalization of collaboration found that 82% of organizations surveyed said that Collaboration is part of their on-going business strategy and 45% said that it was a documented part of their annual business plan. The top four benefits identified for operationalizing collaboration were increased customers, competitive advantage over companies that don’t operationalize, improved reputation and prestige, and increased opportunities for other collaborations. Consider making collaboration a strategic pillar of your on-going business plan because we can go further together.

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