to the World
Travel and Tourism Council, today travel and tourism supports one in 10
jobs worldwide and generates 10.4% of the world’s GDP - valued at $8.8
Much of the responsibility for attracting those
travelers to a community or region - and capturing some of that economic
benefit - falls to destination marketing organizations (DMOs), also known by
other names such as visitors bureaus and tourist boards.
DMOs have existed in various forms more than 100
years, initially with a focus on convention travel management and later
expanding to encompass leisure travel as well.
But the work of these entities today is much
broader than just drawing in visitors.
“The idea that you are just driving heads in
beds is no longer good enough,” says Jack Johnson, chief advocacy officer and
foundation executive director for Destinations International, a professional
organization representing destination organizations from nearly 600 locations
in 13 countries.
“Every visitor is a potential connection to
expanding your economic base. Once you get people to pay attention, once you
get people to visit, what follows is businesses and then customers come and
investment comes and talent comes.
But along with that effort to reap the economic
benefits of tourism comes an awareness - heightened in recent years - of the
need to address tourism’s impact on a destination’s social and environmental
final piece in our monthlong series on destination marketing, we delve into
the topic of tourism growth – suggestions on how it can be managed effectively
and specific examples from two emerging destinations working to take a
proactive approach that safeguards them from some of the pitfalls faced by
Destinations International’s 2019
DestinationNEXT Futures Study, produced in partnership with MMGY NextFactor, highlights the
shifting role of DMOs worldwide.
survey of more than 500 destinations in more than 50 countries resulted in the
identification of both “destination stewardship” and “community alignment” as
two of the top three “transformational opportunities” for DMO leaders.
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to the report, stewardship requires coalition-building that can lead to the
development of “more immersive destination experiences, manage sustainable
visitor growth, promote equitable economic development and elevate quality of
life and quality of place.”
Community alignment means both residents and government leaders share a vision for
the destination’s development and the value of tourism to the local economy.
of these responsibilities for DMOs is borne in part out of lessons learned the
hard way – in places like Barcelona and Amsterdam and Venice and Iceland.
destinations, and others like them, have grappled with how to retrofit tourism
management into what was for years strictly destination marketing, the rest of
the world has been watching.
World Travel and Tourism Council writes in its report, Destination 2030: Global
Cities’ Readiness For Tourism Growth, these cities are implementing tourism
management policies including “regulations
on home-sharing or creating new tourism attractions and products or experiences
to help move people away from congested areas. To date, their actions have
tended to be reactive in some cases, yet the policies that these cities have
put in place often serve as best practices for others who wish to proactively
manage their tourism industry.”
And that desire for proactivity is
particularly visible in emerging destinations that only recently have found
themselves drawing interest, driven in large part by the burgeoning desire of
travelers to have unique, undiscovered vacation experiences.
The Faroe Islands
destination is the Faroe Islands.
cluster of 18 islands situated roughly equidistant between Iceland, Scotland
and Norway is an autonomous territory of Denmark.
We want locals to be onboard with tourism, and we want to create a tourism industry that’s beneficial for all across the country and all year round as well.
Levi Hanssen - Faroe Islands
In 2013, the Faroe Islands government
reorganized the tourist board and increased funding for marketing, with a goal
of, by 2020, generating revenue of one billion Danish krone and securing
200,000 bed nights.
With that in mind, Visit Faroe Islands
launched two creative campaigns. For 2016’s “SheepView 360” campaign, the tourist
board strapped 360-degree cameras onto the backs of sheep and uploaded the
images to Google Street View. The effort generated huge buzz from international
media and led to Google arriving to map the islands itself.
Next, as awareness
and tourist traffic picked up, the tourist board took the issue of a language
barrier into its own hands with the launch in 2017 of “Faroe Islands Translate”
– its answer to the lack of Faroese in Google Translate, with translations
provided by local volunteers.
Faroe Islands’ content and communications manager, Levi Hanssen, says the effort drew translation requests from more than
180 countries, and together, these two campaigns kickstarted interest in the
destination. In 2018, the Faroe Islands - with a residential population of
50,000 - welcomed more than 110,000 visitors, about 50,000 arriving on cruise
ships and ferries and the rest by air.
Hanssen says the nation will
definitely meet those 2020 room night and revenue goals – and the pace will
quicken when two new hotels open next year, boosting the islands’ room count
from 400 to about 660. Airbnb has also taken off in the last few years.
But with the increased traffic have
come concerns about sustainability.
“It’s not that we have overtourism in
any way, but we are a small country and we are very conscious about the nature
that we have and the environment we have and to keep true to our motto, which
is the Faroe Islands are unspoiled and unexplored and unbelievable,” he says.
So in early 2018, the tourist board
created a new department focused on managing visitor flow and launched a
campaign earlier this year titled, “Closed for Maintenance, Open for
Voluntourism.” One hundred volunteers from 25 countries, selected from more
than 3,500 applicants, came to the islands over a weekend in late April to work
with locals on projects such as building walking paths, constructing lookouts
for bird-watching and erecting sings for wayfinding.
“If we look at our neighboring countries that have been
working with tourism for many more years than we have, we are definitely in a
privileged position to learn from what they’ve done well and what they’ve done
not so well,” Hanssen says.
“We want locals to be onboard with tourism, and we want to
create a tourism industry that’s beneficial for all across the country and all
year round as well.”
Also this spring, Visit Faroe Islands released its strategic
plan through 2025, built on the concept of “Preservolution” – a solution with
preservation and evolution at its core.
One of the plan’s four cornerstones is “quality over
quantity,” which includes limiting the size and number of cruise ships allowed
in the Faroe Islands.
“It’s not something we think we, as a DMO, should be
promoting for a destination like ours. Which is obviously quite controversial,”
“But it’s interesting to see that the large majority of
reactions are that people have found it to be a very courageous and good step
in the right direction when it comes to looking at this as our country, what
type of tourism do we want in our country, and who do we want to come.”
Nearly 5,000 miles southwest of the Faroe Islands is Guyana,
a South American country that is also figuring out how to balance the promotion
of tourism with a commitment to preserving the destination’s nature and
country has a population just under 800,000, with 90% living along the Atlantic
Ocean coast and the remainder spread throughout the interior, where the land is
filled with rainforests and wildlife.
early 2018, American Brian Mullis became director of the Guyana Tourism
Authority, a move that was part of the country’s effort to boosts its profile
as a destination focused on ecotourism.
on his decades of experience in the field of sustainable tourism, Mullis says
he knew he had to “begin with the business case” to get the attention of
leaders across the country.
crunching the numbers, Mullis was able to show that visitors to Guyana –
numbering around 300,000 annually - spend about $1,100 each, establishing
tourism as the country’s second largest export after gold.
it’s still relatively small, 99% of our tourism is run by locally owned
businesses so you get that direct, indirect and induced multiplier effect that
is so meaningful in our industry,” Mullis says.
fact, many of the accommodations and experiences offered in the nation's interior - the primary destination for visitors seeking nature, culture and adventure - are owned and operated by one of the country's nine indigenous tribes.
communities aren’t interested in more volume,” Mullis says.
say we don’t want more people, we want fewer people that will stay longer. For
them, in terms of social impacts, it’s much less with that lower volume and
people that can get to know their community rather than constantly having to
inform new visitors about the cultural mores and norms.”
With that in mind, Mullis describes his strategy as “narrow
and deep” – targeting travelers interested in the country’s focus on sustainability
and its Green State Agenda, as well as those looking for nature-, culture- and
Mullis markets Guyana as a place “for anyone who wants to
experience the beauty and serenity of one of the last pristine places on Earth”
using a range of tools: Facebook, Instagram, Google and TripAdvisor, content
for the tourism website and for partners to promote through their channels and
through on-the-ground representatives in target markets.
Guyana’s top market for inbound travel is the United States,
and traffic will pick up next year when JetBlue begins new nonstop service to
the country from New York.
And while internet connectivity is patchy outside the
capital, Mullis says it's less of an issue since most visitors are not booking
on their own, they are doing it through
tour operators, a destination management company or private guide.
“Ten years ago, Guyana wouldn’t have been as attractive a destination,
but in an age of overtourism when touristy destinations are increasingly falling
out of favor, those that are off the tourist radar and have maintained
authenticity are becoming more interesting."