Destination Management Plans and Strategy policy update

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I have been asked to clarify the current position on destination management planning in England (I have also alluded briefly to the situation in Wales in the last paragraph).

Five or more years ago, we were urging English destination management organisations (DMOs) to adopt VE’s guiding principles for destination management planning or adapting existing plans at their next revision to more closely align with them.  The rational was simple: the principles were generally sensible and much of it already common practice among most DMOs.  Moreover, funding and marketing support, formal recognition as a “DMO” by VE and attendance at the biannual VE Destination Management Forum were all subject to demonstrating that a local destination management plan, or strategy broadly following the guiding principles had or was being adopted.  In essence not to follow the advice was to risk disappearing off, or being downgraded on, the then English National Tourist Board’s radar.

After the major reorganisation of 2015/16 VB, and within it the now VE department, have continued to promote the original guidance on their combined website: https://www.visitbritain.org/developing-your-destination-management-plan . Whilst circumstance have continued to change since 2015, including the nature of VB/VE’s funding support to DMOs and/or initiatives and the nature of VB/VE’s combined other activities with their focus now on international rather than domestic markets and marketing, the general principles in the guidance remain sound.

Meanwhile, a number of the typically 5-year plans adopted pre VE reorganisation are falling due for revision. Colleagues contemplating renewing their plans are not unreasonably keen to understand the degree, if any, to which future engagement with VB/VE will be dependent on alignment with the existing destination plan guidance. On the one hand the guidance is still being promoted, on the other circumstance have changed around VB/VE programmes and delivery.  Since we originally encourage participation, British Destination members are now asking us to give an update. I have therefore asked the relevant questions on your joint behalf.

The answers are that access to the current DEF funding and involvement in the now annual English Destination Forum are no longer formally linked to having a plan or strategy that follows the guiding principles; VE for, example, will no longer ask to see it as part of the bidding or funding assessment processes.  That is unlikely to change in relationship to any future DEF scheme or general engagement with VB/VE.

To a degree this is semantics.  VB/VE do still rightly expect those DMOs that they work with and support to demonstrate local partnership, have a clear understanding of their markets and the position and relationships sub regionally, regionally and nationally etc. All of this is very much the stuff of a good local tourism plan, strategy, call it what you will.  It may not now be necessary to follow the guiding principles as published line by line or slavishly use certain terminology or key phrases in preference to similar terminology for the sake of demonstrating compliance.  However, destinations of any consequence do need a sound management plan and to keep it refreshed, taking into account changing market conditions and changes like the evolving relationship with LEPs in England and new developments in some area such as City Regions and Combined Authorities.  Having an agreed destination plan and having the organisation and capacity to deliver it are two side of the same coin and functioning destinations need both to succeed.

It is also worth considering that if and when the UK tourism Industry Strategy is accepted and tourism zones (however defined) become a reality, in all likelihood quality destination management plans will be a perquisite for, or at least the platform from which any bid to become a tourism zone can successfully be made. Having an up to date plan in place to work from might be advantageous.

In Wales the 15 destination partnerships have all developed and published destination plans.  All 15 current plans can very helpfully be found in one place at: https://businesswales.gov.wales/tourism/working-together#guides-tabs–4

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