The House of Commons Tourism statistics and policy briefing note, potentially the first port of call for Westminster based politicians and their staff wishing to know more about tourism in the UK, has recently been updated. It is designed as an impartial, factual briefing documents covering the key points on UK and home nation tourism.
Colleagues in some other sectors have privately questioned the presentation of certain “facts” and/or the interpretations of them. I was very relaxed about this and the content as a whole, until I read what may be seen by other parts of the industry to be a similarly innocuous one-liner on destination management on page 24 under the Discover England Fund section.
In discussing the Discover England fund this section mentions “Destination Management Organisations (DMOs)”, indicates that there are, “….200+ such organisations in England and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes” and then states that: “DMOs rarely have a significant role in the management of their destination, but rather provide information to potential visitors and market the destination”.
That may be the case in some instance, particularly for a small number of the County/larger area-based destination marketing organisations but it certainly isn’t the case for the majority both managing and marketing smaller rural destination areas, historic and other destination towns, coastal resorts and small, medium and large City destinations in England, or for those doing much the same in the other home nations.
The consequence of this misunderstanding and the apparently, coincidental path of some current Westminster Government policies may well be pushing matters rapidly in that direction; a direction where destination management is no longer the business of local public, private or public private sector tourism partnerships and is therefore left largely to fall between the cracks. If it isn’t the Destination Management Organisations business then who’s is it?
There are limited opportunities to comment on the content of the briefing note, these will be explored and the most influential route taken. Meanwhile the publication severs as a timely reminder, if one is needed, of the pressing need to repeatedly reminding Westminster based politicians and officials of the importance of destination management as a core local competence of most local DMOs.
Destinations that ceases to be adequately managed, will in time cease to be destinations that are worth visiting or revisiting and a cycle of decline will soon begin to set in. The fact that this decline is seldom or ever instantaneous allows for short-sighted, short-term cost savings to be made with relative impunity. Those professionals who manage destinations know only too well that serious damage can take as little as a couple of years to start to take hold and that thereafter it accelerates and expands rapidly. Moreover, reversing declining is almost always far more difficult, far more long-lived and costlier than avoiding it in the first place.
Many traditional destinations have had first-hand experience of what happens when you fail to manage the destination to meet changing circumstance and simply carry on marketing them and their main constituent public and private products. It has taken two- and a-bit decades of investment and hard work to successfully reverse several decades of deep decline before that which were sparked initially by the advent of the inexpensive overseas package holiday in the mid-70s. In the current changing circumstance let’s not be forced or cajoled into make much the same mistakes again, especial now that tourism is no longer the preserve of relatively few large, established resorts and rural tourist areas but ubiquitous and an important social and economic driver in a much wider range of communities.
If you get the opportunity to challenge the assertion that DMOs rarely have a role in managing their destination, for example with your local MPs, then please do so.
The original briefing note has been added to the National level political policies and strategies main tab on wwwbritishdestinations.net or go direct to the page at: