Joint DMO review proposal Aug 20

In mid August 2020 a paper was published signed by 20 English “DMOs” making the case for support, seeking an urgent review of the DMO structure in England and proposing a possible new structure based on those 20 “DMOs” (alone?). The public paper, didn’t necessary get widely circulated and it now transpires that not all the DMOs signing off the proposal consulted with their own stakeholders and partners, either before or after publication and the circulation of the paper may have been patchy at best.

Given the complexity of the DMO landscape, largely created by the unintended consequences of the many previous Government reviews and enforced or induced changes, the stakeholders and the operational and strategic partners of many of ,the 20 includes a large number of other destination management and destination marketing bodies and organisations. These DMOs may work above, below or alongside then, or in operational or geographic areas not physically covered by the 20 or in overlapping geographies, focusing on different aspects of destination management, that the 20 may not, don’t or can’t addresses and/or working on similar issues in overlapping geographies but at appropriately separate levels and/or for different stakeholders. It is complex but for good historic reason and change may just make it different but no better. Done badly radical change could make it catastrophically worse for the majority of stakeholders, I.e. the businesses DMOs exist to assist.

In August 2020 the proposal wasn’t necessary an issue as the paper could and should still be seen in the context of a plea for urgent support from some but by no means all, the English DMO suffering from the direct commercial impact of covid-19 and, to a large degree, as “kit flying” regarding both the need for a DMO review and putting forward a radical, potential new structure (and funding stream?) for those 20 in a post covid-19 world.

However, the position has radically changed and we now have an ongoing formal review of DMO structure, and a paper that has been relatively recently published but not necessarily seen by the majority of well-established, well functioning DMOs in England. Many of whom are peers and partners of the proposed 20. Meanwhile, some but not all of the 20 may (are?) still presenting the “big 20 proposals” to the DMO review, regardless of whether all the other 20 actually still believe it to be the right solution. Some of the 20 were not fully committed to all aspects of the original paper, or having subsequently faced vocal local challenge have revised their original position accordingly.

There is nothing wrong with any of this of course, save for the fact that the original paper doesn’t and will not get the support of the majority (c90%?) of DMOs delivering vital support to a wide range of destinations in the most appropriate manner possible, relative to very different local circumstances now experienced after 30 plus years of regular national, regional and local reshuffling, exponentially increasing demand for tourism and for tourism to be managed, set against a background of continued inherent market failure and constant, often ideological driven, pressures on Central and Local Government engagement in, and funding for, tourism support. Some (many?) believe that the proposals, if enacted, would result in further fragmentation not less and the a parallel reduction in physical, effective management at the point of delivery I.e. at the destination level, whatever type and size that “destination” may be.

I am not comfortable having to alert colleges to the paper or in particular to suggesting that there may be issues associated with it, or that you may need to address these with your own DMO partners and/or within your own responses. However, I have a duty to the British Destination membership, regardless of my own views on the merits or demerits of the August 2020 proposals, or on any variations on the theme, yet in all likelihood still to be put forward to the review. On occasion the job and the wider interests of UK tourism require someone to stick their head above the parapet. This unfortunately is one of those occasions. Apologies in advance to anyone who has reason to take offence at my actions; happy to discuss and justify them if needs be.

The paper can be accessed at: