Independent Review of Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) consultation closes 28 April 21

“The government has commissioned an independent review of Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) in England. The review aims to examine and assess how DMOs across England are funded and structured, and how they perform their roles, in order to establish whether there may be a more efficient and effective model for supporting English tourism at the regional level, and if so what that model may be. The review is led by Nick de Bois, with support from a challenge panel of experts. The review aims to take a considered and evidence-based approach to meeting the objectives laid out in the Terms of Reference, and a full programme of stakeholder engagement, including meetings and interviews, is already underway. Your responses to this consultation will play a key role in shaping, informing and improving our findings, and contribute to the final report”.

More details together with the consultation documentation and response formats can be accessed at: Independent Review of Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) consultation – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Although a review of arrangements in England the nature of the industry and the relatively scale on both the product supply and customer demand side means that the quality of domestic tourism management, domestic tourism consumer and B2B messaging and generic destination marketing in England can and does have a profound impact on the popularity and perceptions of domestic UK holidaymaking and in parallel influence views on future, currently differing funding and structural arrangements in other Home Nations. DMOs public bodies and tourism interests outside England may have pertinent views to offer the English review?

British Destinations response has still to be developed but initial conversations among senior destination manager practitioner highlighted:

  • the critical role of public sector and the reality that, despite years of policy pressure to disengage, many of the most effective Destination Management Organisations are still public, public private sector lead/enabled/funded/administered organisations.
  • The genie was let out of the lamp many years ago and there is now a multitude of locally adapted models involving local Authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships, Combined Authorities, Business Improvement Districts, Private Companies, Community Interest Companies and so on. In many, if not all cases, they services different functions within the overall management (product development, regeneration, public realm, planning, licensing, event provision, visitor services, transport policy, parking etc. etc).
  • Having created a destination product worth marketing they may market it themselves to a wider domestic audience and/or international audience than the individual businessmen (largely SMEs/micro businesses) can affordably reach themselves. Marketing is the end function, not the sole function of destination management. They may engage other to do some of that marketing for them.
  • Clear understand and mapping of who does what, where and why is need before you can assess what is truly effective and what might be changed for the better. Given the diversity of the starting point proscriptive change in structure may not be the solution, whereas enabling greater more effective engagement of public sector bodies, working with existing local partners may be?
  • It is not uncommon to find a local authority managing and marketing domestically its destination, working with its LEP and/or CA on strategic investment and product development and working with other DMOs, or through a larger area public or private sector destination marketing body, to market internationally, or to a particular key domestic sector, like business tourism, using a shared common area proposition.
  • Some tourism or destination BIDs act as the destination management bodies in their own right, others are the marketing arm for their management body and some even share the management functions with their local authorities, often split somewhere between retail, hospitality and tourism.
  • None of this is “duplication” as it has been viewed in every other previous DMO or similar review we have seen previously but a pragmatic, and about as efficient solution as you are going to get, in the prevailing circumstance that have been allowed or encouraged to develop over the last two decades or more. Ultimately its about resource and in particular who and how you fund what, without the very often entirely voluntary cooperation tumbling down around you.
  • The DMO review may represent a further opportunity to tackle the key barrier to appropriate levels of public sector investment into capital and revenue programmes and core destination management functions, including appropriate domestic promotion.
  • Treasury view almost all spending on domestic tourism activities as displacement. If they were to view it as an engine of economic redistribution, as in reality it is, then using tourism as a tool to assist in the Government’s leveling up agenda becomes not only an option but one of the strongest tools they have to support left behind rural and coastal communities and some towns Cities, or those parts within them, that are relatively deprived and often coincidently relatively dependant on tourism. An early draft research brief from 2017 articulates the concept particularly well (the research was not conducted but critically it suggests that the impact of such a policy could be measured and is, thus, a potentially deployable economic lever: https://britishdestinations.net/599-2/content/tourism-as-a-redistributor-of-income/
  • Although not directly related to DMOs themselves there is a potentially equally important question about the role and function of the National tourist board. In particular, how their current and relatively new structure and those function they are now allowed to perform and support within England have impacted on the structure and roles and functions of destination management and destination marketing organisations, especially since the demise of an independent Visit England and reversal of VE into VisitBritain to become a department within that primarily international marketing focused body.