Destination marketing: who does know what they’re talkin’ about?

An article of questions about destination management and marketing; about business people, councillors, municipal managers, local economic development managers, and the board of your own tourism bureau; and about why the fact that they don’t know what they don’t know could be killing your economy.

  • Martin-Hatchuel-2012-WEBWhat’s the difference between a local tourism organisation (LTO) and a destination marketing organisation (DMO)?
  • Do you manage an LTO or a DMO?
  • Are you on its board?
  • Are you a member of one? Many?
  • Do you have an LTO or a DMO in your town? (Or, worse, do you have one of each? More than one of each?)
  • Do you know what your LTO or DMO does?
  • What it should do?
  • Do you know how it does it?
  • Most importantly – does it know what it’s doing, and do your councillors and officials know what it should be doing?
  • What is destination management anyway? (Here’s a hint: market readiness.)
  • What the flying freak is market readiness?
  • And (the oldest one in the book): my tourism bureau doesn’t do anything for me. Why should I even be interested in it?

You don’t build a destination for your visitors

Bill Geist of DMOPRōZ, author of Destination Leadership for Boards, and a contributor to Fundamentals in Destination Marketing, said it well: “You do not build a destination for visitors: you build a destination for yourself. But you build it smartly and sophisticatedly enough so that visitors are attracted to them. It has to work for you. It has to work for your culture.

“But with the right tweaks, visitors will beat a path to your door.” (Watch the video here.)

But this isn’t so easily achieved, what with everyone in the private sector wanting to benefit themselves on the one hand, the politicians wanting to look good on the other, and the officials trying to keep them both happy (if they even try) on the other, other hand.

Bill Geist again: “There needs to be an agency in every one of our communities that spearheads destination enhancing stuff… Tourism is a first date for investors – nobody is going to invest in a community that they haven’t visited.” (Watch the video here.)

… And, of course, this is where the DMO comes in.

Defining the DMO

I’m going to stick my neck out here:

A destination marketing organisation is one that seeks to understand the different sectors of an economy; finds and facilitates connections between them, and between them and partners from outside of the local economic area; and – and only once the connections have been built, and the mechanisms to get the results to market have been put in place (which is the point at which the local economy becomes ‘market ready’) – markets the destination’s attractions to visitors, investors, and local citizens alike.

But sticking your neck out is easy. How to make everyone aware of this, and how to get them to work together – well, that’s like building a nuclear reactor in comparison.

The trouble, of course, is the tourism bureau. Everyone’s stuck in the tourism bureau.

  • The politicians and the authorities don’t see why you have to have one. (“It’s elitist.” “Fruitless expenditure.” You know the kind of thing.)
  • Every single tourism business thinks the tourism bureau should be its own, personal marketing and booking agency.
  • Maybe a few visitors a week might wander into it to pick up a map or something.

Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not asking you to close your tourism bureau. But:

  • Do you understand how its role has changed?
  • Do your elected representatives and your officials understand why you need a properly trained DMO?
  • Do they even know what the species looks like? How it should work?
  • Do you know why not knowing about destination management is preventing your economy from reaching its full potential at best, choking it at worst?

And do you know where you can even begin to find the answers?

Join the discussion and share your ideas with the world: post your comments about this issue online at

How can This Tourism Week help you?

I’m Martin Hatchuel, a tourism practitioner with more than 30 years of experience in the sector, and I write and publish This Tourism Week as an informed, insightful look at issues affecting tourism in South Africa. (And I’ve been doing it since August, 2002.)

Backed by a team that includes web professionals (iBall Media), a graphic designer (Jo Hugo of Design,Etc.), PR consultants (interface by goji), and others, I’m here to help you develop all your communications tools: text (media releases, reports, business case studies, stories), strategies, web sites, apps, images, adverts, brochures, printing, events, and more.

Please contact me: 084 951 0574 or


Please tell your friends and colleagues about This Tourism Week and ask them to subscribe – online or by email.

Now go away on holiday – it’s in the economy’s best interests. And have a great tourism week!

Martin Hatchuel
Chartered Public Relations Professional

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