The Exciting but Competitive Future: Looking Ahead for DMOs

In the Fall of 2020, Destination Analysts conducted a survey of over 240 DMO executives about change and disruption in the tourism industry, commissioned by and in partnership with BVK, as one part of their Destination Tailwind: A Strategy Series on transformational change. The findings from this research have important strategic implications for DMOs—from where to focus resources, to the skills that should be hired for in order for these organizations to stay competitive in this increasingly fast-moving world.



When we asked DMOs to describe their organizational purpose and mission with a single response, it’s clear that DMOs see themselves as there to strengthen the local economy and quality of life, far more so than as existing for the purposes of destination promotion or as travel demand generators. But some sense is compelling 70% to agree that their organization needs to change or evolve their mission and purpose.


DMO executives see a need to change in important ways. Nearly all agreed—and 41% strongly—that their organization recognizes the need to transform in response to disruptive industry trends, including changing customer needs, technology, and on a vastly different side, local community and resident sentiment. In fact, in part to this, DMO executives agree the ways they need to change are significant. There is strong agreement across the DMO industry that their organizations need to change or evolve their funding model and even change or evolve their core offerings.


DMO executives are challenged with how to create an internal culture prepared for change with the funding and resources they currently have, as well as grapple with the inevitable external forces that impact their ability to adapt and change, even when the internal structure is there. 25% say that new concepts, products and ideas at their organization often or always get LESS attention than they should because key constituents tend to favor the way things have always been done. 61% say this sometimes happens—only 11% never. Many DMO executives cited getting internal buy-in and a lack of compelling ideas as obstacles to their ability to transform. Clearly, they need people on their teams that are skilled at obtaining resources and inspiring internal buy-in.


Competitive pressure is intensifying and coming from all angles—56% of DMOs believe the competitive intensity they feel now will only increase moving forward. Just within the next year, almost 70% say they expect increased competition specifically within their own industry, and 61% anticipate increased competition from adjacent industries, such as technology or travel influencers. Over half of DMOs say they anticipate competition for their services and offerings from entirely new industries, and over a third even anticipate competition for their services from organizations within their own communities. As DMO executives look out over the next five years, a majority likely feel they will face increased competition for the very core services these organizations are likely most currently known and valued for, including Destination Branding, Product/Experience Development, Tourism Marketing, Visitor Information, Economic Development.


A “working together” ethos may thus be more critical than ever.


You can watch Destination Analysts’ CEO, Erin Francis-Cummings, discuss highlights from this research in Episode 1: The Business Case for Change here. If you would like a presentation of the full findings of this important research for your internal team, Board of Directors or other stakeholders, we would be happy to help. Please register and submit a request here.