Updated: Sep 19, 2020
Last week the Tourism Society started its new term of "Virtual Think Tanks" created during covid on a weekly basis of high profile speakers and panel discussions designed to keep the industry up-to-date during the pandemic. The new series of monthly events are hoped to become fundraisers for the not-for-profit organisation that heavily relies on live event income see www.thetourismsociety.com for future events.
The first one to take place was on the topic, plight and future of the UK's destination management offices (DMOs) with highly respected speakers from the sector including Angela Byrne FTS - Head of Visit Isle of Man, Malcolm Bell FRSA, FTS, FTMI - CEO and Marketing Director of Visit Cornwall, Sheona Southern - Managing Director of Marketing Manchester and Chris Brown MTS - Director of Marketing Liverpool. Attended by over 40 members and guests including other DMOs from Yorkshire, Greenwich, Isle of Wight, Oxfordshire, and Wiltshire an interesting discussion was had on how these DMOs had coped during covid to date and what the future looks like to them. Sadly, during covid due to the lack of funding a top tourism destination in the UK lost it's DMO - Visit Cambridgeshire.
It was agreed that the need to change the national tourism bodies' mindset from marketing to destination management must be done by government as the role, particularly of VisitBritain, is currently a marketing role. A completely new structure, skills set, and, possibly, legislation would be required to change this focus. The fact that this is only ever discussed at local/regional DMO level and never seems to be grasped as a desperate need at national level, was commented on.
Top of the DMOs' wish list would be to put a "T" in DCMS (Department of Culture, Media and Sport), the government department responsible for Tourism but not even recognising it in their name. This reflects the governments' lack of understanding and appreciation of the economic value of tourism, revenue stream and important role the sector will play in view of Brexit. A review is called for on the role and operation of DMOs and an appreciation of the vast task that lies ahead post covid when it is anticipated it will take 3 to 5 years to rebuild the industry, destroyed in just a few months, especially the international markets.