It’s brutal reality. Many destination marketing organisations (DMOs) are now tasked with doing a lot more with a lot less. Marketing budgets are tight most places. Those in the United States are facing dramatic budget cuts—Brand USA may even be scrapped—and Visit Britain has suffered years of cuts. There are many examples around the world.
So what can DMOs do to better manage the process?
Having looked across the range of successful strategies and talked to a variety of DMOs from national tourism organisations to local government areas, councils and towns, I believe there are three indispensible elements to defending your marketing budget—I call it the “ACE” strategy.
A is for Allies. Gather them around you
The most successful DMOs I have seen have a network of people to support them that is both deep (within the visitor economy) and broad (across other sectors).
You need to ask yourself: “Whose views are CFO and public auditors going to respect and trust?” “Who is too important to ignore?” To use an exmample from Australia, it was the political clout of the farming sector that helped the tourism industry mitigate the impact of the backpacker tax in 2016-17.
Furthermore, don’t underestimate the importance of the public. Call upon as many allies as possible—the public, different sectors, chambers of commerce, NGOs—and build a network of allies with skin in the game.
The Big C: Collaborate with your allies
Once you have your network built, speak with one voice. As tourism is a sector with competing destinations and many players, there is a temptation for everyone to put their own spin on the story and try to lead it.
Don’t let that happen. Identify who should lead the message and keep it consistent across stakeholders. Policymakers have told us that the industry’s inability to formulate a consistent message makes it financially vulnerable relative to other sectors of the economy.
E is for Evidence. Master it
Finally, you need to support your allies and your case with firm evidence. What would be the effects of a budget cut? Which of your allies has evidence that might help? How robust is their data? Can you verify it?
But beyond allies and evidence, I’ve found that you need to understand the mindset and concerns of financial controllers if you want to persuade them.
Belief in the value of destination marketing varies a lot among legislators and budget controllers. Marketers often have a limited idea about those doubts and concerns. Understanding and speaking to those concerns is vital. Just as with customers, we need to see the process from a decision maker’s point of view.
Budget kick-back could happen tomorrow. Plan for it.
Carolyn Childs is co-founder and strategist at MyTravelResearch.com, a market research and marketing firm specialising in the travel, tourism and aviation industries.