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Destination Innovate Blog

DAM! Lessons from DMOs one month in.

I kicked off Destination Advance Me on May 1 with a handful of forward-thinking DMOs. It is meant to be a hybrid of destination strategy and business coaching. And, I. Am. Loving. It. I knew going in, that I was going to impact these destinations and their team deeply in DMORPs (DMO Relevancy Planning) and how they advance their impact. What I didn’t know is how much more I would learn from these DMOs and the additional challenges they face. One month into a 90-day program, here are some surprising lessons from this group:

  1. Some are still wrestling with partners thinking the DMO chooses favorites. My opinion on this issue is a lack of clarity on partner roles. It is imperative to support the partners by assisting them in clarifying their role in the destination. I wrote more about this here.
  2. They have a hard time selling new ideas to boards and others. Risk is risky for DMOs, I get that. But, the “me, too” decision making that happens, I thought, would have died out by now. Not the case. Seems most DMOs still do not adopt wider trends and innovation unless other DMOs have already done it.
  3. Some haven’t been properly trained or invest in leadership. Again, this “incestuous” trend of DMOs only learning from each other or the usual suspect vendors. This has created a void in many DMOs whose team is already stretched too thin in tactical work. Being a good leader and manager isn’t always inherent and strong leadership is necessary to balance many vendors, team members and partners.
  4. They feel under fire and tend to not work on proactive activities. This is really a natural psychological tendency. Think about vitamins. Some people take care of their skin early, take vitamins and put a premium on being ‘proactive’. The second category are pain killers. The average person may not take vitamins, but if they have a toothache, they’ll damn well go to the dentist. When a DMO has constant pressure of putting out fires, they often do not recognize or prioritize longer-term strategies that must be put in place today.
  5. Conflict and competition are very tough for them. Another personal development gap in many DMOs is the fear of competing in healthy ways, thus you see a major gap in ‘brand banter’ for this industry. When it comes to a pissed off stakeholder or board member, the tendency to avoid conflict and appease is defacto. Different conflict styles ranging from avoidance to competitive to accommodating could employ the compromise method where all parties feel heard. Good management consulting can promote this important skill in today’s environment.

There are so many other challenges for these DMOs that fall into the common problem category, as I anticipated.

This inaugural program and first month has taught me that I am as much a business coach in this process as I am co-building their DMORPs. But, what I love is the participation and presence of these organizations and especially their teams. Every single one has an unwavering commitment to their destination and that’s really the most important foundation.

June is upon us and I am accepting new DMOs in the DAM program, which is a 90-day prescriptive consulting program aimed at improving the relevance and innovation of the DMO. Contact me if you’d like to join, I am keeping participation limited so each organization gets my full attention.

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