by Padraic Gilligan, Vice President, Ovation Global DMC
In 1662 Irishman Robert Boyle made a scientific discovery that eventually allowed us to voyage to the bottom of the sea; 8 years later the exact same discovery was made by the Frenchman Edme Mariotte. The “multiple independent discovery” principle is well documented and includes Newton’s and Liebniz’s invention of calculus, Darwin’s and Wallace’s theory of evolution, and, if we believe him, George Harrison’s composition “My Sweet Lord” and its doppelganger melody “He’s so fine” written for the Chiffons by Ronnie Mack. It also extends to the coining of the term “destination management company” which emerged independently on both sides of the Atlantic just over 40 years ago.
“All’s changed, changed utterly …”
Arguably no sector of the meetings industry has undergone the same seismic transformation over the past 4 decades as the DMC sector. While the core mission and purpose for any DMC – to provide local logistics, knowledge and expertise to clients operating meetings and events in a destination – remains constant, the channels which create, promote and facilitate access to this have radically altered. So, too, unfortunately, has the value ascribed to such a service. The internet has conjured up the terrible illusion that, like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, knowledge and expertise is at the end of every Google search.
As we face into our 5th decade as destination management professionals here are 5 principles that will ensure our survival and prosperity:
1. First be a marketeer, then a manager
If, in the past, DMCs could simply wait for the phone to ring then today this is NOT an option. DMCs need to create demand for their services and this is most effectively done by crafting a marketing plan that pivots around the assets and attributes of the destination in which you operate. In the next decade single location DMCs will be savvy destination marketeers promoting their services strictly within the context of an overall destination presentation. They know that buyers are interested in Boston, not Boston DMC. Likewise multiple location and global DMCs will focus equally on promoting the core value proposition of the DMC sector while highlighting the individual appeal of all their destinations.
2. The principle of multiple back-scratching
The principle of co-opetition, that is, co-operating with a potential competitor, is well implemented in many business environments – think “Intel Inside”, for example. Over the next decade successful DMCs will intensify the “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” approach and will partner more and more with other local entities to ensure that the destination brand is ever more front and centre. Thus DMCs will assist in the crafting and implementation of clever destination marketing campaigns and will work with tourist boards, CVBs, hotels, venues, restaurants and maybe even other DMCs to create demand for Brussels or Beijing or Buenos Aires. In particular, they will lend specific expertise to the creation of experiential events during which the destination is showcased to a live audience.
3. Live outside of the box
Thinking outside the box is no longer enough. Prosperous DMCs of the future will be the ones who live outside the box in a constant, on-going pursuit of differentiation, creativity and innovation. This will extend particularly to how destination experiences are packaged and presented both on and off-line but will also include developing new ways of purchasing and pricing. Inspired by the need to offer buyers products and services that are truly unique, DMCs will need to deconstruct old destination paradigms and infuse them with fizz, flair and freshness while, simultaneously, delivering flawlessly at all times. Over the next decade DMCs will re-position themselves on the creative spectrum alongside creative agencies and move definitively away from any association with incoming tour operation, travel and leisure.
4. Think business
DMCs will play a key role in assisting national and local governments to understand the real economic value of meetings and events and the attendant need for consistent PR and marketing investment to attract this high yield business. Destination Marketing campaigns created and funded by Tourist Boards and CVBs will need to stress the business case for holding a meeting or event in a given destination. The business reasons will include financial advantages such as VAT reclaim and bid support for conferences, logistical advantages connected with air access and local infrastructure and, obviously, overall destination appeal.
5. Be faster, better & cheaper
In the past competitive advantage could be gained by focusing on one of the above. If you were cheaper than a competitor then this could compensate for speed of response and overall quality. More recently the market demanded at least two of the three attributes – if your promptness of response and quality were top notch then you could charge more. As we move into the next decade many clients will require all three or, at least, on a scale of 10, will not allow any attribute to fall below 7. DMCs will meet this demanding challenge by a judicious use of technology. Many DMCs are experiencing radically altered work practices as a result of the adoption of VIPER, an impressive IT platform designed specifically by DMCs for DMCs.
Padraic Gilligan is Vice President of Ovation Global DMC. He is a former president of Site and currently serves on the Hospitality Partners Advisory Council at FICP.