by Pádraic Gilligan, Chief Marketing Officer, SITE & Managing Partner, SoolNua
DMCs in the 1990s
When you’re deeply immersed in a particular silo or business sector, that’s really all you see. During the early years of Delaney Marketing when Patrick and I were a struggling DMC, all chatter was about client going direct, DMC getting cut out, client stealing DMCs ideas, other DMCs using “your” suppliers, hotel refusing to acknowledge DMC’s role in winning the business and so on. (and on).
When Delaney Marketing became Ovation and expanded its service to become a user of DMC services itself that perspective began to alter. As a buyer of these services we had a different view of the DMC value proposition. We realised how seminal and crucial the DMC was to the success of the programme. However, we also knew that running a successful event in a destination didn’t necessarily require a DMC at all, especially when it was a simple meeting or event.
How much has changed for DMCs?
Fast forward to now. We’re starting our sixth year as SoolNua having ventured forth from the safe harbour of a strong, global Business Events corporation in 2014 onto the turbulent, unpredictable seas of MICE consultancy where landfall is your next gig but sometimes it’s not appearing on any horizon! The one thing you have in abundance out on this swelling, undulating ocean (it’s quite calm at the moment, by the way!) is perspective. So how does the DMC sector look from this vantage point? Has much changed?
On the negative side there’s still a solid wedge of small minded pettiness at the heart of how some DMCs see the world. This attitude is definitely more prevalent amongst the older cohort of DMCs who, perhaps, have struggled or even refused to adapt to a radically altered business environment. Theirs was ultimately a lifestyle, not a business. They ate comfortably and copiously from a well stocked trough but now this all has changed. The feed in the trough is not as rich as it once was and this massively diluted fare has to be shared with a host of blow-ins or new kids on the block. Needless to say they don’t like this. And they constantly tell us about it.
DMCs – a new emerging value proposition
On the positive side there’s a new emerging value proposition, championed by a band of bright, clever, articulate DMC leaders who marry the “vocational” aspect of the profession to a clear business proposition. These are DMC leaders who know the industry doesn’t owe them anything other than the constant stream of opportunities that come their way to add real value to programme delivery and develop new products and services for an evolving marketplace.
DMC as servant-leader
Importantly, these professionals do not compromise EVER on the classic DMC DNA – that innate, intuitive service focus that finds it impossible to say “no”. I recall vividly from our time with Delaney Marketing and Ovation realising that not everyone you hire has what it takes to be a DMC. Being a great DMC professional involves the attributes of servant-leadership, constantly channeling changing client requirements in the infinite pursuit of ultimate client satisfaction and seamless programme delivery. Leaving no stone unturned. Focusing relentlessly on details. Checking and then checking again. And again. Modelling constantly a “can-do” attitude.
However, these DMC leaders know how to connect flawless execution with strategic vision and build a solid business, way beyond the bounds of a lifestyle. These are people who read the signs of the times. They figure out what’s coming down the stream and they react accordingly, adapting, responding appropriately. The industry forecast published in December 2018 by Corporate & Incentive Travel featured a number of DMC leaders whose predictions for 2019 and beyond showed clear evidence of brilliant strategic thinking and trend discernment.
DMC and procurement
Jennifer Patino of Hosts Global acknowledges procurement as a challenge for the DMC sector. However, as a visionary leader she turns the challenge into an opportunity and highlights how Hosts Global is carving out a niche “in areas where procurement finds great value – proactive emergency preparedness planning to GDPR compliance and other regulatory requirements that have become part of the procurement process”. Who knew that DMCs could be a go-to source for regulatory processes?
DMC and research
Catherine Chaulet of Global DMC Partners provides sage advise for destinations based on an analysis of data points from a survey undertaken by her organisation:
By analyzing the data, we found that secondary markets and new destinations are seeing increased interest as new experiences are sought after. As a result, tried-and-true top destinations such as New York, London and Paris should consider creating unexpected offerings and highlight off-the-beaten-path venues in order to continue to attract interest for repeat business.
Research and data analysis are not skill sets traditionally related to DMCs – but they are now as DMC leaders like Catherine help elevate the activity into a true profession.
DMC and Sustainability
The third DMC leader featured on the C&IT story, Chris Lee of ACCESS Destination Services even quotes Sam Harris in his response. Indeed, Chris is quite the philosopher:
Society continues to evolve its social consciousness and mindfulness, and I only see that continuing to grow on an exponential scale. Neuroscientist Sam Harris calls it our “growing circle of compassion,” and it’s something our industry will continue to embrace. We expect so much from the destinations in which we plan meetings and events, and both planners and participants alike want to give back to those destinations whenever they can.
Chris calls out the sustainability – particularly local sourcing – and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) are key tenets for Business Events professionals as we head into the third decade of the century. And, of course, he’s right – this contention is borne out across many research initiatives including the comprehensive Incentive Travel Industry Index (ITII) conducted jointly by Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE), Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) and Financial & Insurance Conference Professionals (FICP). ITII 2018 demonstrated unequivocally that corporations are now linking incentive travel programs with CSR and particularly with a wider concern for and focus upon workplace culture.
It’s gratifying to note, too, that Hosts Global, ACCESS, and Global DMC Partners are only three organisations among an emerging constellation of DMC organisations that are truly re-defining the value proposition – other shining lights include The DMC Network, Ovation Global DMC, Pacific World, the long established and newly rebooted Euromic and, of course, the pioneering PRA.
Pádraic Gilligan, Pat Delaney & Aoife McCrum run SoolNua, a specialist agency working with destinations, venues, hotels, agencies and associations on strategy, marketing and training for the Business Events / MICE sector.
All imagery from Global DMC Partners.