by Padraic Gilligan, Vice President, Ovation Global DMC
Trends in the DMC sector
The publication in the last few days by The Special Events Magazine of this year’s Top 25 DMCs provides some interesting summer reflections on our sector and, in particular, on how some of us see future trends. Not all companies and consortia offered their views on future trends but amongst those that did there was a striking similarity. The three most commonly mentioned themes were:
1. Improving economy – business is back but not as we know it
2. Tighter lead times – lead times reduced from 6 months to 6 weeks
3. Tighter budgets – clients want more for less
Kuoni, one of the global DMCs on the list, referred to on-going economic instability in some non US markets – which I concur with – but, by and large, the global freeze we all experienced back in 2009 has now thawed to a greater or lesser extend and there’s movement again. There was unanimity regarding shorter lead times with some organisations like Hello Florida, Metro Connections, Ovation and Access mentioning how they are leveraging technology to address this fact. Most DMCs also mentioned “the DMC as magician” phenomenon whereby the DMC is required to deliver more services for less money. So, with remarkable consensus amongst our sector on what’s happening out there why was I left unconvinced? What left me with the feeling that DMCs today are like the character in the pantomime blissfully unaware of the evil genius who is standing right behind him ready to pounce?
Tighter lead times and budgets are the new normal since 2009 so, in truth, we shouldn’t really be beating on about them anymore. They’re yesterday’s trends. As mentioned above some of us have turned to technology and are developing processes that help us in the elusive pursuit of “faster, better, cheaper”. My fear is, however, that we are not doing this quickly or comprehensively enough and are ultimately exposing ourselves to new levels of competition that will eventually crush us. The evil genius that will shortly have us in his iron grip is technology. Already many of our clients are using technology to conduct in-depth research on destinations and they’re not always finding us among the treasure trove of precious content that’s out there. Consider the following:
Viator has been around for many years – it actually dates from 1995 – but has refined its value proposition significantly and offers experiences, not tours – recognise the language? Its tagline is “travel with an insider” and, since earlier this year, it has been directly linked with Trip Advisor and City Guides. You can book experiences for up to 9 people at a time and can consult reviews from other travellers of the activities you plan to do. Prices are clearly displayed and discounts are frequently offered off the usual price of the activity. They’re a strong emphasis on VIP, “behind the velvet ropes” experiences and “being in the know” – does that not sound like the ingredients of a good incentive to you?
If the core value proposition of the DMC pivots around local knowledge and expertise then how will we compete with on-line businesses like vayable? Take a look, for instance, at Jeffrey’s “Queen’s Tastes of the World” tour. Retailing at $59 per person, this has all the hallmarks of a highly customised motivational experience that gives you a behind-the-scenes immersion in the culinary excitement of Jackson Heights, New York. It’s the perfect GenY incentive – informal, edgy but mostly 100% authentic. You – and, more importantly, your clients – will find the site with a couple of mouse clicks and a google search.
Localers is a Paris based on-line business which allows you to “explore France like a local”. The site is jam-packed with truly original, inspirational ideas to discover the city in a new way. You can hire Carin, for example. She’s a Swedish photographer who has lived in Paris for 3 years. A photo journalist who has worked for Elle magazine, Carin will take you around Paris at twilight and capture you and your loved ones on camera in the city’s mysterious dusky half-light. What’s not to love about that? Or take Thomas’s literary tour of Paris and discover why the greatest writers in the English language (the Irish, of course) all tended to gravitate to Paris at some stage in the lives – think Oscar Wilde, think James Joyce, think Samuel Beckett. The site links you directly with your guide, introducing you to them, sharing with you what they love about the destination. The list of experiences and activities on localers would do any DMC proud.
So what are the implications for our businesses?
I think I know what I need to do but I’d love to hear your views and promise to incorporate all comments into a future post on the same topic.
Padraic Gilligan works for Ovation Global DMC.