The late, great Jack Franchek once told me that success as a DMC was all about cultivating relationships with weird people. And Jack being Jack exaggerated that contention to the nth degree: “Unless you’ve got a whole bunch of outcasts and weirdos in your Rolodex (this was a pre-Internet age!), you’re as useful to me as tits on a bull”. I was thinking about Jack recently, missing his larger than life personality, his God-sized intellectual curiosity. I remembered what he said about DMCs and thought how right he was.
A broad, deep and wide web of local connections is central to the DMC value proposition and is one of the ways that DMCs distinguish themselves from incoming tour operators or ground agents. Good incoming agents connect you to the logistical and infrastructural reality of a destination. They give you a framework or skeleton to work with and enable you to tailor the destination to the specific requirements of your customers.
Good DMCs do far more than this. They link you to the beating heart of the destination and mediate its uniqueness to create memorable, motivational experiences. These experiences are always personally enriching for your customers and sometimes even transformational. DMCs do this by leveraging their relationships with a very broad church of locals comprising artists, writers, priests, concierges, sportsmen and women, activists, musicians, hoteliers, business people, designers, politicians, architects, AV technicians, restaurateurs, healthcare workers, social reformers, singers, councillors, teachers, engineers, inventors, sculptors, doctors, salesmen and women, waiters, seamstresses, printers, IT specialists, Taxidrivers, CEOs, private helicopter owners … the weird and wonderful cast of thousands that constitute the dramatis personae of the average destination drama.
During a recent site inspection the client, an in-house planner with a direct selling corporation, mentioned that his CEO was involved in the bloodstock industry with thoroughbred racehorses. I immediately remembered my attorney friend who acts for a famous private stud farm in Ireland owned by an Arab Sheik. Two phone calls later we were en route to visit the stud farm, normally off limits to outside visitation. During the actual programme we arranged for the CEO to visit the stud farm with a small group of programme qualifiers who had an interest in horses. This “behind-the-scenes” visit was a highlight of the trip and a lasting memory for the participants, all thanks to an non-industry relationship.
My colleague Michael Libotte in Italy was recently contracted by a high net worth family from Germany to organise their daughter’s wedding in a Tuscan “borgo” with 250 guests. The range of local relationships that needed to be called into play included local town authorities to obtain permission for the event, a bilingual attorney, a bilingual priest, jewellery designers as well as the full range of event specialists including florists, decor, entertainment etc. On the night before the wedding the father decided that he’d like to wear an O’Donnell tartan and to be led into the tiny mediaeval church by a kilted bagpiper. Did we make it happen? Of course we did!
When you’re a legacy DMC and know outcasts and weirdos delivering bagpipes and kilts in Tuscany is as easy as finding a hummer in Vegas.