By Yeoh Siew Hoon

Destination marketing organizations (DMOs) or tourism boards have no God-given right to exist and could be rendered obsolete by a slew of factors that are changing the the way consumers seek information on destinations and buy their travel.

Roger Carter, managing director of TEAM Tourism Consulting, speaking at Wired Travel Asia, said DMOs and tourism boards had to change or perish.

He said many factors were affecting the way destinations marketed themselves and some could become irrelevant, particularly in the face of new websites such as the social networking portals where consumers were “telling the truth” about places and experiences.

In the absence of a true, independent, all-encompassing destination dashboard, however he said consumers still trusted the websites of DMOs although in an audience poll later, the majority challenged that notion.

Carter said there were three main drivers of change that were affecting the role of DMOs.

• The central role of the Internet and e-business for communication with visitors and potential visitors, market intermediaries and tourism businesses;

• Demanding and connected consumers who were price conscious, demanding immediate attention/bookings, expecting rich, accurate information and able to exchange information with other consumers;

• Commercial players who have developed over the past 10 years and are now operating in DMOs’ traditional marketing space and who are customer-focused, had efficient business processes, effective distribution and continual improvement.

Tourist boards and DMOs had two clear advantages over the new players however – the majority of tourism services on the ground need the DMO to provide the “umbrella” and the public do trust the official tourism organization to provide unbiased information.

But he said, they mist add value by doing things that the private sector does not wish to do for their destination and cannot do as efficiently and as effectively as the DMO.

“DMOs must be clear about where they can add value and offer (or develop) a high level of competence. If their systems, data, processes and customer focus are inferior, then they do their destination a disservice.

“They must become expert in exploiting the opportunities that ICT (information communications technology) and the Internet offer, which must become central to their operations,” said Carter.

To secure the future, there must be interoperability between the different levels of DMOs within a country and they must succeed in e-marketing.

He shared 10 principles to future success in e-marketing.

1. Reach as many potential customers as possible
2. Maximise the lifetime value of customers, by maintaining the relationship
3. Be aware of what consumers are saying about them through community websites and seek to influence it
4. Create a compelling website experience
5. Maintain high quality content
6. Deliver sales, directly or indirectly
7. Offer customized packaging
8. Engage tourism businesses to deliver the inventory
9. Demonstrate return on investment – performance evaluation and benchmarking
10. Ensure effective electronic distribution of information to travellers and visitors

When asked which tourism boards had adapted best to the changing landscape, Carter cited My Switzerland, Visit Britain and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

November 9, 2006

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