With the introduction of DestinationNEXT, DMOs are increasingly aligning their efforts in destination marketing with the social and economic development priorities of their communities, and DMO sales efforts are no different. If we missed you in Austin, Texas for the Convention Sales Solutions Exchange, here's a brief digest of what was discussed most by your peers.
The move to work more closely with stakeholders is an underlying theme for not just CEOs, but also sales professionals who are expected to meet predefined goals for which stakeholders hold them ever more accountable. However, even these goals and the manner by which DMOs report them are shifting away from simply “heads in beds” to a different suite of metrics that align with the priorities of their respective hotel communities.
For instance, San Diego Tourism Authority and Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau both have moved towards the measurement of new business. San Diego defines this as a meeting that has not been to the destination in the past or within the last five years. Des Moines maintains a sales team to handle exclusively new business, while the services team focuses on repeat business.
This sort of shift requires significant reconciliation between what the DMO has traditionally delivered on in the past versus where the DMO can most effectively focus its energies to assist its community. Communicating the DMO value to stakeholders can take a secondary position, as Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau mentioned, for organizations that specialize in branding, we tend to be our own worst communicators. However, leaders are increasingly looking at this challenge more strategically.
“Overcommunication” of information seems to be the overarching trend for many destinations from Eugene, Oregon to Denver. Peoria mentioned that their weekly newsletter to all stakeholders showing the number of leads sent, definites, etc. actually garner an average 75% open rate. However, as much as we communicate, the one way delivery of information is only the first step in the process of raising awareness about what we do. As the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau mentioned, all DMOs face the pressure to heighten the discussion level of what we do and can accomplish together with local officials and the local business community.
Sometimes this involves engaging different parts of the DMOs to paint a broader picture. For example, in Fredericksbug, Texas, the CEO communicates consistently with the public, writing articles about what the DMO does in the newspaper. Visit Lexington conducts focus groups in conjunction with the economic development arm, with local community about the efforts that go into bringing meetings to the destination. Other destinations like Lee County will jump on the collective efforts of an entire travel industry hosting a Travel Rally Day to get the word out to their community about what they and their partners do and how the work impacts jobs, taxes, and other social benefits. Fairbanks, Alaska testifies at the council meetings each month, so that discussions stay in the forefront, and those stakeholders become accustomed to hearing from the DMO as an engaged member of the community.
In other cases, it involves engaging the same interested parties in a different, more collaborative way. For instance, Visit Indy holds anchor meetings each week with hotel General Managers and sales leaders. Such meetings can be useful to keep various groups on the same page, helping each party work as an extension of each other’s team, collaborating where they can, dividing and conquering where they can’t.
Visit Raleigh, among almost half of the destinations present at the discussion, has taken their local ambassadorship program to the next level, employing “backyard marketing” to identify and encourage locals to cheerlead for the city and bring meetings home. The university and museum personnel also participate to position the destination as a knowledge hub within their groups and organizations so that Raleigh stays top of mind when sourcing meeting destinations.
Therefore, as discussions revolved around the increasing diversity of ideas and practices that goes into maintaining effective work relationships as DMO sales leaders – from goal resetting to stakeholder communication – we also want to look ahead to what is the potential for complete disintermediation of the DMO sales effort.
DMAI took an informal poll asking, will we ever be in an age where planners will be able to quickly go online and see who has space and approximate rates they need? When I first started in this industry almost five years ago, only a couple of participants believed this would happen. Today, the percentage has completely flipped with most in the room believing it highly probable.
Marriott is only one example of a hospitality company trying to automate anything that a human does not have a touch point, and there are people working on the technology to create a completely transparent marketplace for planners to view and potentially book their meeting space at a negotiated rate. So, what is the future of the DMO in this kind of world? The discussion will continue in the next few months at DMAI’s Convention Sales Summit in Chicago, Illinois in December, so stay tuned!