DMO roles and challenges – a Latin American perspective

DMO roles and challenges – a Latin American perspective
   
Por: Graziela Padoin

     

Similarities and differences can be found among DMO and CVB organizations around the globe when talking about their roles, challenges they face and strategic issues in regards to destination management.  Even between two CVBs with the same number of employees, the same budget, from close regions within the same country; some of the practices will be pretty much the same, while others will be completely different.  After long discussions during the DMAI core course ‘Strategic Issues in Destination Marketing’ in Orlando, 2013, on what is the mission of a CVB, how they should face their issues, how they develop new initiatives to be ready for the next generations based on trends and critical factors affecting all destination marketing organizations, there seem to be an agreed conclusion: at the end of the day it’s all about standardization, evolution, how to professionalize the industry and grow as a destination.  Now, a question can be asked: “where is the Latin America market in all of that”?

There is no consensus on what DMAI is for in the Latin America region, and there are different ideas of the CVBs roles and pattern on procedures. Only a few CVBs from Mexico are part of this very selective group of mainly North American certified DMOs and members of DMAI; so they can share ideas, political wills, product and relations development experiences, trying to achieve the best performance as a CVB / DMO. Branding is an untouched topic for Latin American CVBs, measuring results and performance audits methods can be questioned, and there is also a long road for achieving excellence on services provided or forming solid destination partnerships. Based on the fact that DMAI’s members are mainly from the U.S.A. and considering their “maturity stage” in relates to developing destination strategies, advices they give to support their marketers, how they advocate in favor of a differentiated visitor experience, serving as a catalyst and facilitator for tourism infrastructure while also delivering qualified services to meetings planners, marketing and selling a destination, we can find how long of a journey Latin American CVBs have in front of them to discover and prepare themselves for.   

In Latin American countries the tourism board at a local, regional/state and federal levels usually takes the responsibility of promoting the destination outside the community and coordinating projects of public and private organizations’ interests (such as new signals or public transportation communication systems in foreign languages), while the CVB works only for the interests of its members, attracting more meetings and delegating leads to the pool. Comparatively, DMOs in the U.S. are taking accreditation programs, having structured internship programs, giving strong answers to negative articles published, training the whole industry and investing on community relations, social and corporate responsibility.

Other differences come from “external factors”. For example, there is no need to develop a crisis management / communication plan in a region that is not affected by a nature phenomenon such as a tornado or volcanic eruption; nor answer to municipality’s bureaucratic forms to print a new meeting planner’s guide. Being more independent from the government makes CVBs more business oriented, more motivated by qualified leads they produce than number of ‘likes’ on social media, more addicted to attracting conventions (that means volume on room nights and taxes) than working on community consensus for the development of tourism and willingness to invest in the future well-being of the industry –and this does not mean less credit for being apart from the public institutions.

In fact, the different responsibilities they take and roles they play are consequences of the huge discrepancy in funding models and number of staff. While N.A.’s DMOs are changing technologies, Latin American countries are trying to get their first CRM; while U.S.A.’s CVBs are improving TBID’s programs and legislations to guarantee better funding for the next years, almost all South American CVBs can’t count on governmental support to finance projects and attract more conventions and visitors; while DMAI’s members are investing on research and high level education, Latin American CVB’s tight budgets can’t stand the pressure of the market and lose their best executives continuously. CVBs in Latin America are actually creating very good opportunities and doing a reasonable job in the meetings market, from a local perspective; but there is always room from improvement. Ones are acting like in hunger, taking care of the next step, like if they react being ‘tactical’ only; while the more developed organizations can take credit of a positive economic impact, work within a holistic view of the market and, of course, have a better perspective of the future – in other words, they can be ‘strategic’.

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The scenario is more or less like this: long-term partnerships vs. short-term goals, a battle between sustainability and iconic performance vs. lucky bets and hope -a true commitment to ‘keep going, someday we’ll get there…’

To be a destination leader, to succeed on higher closing ratios and visitor spent statistics, a destination marketing / management organization needs more than money, more than tactics, it needs strategy. Economic and political sustainability depends on education and professionalization for the evolution of the system.

There is no doubt structure, policies, objectives and priorities are not the same between developed and developing economies, so it is on CVBs / DMOs. The scenario 10-20 years ago in North America, before the ‘internet boom’ in the earliest 90’s, was quite similar to the neighbors south down the globe nowadays reality. It is because of the efforts for working seriously on destination planning, visioning, strategic and tactical programs made by the North American CVBs in the past, with the support of technology and strategic partnerships, that they achieved the status of benchmark. Assuming that economies that are trying to evolve are always looking at the best practices as models to be improved, CVBs in Latin America are pursuing the right moves, step by step getting closer to the more successful models.

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What’s the road to success?

Are CVBs in the “driving seat”?

Who and how is controlling their destiny?

Has the economy to develop first to provide more resources to the CVBs or are the CVBs good resources to help the economy to develop?

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.” ― Sun Tzu

While Latin America is focusing more on the tactic (and the evident risk is):

“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ― Sun Tzu

Facing the common issues and looking forward to solve one by one, prioritizing activities and having a clear idea of ‘who we are, where we want to go & what does it take to’ is the answer for Latin America to overcome low performances, go beyond the current statistics and transform CVBs into real successful Destination Marketing & Management Organization.                 

 

Fonte: South America Account Manager for the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau, by GainingEdge consulting North America is now focusing on the strategy:

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