NewsNovember 1, 2018

Destination Marketers Look Beyond Selling to Tourism Management

Tourism boards have generally been tasked with selling, pitching a destination as other organizations handle economic development programs and incentives that help grow and manage local economies. According to Skift, many destination marketers increasingly also consider themselves as destination managers and this shift in recent years is akin to how more travel agents pivoted towards travel advisors to broaden the scope of what they do for travelers.

Taking on a management role of a destination, such as looking at how to grow tourism capacity to levels the destination can actually handle and focusing on economic development, helps tourism boards stay more relevant amid the constant threat of funding cuts and economic booms and busts. Some tourism boards are also getting their staff certified in destination management as more academic certification programs are created.

Destinations International, a Washington, D.C.-based association that represents 600 destination organization members in 15 countries, launched its Certified Destination Management Executive program 10 years ago but it’s grown in popularity in recent years. The program has 360 graduates and currently has 400 enrolled destination marketing professionals taking courses. The program typically takes three to four years to complete, and the program had a big refresh in 2017 to add new courses that better reflect shifts in the industry, said Melissa Cherry, Chief Operating Officer of Destinations International.

The rise highlights the increasing globalization of the business education market, and how it is continually recognizing the benefits for executives of studying in multiple locations during their degree. Whether that be the pooling of resources and knowledge from multiple institutions; or access to several alumni bases to enhance global networking; or frequent opportunities to travel and apply different strategies in various cultural, economic, and political landscapes. The benefit of studying in multiple locations and learning from multiple institutions provides a broader perspective of the wider world. In a closely connected, digitized environment, that knowledge is tantamount to executive success.

“Our industry changes a lot faster than it used to and our course offerings need to stay on top of what’s happening,” said Cherry. “Advocacy is one of the topics in the program that’s always changing because what the industry is advocating for is always changing.”

Cherry said the program typically attracts professionals who are on a leadership or CEO track. “We’re seeing people who have been in the industry for their entire career, and then people who are coming into the industry from other industries to understand the issues at the high-level,” she said. “It’s really a program that has a broad base of knowledge to track best practices to develop leadership in how CEOs are running CVBs.”

The program’s participants come from tourism boards with budgets of $2 million or less to those with more than $20 million budgets. “If you’re not in a city that has overtourism you don’t get exposed to it, but this program exposes you to that,” said Cherry. “Homelessness has increasingly been a big issue discussed in the program. The program includes long-term conversations rather than just short-term tourism numbers. This is where the shift comes with the marketing and management moves beyond marketing. It’s really around brand management.”

Skift Research’s “Destination Marketing Trends of 2018” Research Report also highlighted that brand management is a challenge many destinations are dealing with as social platforms give travelers a say in a destination’s reputation. Brand management has been top of mind for tourism boards for years but likely seems more relevant today given how fast information spreads.