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February 3, 2015

The New Model for Destination Marketing Organizations

A recent blog post from SoolNua Managing Partner Padraic Gilligan, titled the 'The New Paradigms for Destination Marketing' shared links to increasing evidence of the role that DMOs (Destination Marketing Organizations) and business events will play in the development of local host economies. At the forefront of Gilligan's commentary was reference to comments from former Meeting Professionals International President and CEO Bruce MacMillan, who calls for change on the part of DMOs. 

An Integrated Approach

In “Hacking the System,” MacMillan urges destination marketers to up the ante when it comes to both 'story-telling' and 'building meaningful partnerships with Economic Development Authorities or Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) agencies from within the destination' they serve. He also cites the Australian DMO community as leaders of the 'pure' DMO model, as they have grasped the need for collaboration between DMO and FDI when bidding for international events.
It was no surprise, then, that Melbourne Convention Bureau Chief Karen Bolinger emphasized the collaborative nature of the bureau's role with the very same agencies, ministries, and intellectual leaders to which MacMillan refers. And  the extent to which local and federal government has engaged with the bureau echoed the 'New Normal' advocated by MacMillan. 

But the level of collaboration by Bolinger's MCB with external bodies took the call for action that much further, revealing a highly advanced effort to build a global reputation excellence in service quality (through the Best Cities Alliance, where she is currently serving as its President) and regional education (through PCMA). 

Karen Bolinger, CEO, Melbourne Convention Bureau from International Meetings Review on Vimeo.

As Bolinger reveals, Melbourne is positioning (Gilligan calls it 'Place Branding') itself primarily as an investment opportunity in key sectors of the local economy, using business events as gateways to a connected educational base and emphasizing how important it is for destinations to establish themselves as centers of knowledge or expertise in sectors prioritized for growth.

Place Branding and Reputation Management

Gilligan, however, acknowledged that in order to be relevant beyond the confines of the business events industry (via rankings established by organizations such as ICCA), destinations must also make greater strides in building reputations within more mainstream pecking orders, such as rankings provided by The Economist Business Intelligence Unit and The Reputation Management Institute's 'CityReptrack.'
So, DMAI's forthcoming DestinationNEXT initiative, to which Gilligan also refers, will need to do more than deliver another rankings service to its own constituents if it is to have real impact as a 'Place Brander' tool. Perhaps the performance data revealed by DestinationNEXT could be integrated into those broader reputation indices so that they can have more meaningful impact within the priority sectors that governments have identified for growth, rather than among fellow DMOs. 
And perhaps ICCA may extend its findings into the same mainstream. If, as Gilligan points out, “DMOs would pledge a kidney from their first born to ensure positive [ICCA] rankings for their country or city,” it would indeed be senseless, particularly if (as he concludes), “Place Branders don’t reference ICCA at all amongst the Ranking Agencies to which they pay attention.”
For more on the DestinationNEXT initiative look out for James Latham's interview with Gary Grimmer of Gaining Edge from the forthcoming Meetings Africa event.

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About the Author: James Latham

James Latham





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