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March 18, 2016
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Sub-Saharan Africa: The Changing Role of DMCs


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The focus for modern Destination Management Companies in an industry that is in constant flux is in the value of intangibles. So says Henk Graaff, MD of South African-based SW Africa DMC.

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“Incentive travel and meetings is no longer about five-star hotels. Rather we as DMCs have to provide our clients and travellers with the opportunity to experience travel in a way that closely aligns to their own personal values, truly getting under its skin.” 

What sets a great DMC apart from their competitors, says Graaff, is that they offer a distinct experience for their clients. While hotels, transfers and the like are hygiene factors on any package, the full experience and careful thought applied to how the individual will experience the trip is really gaining traction in the DMC space.

“People and corporates, now often have less to spend, but they want to experience more. Value is far less monetary and in terms of travel, DMCs need to be aware that they are operating in an experience economy. 

“The DMCs role has shifted largely from the hygiene factors of planning niche itineraries, but is rather more geared towards listening, leaning and learning. DMCs have to be ever more conscious and agile now, conscious of time, budget, the individual and to tailor make an experience,” says Graaff.

The advancement of technology has meant that the DMCs have had to become aware and adapt, as clients now have direct access to make their own bookings and essentially plan and manage their own itineraries, without an intermediary. 

The advent of social media has meant that the tourism sector has seen competition that it had not previously considered. Consumers are able to interact with content about destinations and visually customise their own itineraries on the many platforms available. Successful DMCs are seeing real benefit in increasing their social media profiles and using this content as a key tool to interact with their clients.

So what then could a DMC provide that would be better than some useful tips and trips that a well-versed concierge could offer at a fraction of the cost?

“Experiential” travel seems to be the industry response. DMCs now see a shift in distinguishing themselves by really focusing on the experience they offer to their consumer.

Learning about the destination is all part of the experience, agrees Amanda Kotze – Nhlapo of the South African National Convention Bureau. “In the meetings industry people are looking for their travel experience to “ be educational, as well as an entertaining experience.” 

DMCs should also be relied upon to create highly customised itineraries because they know how to move people efficiently, says Wendy Perrin, travel advocate at TripAdvisor and founder of wendyperrin.com

This serves as a key acknowlegement of what DMCs do so well. Although in their changing role, they need to be ever cognisant of how to do all this as budgets get cut and trips get cut shorter, but consumers want to get the most out of their experience.

With a series of recessions globally and a significant shift in spending, companies are reigning in on non-essential travel, attending of conferences and economy class air travel is fast becoming a standard travel policy across corporations globally.

DMCs need to consider this as they adapt to the changes in travel landscape.


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