Skift Take

The UK is actively trying to reorganize and restructure its DMOs to operate under more sustainable models. The government’s development model pilot is hoping to show the way forward.

The UK’s recent announcement that it was overhauling its destination marketing organizations, so-called DMOs, with a “radical restructuring” shows a new emphasis on sustainability and community engagement. 

The revamp will include launching an accreditation program for those organizations that align with the government’s strategic focus on making the UK’s tourism industry more sustainable, accessible and competitive, according to Andrew Stokes, director of VisitEngland, which will develop and administer the $4.7 million (£4 million) program. 

What’s more, a fund is being set aside for one top performing DMO or a group of local DMOs to restructure under a new model.

The revamp is a response to last year’s report on UK DMOs by VisitEngland Advisory Board Chair Nick de Bois. The report emphasized that the DMO space was overcrowded and fragmented. In some areas, there can be up to 40 DMOs, according to Stoke. 

The accreditation program aims to simplify the UK’s crowded DMO landscape. Accredited DMOs will be labeled Local Visitor Economy Partnerships. “What this should do is remove the overlap,” said Stokes. “The scale of these partnerships should be a suitable scale for the visitor to understand them.”

VisitEngland is still hashing out the details of the accreditation criteria with the government. “Some of the early thoughts on criteria are that they will be membership organizations, interact with their local industry, work with their local government bodies, have a function around destination development,” said Stokes. 

“Having an accreditation scheme developed by VisitEngland is really encouraging and will give DMOs the recognition they deserve,” said Destination Lincolnshire CEO Charlotte Goy via email. “It will also elevate the strategic work that many of us are already doing, but often is unrecognized.”

After implementing the accreditation program, the government will select one region for a pilot project. In the region, one DMO or a group of local DMOs will receive funding to operate under a new model over three years. “The idea here is we will be able to really measure an element of funding at a regional level to develop tourism and what impact that will have,” said Stoke. The government hopes to scale the pilot. Since the pandemic, a key priority for DMOs has been to come up with more resilient models.

Impact metrics will be specific to the destination. “Because different destinations will have different aims and objectives, it will depend on the pilot area,” Stokes said. Metrics measuring economic, visitor count, sustainability and accessibility impacts will definitely be included, according to Stokes.

“No doubt there will be a lot of competition around the pilot, but I’m pleased that they are investing the time and energy to find a long-term solution rather than quick wins which would make an already vulnerable sector even more fragile,” said Goy.

Tags: climate change, destination marketing organizations, funding, government, sustainable development, tourism, united kingdom

Photo credit: Big Ben, London, United Kingdom Jamie Street / Unsplash