It’s Time for DMOcracy – a global explorative project and research study on community engagement in tourism and the social license of DMOs

There are four reasons why now is the time to explore DMOcracy:

First, the need for a destination contract: Unless you are Disneyland, destination marketing is about selling experiences in places where people live. Neither the tourism industry nor the DMO can claim ownership of the destination.

Tourism is a phenomenon in public domain and shared space, the destination is founded on the identity of a place – carried by the people, who call it home. This means that a destination can welcome tourism, but tourism can’t claim the destination, its resources, culture, people or space. In many ways, the business of tourism requires a license to operate – a destination contract – from the people, who live there. With Time for DMOcracy, we want to identify governance models that build trust and accountability.

There are indicators already that resident sentiment will not exclusively pivot to wide-open and hospitable cities in the hope of fast recovery. Instead, it is likely that we will see elements of visitor-phobia with demands for restrictions and regulation.

This raises the urgency of a continuous involvement in shaping the long-term accountability and sustainability of tourism development over the coming years. Well-designed resident sentiment surveys are a good place to start, but there is a need to activate the data with open conversation and real involvement and actual influence on the issues raised.

Fourth, M for mandate to bridge the great disconnect: For years, DMOs have discussed what the M stands for – balancing between the role of marketing and management. In finding this new balance, new disconnections sometimes emerge between the main stakeholders.