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Nicholas Hall

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It seems DMOs have been strategising their future and indeed their own existence since as long as I can remember and yet despite being ever so aware of their challenges, as an industry we're endlessly soul searching.

I myself am guilty of stoking the fire from time to time and there's nothing wrong a bit of controversy to get a good debate going. However, when I had the opportunity to be part of ECM's 'Strategising the DMO of the Future' meeting in Gdansk, set amongst strategists, futurists and none other than TMWHSIA' AKA 'the man who had seen it all' (sorry Roger 😉), it spurred me to take a different approach.

We've theorised the key issues challenging DMOs for much of the past five years, indeed the very notion of change is what has set the #DTTT apart in creating a platform for knowledge sharing, idea exchange and becoming advocates of digital and innovation. This experience however has also led us to understand that strategic plans are worthless without ownership and the only people who can take ownership of ideas are those who contribute to their creation (this applies city-wide, not just in the marketing team!).

The bigger shifts in our industry and of course the disruptive entrants that have required us to reassess what we do and how we react are very much on everybody's consciousness. The social economy (of course), the continuous disruption of technology in the service industry, the global and interest driven nature in which our notion of markets has shifted and finally, the recognition that our visitors (for the most part) have matured and seek genuinely (and I mean genuinely) unique and authentic, preferably 'like a local', experiences. There are plenty more challenges, but that's just a smattering of some of the key ones.

How DMOs respond to their challenges is another thing entirely. From my experience in working in the DMO field, there seems to be two speeds of DMO; those that challenge themselves and those that are left to be challenged. ECM's meeting showed us a great line-up of those who challenge themselves, who don't just wait for change to kill them, but actively redefine themselves to ensure their relevance is clear, not only internally but far and wide.

Before dipping into the 32 challenges that yes, were indeed defined by DMOs themselves, who's nailing it when it comes to being relevant? Wonderful Copenhagen, needs little explanation other than this intentionally bold statement. Many others that the #DTTT has worked with and researched perhaps didn't go for such a bold statement but have been actively reinventing themselves such as Visit Oslo, who focused on ticketing amongst other things and succeeded in doubling online bookings for Oslo's Opera House 👏 and TelAviv Global who's work is so output focused with a major (yes, seriously major) focus on startups!

Then there are those are left to be challenged and literally, get killed, such as the Slovakian National Tourist Board, with this rather blunt statement "The state tourism agency, the Slovak Tourist Board (SACR), has been scrapped to 31 December 2016. Its competences has been taken over by the Ministry of Transport."

I need say little more other than DMOs hold the key to their own destiny. Their challenges are no different to that of other industries, perhaps a little more cumbersome in places and a little too much government interference, however in the ultra short workshop held with 170 participants, I wanted to demonstrate to DMOs that not only are they able to define their biggest challenges but they can also identify the solutions by asking the right questions.

With just 20 minutes to define four key challenges, and 20 minutes to solve four challenges set by others, we saw a mix of CEOs, Research Directors, Marketing and Digital Directors alongside a handful of others getting to work on the most significant challenges related to Leadership and Digital First as well as Content and Creativity, which the biggest priorities evolving out of the #DTTT"s Transformation Research ran in partnership with ECM.

Here's what they came up with in just 2 x 20 minutes... and to get some critical thinking going, we invited our experts to give their view, in purple.

Mindset-DigitalFirst

budget-resources

people-teams

Omni-channel-storytelling

creative-freedom

We've sourced reactions from our experts on the discussions that took place amongst City Marketing Leaders. Each have given their thoughts on some of the points raised with practical tips and suggestions on how to tackle them effectively.

We also reached out to some of the respected change makers to get their views from an external perspective, such as Google Squared's Natasha Merrington, who's more than familiar with  some of the challenges related to transformation in multiple industries..

There's some great work here, some really innovative thinking to move forward with these juicy challenges, challenges that require changes in business models, how companies are run and how they work culturally.

For many of these challenges there is no 'THE answer' to solve these problems, but the best way to move forward with them is exactly what's been done here - challenging yourself to think about these problems, using self insight, and learning from each other.

Natasha Merrington, The Google Digital Academy

We take a design-led approach to everything we do, which we believe is key to getting the best out of people and working in ultra-tight, ultra-focused, ultra-efficient working sprints. We work with DMOs using this design led approach as their extended teams, carrying out digitally enriched ideas using some incredible digital tools which enable us to be far, yet near.

All our workplace templates are available as part of the #DTTT Launchpad and if you'd like us to facilitate some structured design-led idea sessions we have a brilliant team of experts on-hand who'd love to help.

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