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Nicholas Hall

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Everyday this week Nick Hall, founder and CEO of the Digital Tourism Think Tank, is going to release one emerging digital trend to watch out this year. Today’s trend is about the need for DMOs to transform. Sign-up to get more trends in your inbox.

2016 Biggest Trends to Watch in Tourism

What are the biggest trends to look out for in 2016? This is surely not the first trend prediction you’ve read this year but with my top tips coming in February, it may be the last. Take careful note, I’ve tried here to sidestep the obvious and focus on the five that I believe every DMO should write with a permanent marker on that office whiteboard.

DMOs Recognising the need to Transform

Destination Transformation is the last in my series of trends to look out for in 2016. Back in 2015, we recognised that as an industry DMOs cannot remain bystanders in a world that is rapidly changing around them.

Before launching the Digital Tourism Think Tank I was Executive Director at the European Travel Commission and we were very proud of our long history at the time, explaining to new partners how the organisation was established out of the Marshal Plan to stimulate growth through tourism in post-war Europe. In recent years the rhetoric turned to reinforcing the image of Europe as the world’s #1 tourist destination, a reaction largely due to the reality that it was in fact rapidly losing market share against emerging Asian competitors.

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Like in any industry, there is a thing known as the product life-cycle, which happens with destinations too. Iconic attractions such as London’s Big Ben may seem like timeless crowd pleasers but their place in the overall life-cycle of the destination is not something to take for granted. Right now we’re seeing a huge shift in travel behaviours with the ‘millennial traveller’ now representing the biggest market share. What’s more is that the millennial traveller is less drawn by traditional tourism offers and seeks to ’travel like a local’ wherever they go. Indeed they’re often better tipped than the locals too, thanks to their ability to connect and engage with social tribes anywhere as if the world were flat.

So as millennial travellers steadily grow in numbers, the industry must quickly adapt itself to the starkly different behavioural characteristics they bring with them.

The challenge for DMOs is not only to change what they’ve been doing for decades but also to change how they do it and who does it.

As DMOs are forced to revisit their strategies, here are some things worth considering:

  • How the DMO can support in building a sustainable destination
  • Where are the opportunities for smart collaborations and tech co-creation
  • The role DMOs should play in place branding and the wider tourism ecosystem
  • How to win the race in becoming innovation catalyst

In studying the topic of Destination Transformation and working with numerous destinations to understand their individual challenges, it is clear that there is no one size fits all approach. No two destinations have exactly the same opportunity or challenges and likewise no two DMOs are tasked with the same core remit or faced with the same challenges, although many have much in common.

When we work with a DMO, it inevitably starts with an exploratory session to look at their positioning from which we can draft a general plan of action, considering the short term needs and challenges against the long-term strategic goals and opportunities. Our approach starts simple but goes deep, to get grips with the four pillars of transformation; funding, governance, engagement and innovation. With this approach we look at disruption along the core strategic pillars underpinning every DMO, considering the wider transformative trends both within and outside of tourism to explore their transformation potential.

Ultimately, our approach is about breaking from the status quo and working together with organisations. We want to empower DMOs to take confident steps towards being a central player in designing the future of their destinations.

Get in touch with us to see how we can help you transform.

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