New Study Reveals That Community Alignment Is Top Priority for DMOs Post-Pandemic


Author: Jim McCaul, SVP, Destination Stewardship

The past year has been an immensely challenging time for visitor economies worldwide. While there’s no doubt that our industry will play a critical role in the global recovery, there will be new challenges, new opportunities, and new ways of thinking. To help guide this new way of thinking, MMGY NextFactor has once again partnered with Destinations International to develop the 2021 DestinationNEXT Futures Study, a deep dive into the critical trends and strategies for destination leaders in this unprecedented time. 

Over the course of eight weeks, MMGY NextFactor surveyed more than 700 DMO leaders from more than 50 countries around the world. We asked these global leaders to prioritize 100 trends impacting visitor economies and 80 strategies for destination organizations. The top trend identified by this global audience was “Greater industry, community and government alignment is driving destination competitiveness and brand.”

For years, destination organizations have talked about the need for stronger alignment with our community stakeholders. In fact, the first DestinationNEXT Futures Study developed in 2014 called to “support the industry’s alignment with the community it serves,” and the 2019 Futures Study identified Community Alignment as one of three transformational opportunities for our industry. It’s the reason Community Alignment was developed as one of the core components of our DestinationNEXT Scenario Model and Assessment Tool, along with Destination Strength. 

But like so many things, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for broader alignment between stakeholders in our destinations. Reduced resources, shifting consumer and lifestyle trends, and multifaceted systems approaches to destination management are all driving this acceleration. 

Many of the top strategies identified in the study center around the need for stronger community alignment. For example, one of the top DMO strategies is to “enhance engagement with the local community to manage future considerations for the visitor economy.” However, this is not easy to accomplish in the short term. Building a coalition among the public and private sectors to move a destination toward a common goal requires engaging many different audiences with opposing agendas.

One effective way to align the goals and initiatives of a multitude of destination stakeholders is to develop a shared vision for the future of the destination. Such a vision provides an overarching goal that allows stakeholders to break out of their bounded rationality.

In 2017, for example, London & Partners set out to define a new vision for London’s tourism industry. The Tourism Vision for London outlines a clear new direction for London’s tourism sector, identifying where future growth will come from and the real opportunity to harness and manage that growth for the benefit of Londoners and visitors alike. 

As our industry continues to evolve and explore new models such as regenerative tourism, destination leaders will require a new lens to view destination alignment. This means moving beyond asking the question of “what can our communities do for tourism?” to “what can tourism do to contribute to the health and well-being of our communities?”

Understanding this, MMGY NextFactor has added two new criteria to our DestinationNEXT Assessment: 

DMO’s programs and the tourism industry are aligned with local community values; and

DMO’s programs and the tourism industry are aligned with broader government policies and agendas in the region.

Two simple assessment criteria that represent a profound shift in the way we view our role and impact on communities. 

The full DestinationNEXT Futures Study report is being released at the Destinations International Annual Conference on July 14.