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Have DMP’s missed the point?

Destination management plans (DMP’s) were discussed in the early 2000’s as a way to align the needs of all industries in a destination and provided a mechanism for them to work together to grow the visitor economy for the betterment of the destination.

I was incredibly privileged to be involved in one of the first DMP frameworks when I first was appointed to the board of, the then, Australian Regional Tourism Network, which, at the time (2010ish) released the first framework for DMPs. I was also privileged to work alongside some great tourism minds and leaders who could see the possibility of tourism being understood by all industries should this framework be implemented the way it was intended.

But seeing where DMPs have become I can’t help but feel sad about the missed opportunities.

I relate the recent DMPs I have seen to an onion, where the destination is the onion bulb, and every stakeholder has added its own layer to the story but has not changed the flavour of what you have now.

Let me explain … a destination can be defined as "the place to which someone or something is going or being sent", hence the ‘someone’ defines the destination… ie the market determines that definition of what is the destination.

So then, how do we get DMPs that cover townships, collections of towns, council areas, regional clusters, and even states? How do we engage all industries at all these levels to get effective steps to build more attractive, more engaging, more sustainable tourism outcomes? It’s possible, but my goodness, it would be a task with an action list bigger than the Bible. So let’s just start with what the visitor determines is the destination and get that right, then the rest benefit.

I can’t help but compare this challenge to a resume of a job applicant. The resume is the result of the actions and experiences the person has that make them an attractive applicant, possible hire, and suitable for the job at hand. The job opportunity is not for their community, their friends family, their family, or the limbs on their body, it’s for the person.

Are DMPs for the ‘destination’ or their associated communities, towns, districts, councils, or regions… and how do they work with the industries that are able to provide better opportunities for the visitor economy?

It’s incredibly rare in regional areas to see DMP action plans that talk about how all industries can build pride in their destination and be advocates to support the visitor economy. Could the local horticulture industries support the street appeal, can infrastructure owners consider the tourist transit routes and innovations that support visitors, can the local technology hub support visitor engagement opportunities, and can retailers become information centres for visitors and be empowered to do so? If other industries aren’t engaged they will not appreciate the industry on what it provides them.

We’ve missed a big opportunity coming out of Covid-19 lockdowns where for the first time other industries started to see tangible connections to the tourism industry as their revenue dropped with only local trade. But it’s never too late to start… “The visitor economy is everyone’s business”…we’ve said that for decades, but now is the time to start walking the walk and be real destination managers - and not just tourism managers!



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