13 March 2020
Destinations have a duty of care; to the operators within the industry, local communities and the consumer
Yesterday (12 March) we hosted the first DMO Summit as part of the Short Stay Show; an opportunity for DMO leaders to come together and understand more regarding the short stay industry and what could be done to support an industry that quite frankly isn’t going away.
With the current situation surrounding COVID-19, sadly a number of speakers and attendees were unable to attend, however we did find some willing volunteers to take their place and a number of interesting debates and discussions were had.
The opening panel focussed on Destination Growth, looking at visitor management strategies that help support destination growth in a sensible, steady & sustainable way. One of the key challenges that were discussed was “overtourism” in an area. Deirdre Wells OBE, CEO of Visit Kent suggested that maybe DMO’s need to consider it as concentration of tourism in heightened periods, rather than overtourism. It’s important as DMO’s that there is a compelling year round product on offer for the consumer, which leads to a vibrant high street and evening economy. This benefits not only the visitor, but also the local community. There is an expectation on DMO’s in terms of marketing, but in reality that’s almost the easy bit – selling someone something which a consumer wants to buy. The harder part is developing product, engaging with the stakeholder which then gives the ability for the year round product to help spread the concentration of tourism through into the shoulder season.
The other main discussion point from this session was the duty of care that a destination has, not only to those within the industry but also the consumer. Angie Petkovic, MD of apt marketing was recently involved for the set up of Marketing Cheltenham. There are a number of short stay operators in Cheltenham, fuelled mainly by the Cheltenham Festivals and the races. Angie stated that it’s imperative that as DMO’s, hosts are made aware of their responsibilities. Many of them do not check to see whether their insurance allows rental of a room / their home, let alone any insurance implications. This could have dire consequences for the host as well as the consumer if anything were to go wrong.
There is a need for some form of registration scheme or kitemark which tells the consumer that basic safety checks have been undertaken. DMO’s can actively encourage this and direct property hosts to schemes such as the Quality in Tourism Safe, Clean & LegalTM accreditation.
The next session discussed the considerations surrounding a tourism tax to help boost the local economy and offset funding cuts but with UK already holding the highest rates of taxation could it have the opposite effect? The panel consisted of Will Mapplebeck from Core Cities UK, Barrie Kelly from Visit Greenwich and Kurt Janson from Tourism Alliance.
Will Mapplebeck is keen for “places to keep more to do more” and favours fiscal devolution away from the centralised state. Kurt agreed for the most part, but has questions surrounding the operation. The UK is the 6th competitive destination for tourism in the world, yet is 140 out of 140 countries when it comes to taxation – the worst! Kurt fears that by adding a tourism tax, to an already overtaxed system we will no longer remain a competitive option for tourism.
Barrie was clear that DMOs should understand the challenges in their own areas and determine how a tourism tax could help. There is little point in setting a tax where it cannot then be utilised to its full potential, whilst also having a possible impact on visitor numbers.
The overall feeling was that there would be difficulty in collecting the taxes and retaining them in the local area whatever the need.
The third session on Successful Partnerships covered how DMO’s can work with platforms like Booking.com and HomeAway to raise awareness of the destination, provide meaningful content and enhance the customer experience. The panel consisted of Jitka Foralova, Booking.com, Scott Giles from HomeAway, Andrew Lawrence from VOX Group and Angie Petkovic from a DMO perspective.
For partnerships to work well, they do require time and commitment from both sides. Scott from HomeAway, explained how they are working with Visit York and are currently putting time and energy into getting that proposition right before rolling it out across other destinations. The partnership consists of information on both websites (HomeAway & Visit York), HomeAway sponsors the Visit York awards, content features for the HomeAway website and social media platforms. Visit York also work with people to become hosts and encourage them to list on the HomeAway platform. HomeAway also offer an affiliate partnership where a trackable web link can be added to a website and commission paid on any bookings that come via that link.
Vox Group creates audio and multimedia guiding solutions for tourism & culture. They can work with destinations to create bespoke product and Andrew is clear that the key to any successful partnership is to listen to what people want and need, then deliver on it. It’s your destination and you understand it, with the ability to provide the back story as to why someone should visit.
Booking.com work with DMO’s to hold an event, where accommodation providers are invited to discover more about the market trends for the area, using the intelligence compiled by Booking.com. The team highlight how providers can drive more bookings to the area and encourage the use of Booking.com as a platform.
Angie made the point that DMO’s host journalist trips, trade visits, go to trade shows to promote the destinations and potential visitors then use platforms like Booking.com to select their accommodation rather than a destination website. There is more that the platforms could be looking at to support DMO’s, as many are short on resource; both time and money.
The final session of the morning was on Giving Back and how DMO’s can engage, inspire and nurture local tourism and hospitality businesses, as well as the wider local communities.
Deirdre from Visit Kent outlined their Big Weekend event where they encourage their local community to visit local attractions and become ambassadors for the area. There are 13,500 pairs of tickets available for local residents to bid for including attractions such as castles, breweries & distilleries, gardens, tours and activities. This has proved successful in local residents promoting what is on their doorstep.
The labour market shortage was discussed, along with the career perception of the industry. Robin Barker from Services 4 Tourism, moderator for the session gave an example of a south west hotel which opens its doors to primary, secondary and college students to show them around the building and give an insight in to what a career in hospitality may look like. As a result they do not have an issue with employment with many students working for them when they leave school, going off to university and working the holidays and then returning after university has finished. DMO’s can help by encouraging members to work more closely with schools / colleges and holding industry open days to showcase what opportunities are available.
Glyn Roberts from VisitWales highlighted how the organisation is considering offering free accreditation for all properties as part of their five year strategy. There was also discussion around the wellbeing benefits that tourism brings; walking along the coast and eating in a restaurant with a friend or partner can do wonders for the soul. These benefits need to be highlighted more to visitors as well as local communities for what is on their doorstep.
The issues surrounding last mile travel are prevalent across destinations, so whilst many destinations promote public transport to get visitors to an area, there are challenges to then get them onward to their final destination. There has definitely been a shift change in consumer expectation in terms of sustainability and DMO’s need to respond accordingly highlighting reasons why the destination is great and the promoting the sustainable policies that businesses have in place. For example, many restaurants work specifically with local suppliers and are banning single plastic use, they are however not telling the consumer about it!
Quality in Tourism recently launched a new accreditation called REST, Responsible, Ethical, Sustainable Tourism, which can act as a kitemark to the consumer to showcase and give a differentiator to those businesses that are excelling in this area.
There were numerous valuable discussions had during the first DMO Summit and we covered a number of topics in a short space of time. It was clear from all of the sessions that there are lots of opportunities and ideas for how things could work with collaboration and partnership at the heart of it.
For more information on standards within the sharing economy and a guide for how destinations can protect themselves, please download our white paper https://www.qualityintourism.com/safety-standards
Quality in Tourism would like to thank all of the speakers for their role in the event, and to those who also stepped in at the last minute.
Deirdre Wells OBE, Visit Kent / Go to Places
Glyn Roberts, VisitWales
Angie Petkovic, apt marketing & pr
Will Mapplebeck, Core Cities UK
Barrie Kelly, Visit Greenwich
Jitka Foralova, Booking.com
Scott Giles, HomeAway
Andrew Lawrence, VOX Group
Thanks also to our moderators for the sessions, Kurt Jansen from the Tourism Alliance and Robin Barker from Service 4 Tourism.
Huge thanks also to the Short Stay Show for their support and promotion.