Dolomiti Paganella - An Experience Led DMO Transformation

The case study discusses the DMO journey of Dolomiti Paganella with the application of the St. Gallen Model for Destination Management.

Dolomiti Paganella is a mountain resort area situated in Trentino Alto Adige, Italy’s Northernmost region bordering Austria and Switzerland. It encompasses the villages of Molveno, Andalo, Paganella, Cavedago and Spormaggiore, but most significantly, it is located right at the feet of the Brenta Dolomites which are part of the Italian UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Dolomiti Paganella is a mountain resort area situated in Trentino Alto Adige, Italy’s Northernmost region bordering Austria and Switzerland. It encompasses the villages of Molveno, Andalo, Paganella, Cavedago and Spormaggiore, but most significantly, it is located right at the feet of the Brenta Dolomites which are part of the Italian UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Over 4 years, the tourism board of Dolomiti Paganella has witnessed a complete restructuring after Director Luca D'Angelo joined the organisation and decided to create a new master plan for the destination, focusing on specific products and experiences.

The new journey of the DMO started with the application of the St. Gallen Model for Destination Management, a model developed by the Institute for Systemic Management and Public Governance at St. Gallen University in Switzerland. This model aims to identify strategic visitor flows and create a common understanding of decision-makers to make purposeful decisions. This gave the organisation the necessary tools to develop a new strategy and master plan together with the key tourism players of Dolomiti Paganella.

The New Strategy

To finalise Dolomiti Paganella’s new masterplan the DMO started by acknowledging several key points;

  1. To be competitive in the market the destination has to focus on specific products. Thus, specialising in key products was essential for the DMO, who decided to focus attention and investments on 4 key product areas: bike, hiking, climbing, family.
  2. Identifying these key product areas meant a strong collaboration was required between the DMO and relevant stakeholders of the area to develop new joint experiences and products. A strong and long-term partnership with local stakeholders was necessary to share the new vision and strategy for the destination but also to unify the destination to increase competitiveness while concentrating on the strengths of the destination.
  3. Understanding that the DMO is not only meant to promote the destination. The new role of the DMO has shifted from a marketing approach to a product and experience development approach in which it focuses on the 4 product clusters and develops products around which the promotion is created. This brought to the adoption of 3 main pillars for the new strategy: Product development, Experience development and Storytelling. The DMO plays a supporting role in the creation of products and experiences in a common effort with the local stakeholders, guiding them according to the tourism consumer trends; at a second stage, after products and experiences have been crafted, the DMO takes a major role in the storytelling stage, shaping the destination’s image by telling the story of the experiences consumers can live at the destination.
  4. The internal structure of the DMO had to change following the new product development approach. Departments were restructured and divided by cluster with a consequent change in the organisational chart and roles, following a more circular work mentality, and allowing staff to become specialised in each product.

The Biking Product

As highlighted, one of the 4 clusters the tourism board had decided to focus on is the biking product. The area was already an ideal terrain for mountain bikers and advanced level two-wheel racers. Together with two companies, a local cable car company and a bike trail building company, the DMO developed the Dolomiti Paganella Bike project, a project that had already started 10 years ago for the creation and development of new bike trails in the area.

Silvio Zeni, President of the cable car company, Funivie Molveno Pradel, reported that in the past few years the bike sector has become a characteristic element of the area thanks to the joint forces of the coordinating DMO and Danger Zone, the company that developed the trails. With multiple investments to enhance the mountain area - such as a new adventure park, hiking paths, a didactic path and the most recently developed bike product with 3 biking trails on Mount Paganella - the results in 2018 saw an increase of 500% since the beginning.

According to Ezio Cattani, Project Manager of Dolomiti Paganella Bike, the bike trails were initially dedicated to old school downhill racers, with very difficult trails for advanced bikers. Only in the last few years, thanks to the new master plan and vision aimed at specialising in this sector, new flow trails have been developed for beginners and families. This new approach allows for targeting a much broader audience. Two flow trails for beginners were developed in Molveno, and two trails with medium difficulty in Andalo. With this view, the mountain can be accessed with the bike not only by the experts but also by beginners and families, therefore more people can use the gravity trails. During this project, the DMO plays a fundamental role as the coordinator of all the different companies involved, such as ski lifts, rentals and bike hotels.

Thanks to partnering with cable car and lift companies, a Bike Pass was developed. This is a summer version of a ski pass, a ticket that gives the possibility to use up to eight lifts from three different societies with just one pass with which they can ride all the trails in the area and discover different locations by bike. In addition to this, bike trail maps, tool stations, e-bike charging stations and more than 400 trail signs were created. For the future, the DMO envisages the development of new trails for e-bikes and a new trail visitor centre.

Technology Enabling Product and Experience Development

To effectively collaborate to develop new products and experiences, a new platform was created for the stakeholders and managed and coordinated by the tourism board. Through a 5-year agreement, lift companies, technical trail building companies, infrastructures, as well as the local municipality that owns the area, can build and sell experiences that are then promoted but the DMO. The platform emerged from the need to help these companies in telling the story of the great products they build. Offering good experiences to visitors fosters about the destination encouraging WOM through social media, campaigns, content production.

Destination Management

A very important factor in the new vision of Dolomiti Paganella is the ability to efficiently manage the key players of the destination, therefore abandoning the marketing role and getting closer to a management approach, in which the DMO is the coordinator of all the different stakeholders of the destination who jointly develop products for visitors. After deciding to focus on bike product development and working closely with specialised companies for the development of trails, the DMO took a practical approach to foster collaboration. Every year the DMO organises two to three workshops with lift companies, bike chalets and bike hotels, in which they visualise the short and long-term goals of the destination for the next 2-3 years for the stakeholders to know where the destination management is headed. The involvement of the key destination players is fundamental both in the creation of a strategy for the destination but mostly in the coordination of great product and experience development, which is later promoted by the DMO itself.


Since implementing this new approach, the results have been extremely successful. This is encouraging for the DMO to continue building on this approach and developing more products and experiences for the destination. In terms of performance evaluation, it was very easy since the beginning to evaluate the results of the Dolomiti Paganella Bike project. In 2017, around 12,000 Bike Passes were sold, with an estimated total of 25,000 in 2018. Considering there are people who don’t buy the Bike Passes but still use the trails without lift systems, the visitor numbers are even higher.

This is a great result for a destination that focused on an existing strength, transforming it into a popular product for visitors. Furthermore, this product's development enabled the destination to further extend its season, which is now from April to November. In addition to this, it has also effectively broadened the visitor marketing, now welcoming visitors from Germany, Austria and Switzerland who tend to visit at the beginning and the end of the season for their holidays. These results, therefore, made it possible for Dolomiti Paganella to become the destination with the longest bike season in the market, and this changed the image of the destination.

“Understand very well what is your focus. As a DMO you can make the difference to the tourism products, it’s not about sales or booking, but you can work on the quality of the experience. Experience Design, this is where the local DMO can make the difference.” - Luca d’Angelo, Director

Access our worksheet on Dolomiti Paganella below.

Key Takeaways

1. Dolomiti Paganella’s new strategy undoubtedly proved to be successful and we have highlighted the most important takeaways from this strategy, relevant points that every DMO should take into consideration:

2. Specialising in the bike product for Dolomiti Paganella was risky but proved to be successful. By envisaging it as a bike destination and including it in the masterplan, the DMO was able to share their vision and establish a good relationship with local stakeholders. Having a common vision for the destination made it possible to create common efforts around the development of products. Therefore, the role of the DMO is to lead this strategic vision and process for the development of the destination. Is it critical for any DMO to understand what is the destination’s focus and let the stakeholders follow you.

3. The destination evolves and improves through the creation of products and experiences; all the marketing efforts of the DMO to promote tourism follow this approach. With a strategic restructuring of operational departments following the product clusters, the tourism board found an improved productivity system, which enables a circular collaboration among team members. Each product cluster has highly specialised people to guide the operations and marketing and communication follow the clusters.

4. Performance evaluation is necessary to guide and adjust the development of a destination. While with an only-marketing approach a DMO is not always able to assess the reach and impact of their promotional campaigns, focusing on a different aspect such as product development might lead to an improved performance evaluation strategy because results are more easily quantifiable.

Published on:
April 2021
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