ECM Roundtables: Are Locals the Solution to Everything?

In this panel, which was a collaboration with ECM, we discussed whether locals are the solution to everything.

What shift have you seen in your destination concerning the locals?

Sabine explained that workshops with local stakeholders started before the pandemic hit. During the pandemic, they have continued the communication with local associations, such as premium tourism organisations and hotel associations, and have taken into account their perspective but have also considered the locals as clients of the destination.

In this panel, which was a collaboration with ECM, we discussed whether locals are the solution to everything with Michael Otremba, from the Hamburg Tourist Board; Rosa Bada, from Barcelona Turisme; and Sabine Schwanz, from Madrid Destino; with Nick as the moderator.

What shift have you seen in your destination concerning the locals?

Sabine explained that workshops with local stakeholders started before the pandemic hit. During the pandemic, they have continued the communication with local associations, such as premium tourism organisations and hotel associations, and have taken into account their perspective but have also considered the locals as clients of the destination.

Rosa, on the other hand, expressed their belief for locals being part of the solution, which calls for the inclusion of residents in the recurring conversations and public and private negotiations. She explained that residents are part of the city, and as such, the city should take part in urban discussions with the local stakeholders to ensure balance, which they have been doing in recent times.

Lastly, Michael highlighted that during the pandemic, the only KPI they had was that of overnight stays, although there are many more the industry can focus on. He stressed that increasing numbers will never be a common goal between locals and visitors, thus increasing the quality of life for those who live in the city permanently will also improve the experience of visitors. This last point calls for the need to understand how locals feel about tourism, traveller behaviours and events.

If increasing visitor numbers is not the goal, how do we justify the activities of DMOs when moving away from the economic data?

Michael explained that travelling is more than the economic aspect, it correlates with health and well being, it educates people, and it supports democracy. In his view, there is a need to discuss travel in a broader sense and establish new dialogues with these fields to underline new KPIs.

Sabine highlighted the importance of DMOs communicating and collaborating, with a need for more collaborations between the public and private sectors, as well as the stakeholders. She also mentioned the need to develop experiences both inside and outside the city to balance economic growth in different regions. Before finishing her intervention, Sabine expressed how the pandemic has created a new level of appreciation for our cities and how the value of ambassadors is not limited to growth but sharing the richness and cultural value of the community.

Again, Rosa emphasised the importance of collaboration between the public and the private sector but highlighted that the involvement of the community is crucial, with the question being how to consider the community in the tourism framework. She believes DMOs have a key role in measuring and managing the intangible values of the people and the community, as there is a demand from visitors to experience authenticity by discovering the place as locals experience it.

Is the demand for sustainability allowing us to shift from an economic-focused industry to a values-focused one?

Michael completely agreed with this statement, with the pandemic making a large part of the population become aware of the problems there are around this topic. He stated that there is a need for them to reposition themselves and increase their reputation among locals, by showing that they care about them. He believes this can be achieved with time through supporting more intensively the community and the public sector to improve life quality.

Sabine said that this is not a request, but a must. She explained there is a necessity to work on sustainability KPIs, which is somehow affiliated with economic growth, and expressed her thoughts on the importance of taking into account multiple KPIs towards sustainability.

To wrap up the session, Rosa explained that sustainable tourism can't have any meaning if it isn't connected and interrelated to the model of the city. She highlighted that there is a need to face certain subjects by means of taking direction and benefit the residents.

Key Takeaways

1. It is of utmost importance for the private and public sectors to collaborate to improve locals quality of life.

2. Sustainable development will require establishing new KPIs and considering city models to be aligned.

Published on:
December 2021
About the contributor

Michael Otremba

Michael Otremba has been Managing Director of Hamburg Tourismus GmbH, to which the Hamburg Convention Bureau belongs, since May 2016.

Rosa Bada

With her devoted team, they work towards encouraging free and open discussion and debate between the diverse players involved in the sustainable development of the City, providing a frame to public bodies, associations and political representatives to share their positions and come up with solid proposals.

Sabine Schwanz

Equipped with a wide range of professional experience in tourism she gained in travel agencies, airlines, hotels, DMOs and PCOs in Germany, Norway and Spain during 20 years, she is now, together with her team, developing the marketing measures for the promotion of the leisure tourism destination Madrid in national and international source markets, as well as for the development of the connectivity of Madrid.