The Netherlands Tourism Board: The Focus On Innovation

We interviewed Charel, to learn about how the Netherlands manage, develop and market their destination.

At The Netherlands Tourism Board and Conventions (NTBC), we interviewed Charel Van Dam - NBTC Marketing Director, to learn about how the Netherlands manage, develop and market their destination and how they plan for the future to deal with such issues as overcrowding and over-tourism.

The Netherlands focusing on Innovation

At The Netherlands Tourism Board and Conventions (NTBC), we interviewed Charel Van Dam - NBTC Marketing Director, to learn about how the Netherlands manage, develop and market their destination and how they plan for the future to deal with such issues as overcrowding and over-tourism.

In this case study we will explore:

  • The overview of the Perspective 2030 Strategy
  • How Macro-trends are redefining the role of a DMO
  • How to design a sustainable future whilst addressing tourism and under tourism
  • How DMOs can embrace technology from a new perspective.

About the Netherlands Tourism Board: Planning the Future

The Netherlands Tourism Board is responsible for managing the destination, destination development and marketing. NBTC is focusing on their 2030 Tourism strategy (The Perspective 2030 Strategy) as they predict a steady rise in visitors, with an expected number of 29 Million visitors in 2030. However, in the current climate, the number could even reach 42 Million visitors by 2030.  

As Tourism continues to boom, many DMOs will be facing the same issues as the Netherlands. The focus for NBTC is how they can manage over-crowding and over-tourism, and NBTC has decided to look at it differently.  

For the Netherlands, the question is how can they use tourism and its transformative powers to serve a different purpose than just tourism? We look at their approach in more detail in this Case study and highlight the key points of the Perspective 2030 strategy.

Key Points of the Perspective-2030 Strategy

In today’s ever-changing climate, co-creation and collaboration are vital for DMOs, which is why it’s at the heart of the new strategy. As NBTC works alongside many partners in the industry, they intend to design a strategy led by a collective voice, where residents, businesses and tourists are all part of the equation. Here are the key points to their strategy:

  • The ultimate goal is for every Dutch person to benefit from tourism by 2030.
  • There is a shift from promoting the destination, by adopting a holistic approach that views tourism as a transformative tool within the economy, involving both direct and indirect stakeholders and the destination as a whole. The question being, is tourism seen as the key to happiness?
  • NBTC recognises the importance of the changing role of the DMO and the need to be the driving force behind managing and directing the destination efficiently.
  • The benefit of collaboration and co-creation across the destination, with a significant focus on shared interests and putting residents first.
  • The number of incoming visitors to the Netherlands could grow by 50% from 18 million visitors in 2017 to 29 million in 2030. This requires a strategy that can manage visitor flows, spreading tourists across the destination and away from ‘hot spots’, improve the liveability of residents and support sustainability objectives.

In the NTBC 2030 Manifesto, 5 strategic cornerstones are outlined:

  1. Actively improve the benefits of visits for all Dutch citizens and raise awareness for these benefits.
  2. Spread Tourism: Attract visitors to different parts of the Netherlands, and if possible, at different times of the year. It is necessary to improve the current product offering and to develop new attractions to put unknown areas in the spotlight. By increasingly more spreading future visitors throughout the Netherlands, more regions and residents will benefit from our visitors.
  3. Accessibility: Mobility that suits the needs and behaviour of both visitors and residents. Visitors and residents benefit from sustainable mobility solutions that result in maximum accessibility.
  4. Sustainability: The visitor economy has the responsibility to be more sustainable, to circularly handle raw materials, to prevent pollution and waste and to minimise CO2 emissions.
  5. Hospitable industry: Invest in the image, the professionality and the attractiveness of the industry to achieve an optimal hospitality experience: Industry employers will have to develop new ways of educating and engaging with new employees and will have to offer good career perspectives.

How Macro-Trends are redefining the role of a DMO

The basis for this new strategy is a result of macro shifts that have changed the rhetoric and indeed shaped the new strategic direction. For many DMOs, the traditional role of marketing and promoting does not have to be done anymore. However, there is still a large promotional role for DMOs who can educate visitors about new places off the tourist map.

At the #DTTT we have identified the macro shifts that are redefining the role of the DMO:

  • Changing World
  • Shared Economy
  • Geo-Politics
  • Digitalisation & Technology
  • New Influencers
  • Changing travel requirements

Taking these macro shifts into account, DMOs need to think about what it is they are doing, what impact it has on society, the residents and businesses, and how they coordinate the effects of what is taking place. DMOs must think further ahead in their strategies. Destinations must think about who they want to be and what type of tourists they want to attract. DMOs are increasingly moving more towards destination management and development.

Here at the #DTTT, we see that the shift that DMOs are experiencing is a shift from a “Visitor-Only” approach, to an approach that includes visitors, locals and businesses. Regional and Local DMOs are becoming smarter in their approach to marketing and activities. As a result of this new approach, DMO leadership is likely to look very different over the next 10 years, taking into account pluralism and diverse perspectives, which will be fundamental to a destination’s success.

Overtourism: designing a strategy for the future

The growth in Tourism is a worldwide phenomenon that is here to stay. NBTC are aware of the future challenges that they face as a destination and are already looking ahead. It’s about looking at the logistics and defining how much tourism a destination can accommodate. It’s important to also note that destinations are getting busier and it's not necessarily a result of Tourism. It’s a combination of cities getting more popular and increased mobility.

In light of this, NBTC is thinking about how they shape a different kind of Netherlands. They are focusing on what is needed to make people go to different places and areas. Regional and Local DMOs are thinking about what their version of Perspective 2030 is. At present, the role of the NTO in the Netherlands is to work closely with the Regional and Local DMOs, encourage them to play to their own strengths, and share knowledge, insights and strategy.

The Solution for "Overtourism" and "Under Tourism"

The big question is how do DMOs solve the problems of 'overtourism' and 'under tourism'? At the #DTTT, we see there is a juxtaposition with some destinations suffering from too many visitors and others desperate for more.

For DMOs there are solutions for overtourism, which can also provide opportunities related to under tourism. DMOs can promote these solutions to visitors such as:

  • Regional alternative areas
  • Visits during off-peak periods
  • Supporting the local community with time and money
  • Exploring beyond the hot spots with a local guide
  • Being eco-friendly and responsible travellers
  • Travelling with ethical tour companies
  • Travelling off the beaten track

Travel and Tourism are now leading destinations to think about what they want their city to be like. It makes DMOs think more about the issues of urbanisation, globalisation, global mobility and travel becoming more accessible as a leisure product. The magic formula, which can really help shift that balance is not to declare your destination as “full” as the lesser-known areas could all benefit from Tourism. It’s about being open and inclusive, asking why you need Tourism, what type of tourists you want to attract and changing your product to attract them. Asking the question, what is needed to make people go to different areas?

NBTC are aware of the challenges over-tourism has on social cohesion, house prices and in changing the city of Amsterdam. As part of their strategy to avoid overcrowding, they want to spread tourism throughout the Netherlands. The promotion will be less focused on the key hotspots like Amsterdam, in favour of other lesser-known areas. For NBTC, Amsterdam acts as a warning sign for the management of other areas in the Netherlands.

DMO Collaboration: Enabling the Perspective 2030 Strategy

Regardless of NBTC sharing knowledge and insights with Regional and Local DMOs, they believe that it is up to them to decide what their version of Perspective 2030 is. They must define what they want from Tourism and how they want to apply their strategy.

The traditional roles, structure and relationships between the NTO, Regional Tourism Organisations and local DMOs are changing. In the Netherlands, NBTC acts and an enabler, to help, stimulate and guide the Regional and Local DMOs to achieving their long-term objectives. They oversee their needs, pass on valuable knowledge and allow the Regional and Local DMOs to play up their own strengths. It is all part of a big collaborative effort.

Sustainability: A Local and Global Issue

NBTC acknowledges that sustainability needs to be addressed and believes it is a global issue that requires a bigger solution.  

Here at the #DTTT, we believe for DMOs it starts with:

  • Understanding that your destination is a contributor to this global issue.
  • Putting residents first, to ensure that Tourism is sustainable for them
  • Smart Visitor distribution, ensuring that visitors have the knowledge to travel to lesser-known areas and can get to them easily.
  • Putting in place sustainable initiatives to enable sustainable growth for the Planet.
  • Ensuring the destination infrastructure encourages sustainable methods of travel to the destination.
  • Changing the perception of your destination to a sustainable, smart destination.
  • Changing your target audience to residents to make them think about their own sustainable behaviour.
  • Communicating the right message to address change, by mobilising partners.  
  • Enabling a discussion between residents, businesses and tourists, to make them understand their role in this issue and in achieving sustainability.

Data & Intelligence: Bring Unity to the Industry

Data is a big part of the solution for destinations. Data is important for DMOs to:

  • Gain key insights
  • Manage destinations
  • Improve destinations
  • Form collaborations with stakeholders
  • Manage the perceptions of consumers

For NBTC it is about working as a “Data Alliance”, with all stakeholders being on the same page and using the same data sources to get an accurate picture.

Technology: From a New Perspective

DMOs need to embrace and assess the opportunities of new technology as it comes on the market. NBTC, in particular, is very much focused on improving technologies. As an NTO, they see that these new technologies can help benefit their Regional and Local DMOs if applied. They have now shifted from just using websites and apps, to make sure they actually understand them and can transfer that knowledge to their partners. This knowledge is then being used for best practices and recommendations.

DMOs should now be looking at technology from a new perspective. Instead of viewing a website as a platform just for communication that draws in millions of visitors, it should be seen as a data and intelligence platform, rather than a communication tool.

Technology is known as being disruptive in the way it can enable people to benefit from it, whilst others may not benefit from it at all. It has disrupted, changed and impacted tourism as we know it today. We hear a lot of excitement about new developments around data, AR/VR, blockchain, and automation with many citing a risk to jobs and industry further down the line. However, in light of the potential risks, DMOs must-see new technology as a new opportunity and view it from a new perspective.

Key Takeaways

1. Macro-trends are changing the role of the DMO

The role of a DMO today is no longer solely destination promotion, it is so much more thanks to macro-shifts in the environment. Taking into account the main causes of redefining a DMOs role: a changing world, shared economy, geopolitics, digitalisation and technology, influencers and changing travel requirements, DMOs are now transforming to destination management organisations.

In addition to these macro-shifts, traditional advertising for a mass audience is no longer as effective. Instead, DMOs must now promote storytelling generated from within their destination, to resonate with their visitors’ personal passions. DMOs are now the content curators and tasked with focusing on improving the entire visitor experience. DMOs must lead their destinations, through example and collaboration.

2. There are solutions for Over tourism and Under tourism

DMOs are in a position as the experts of their destination, to promote experiences to visitors that encourage sustainable travel.  DMOs have the power to transform their destinations, through strategic ideas and solutions. They can lead their destinations and be seen as a source of good when tackling the big issues of over-tourism and under tourism.  DMOs have many ways to do this, such as the intense promotion of off-peak campaigns and increased marketing of lesser-known areas.

3. Sustainability starts at home

Destinations are now looking at the whole picture, starting with the residents, local businesses and feeding this out to the visitors.  All stakeholders must be on board when trying to bring about change and a sustainable legacy for a destination. The key is for DMOs to promote sustainability as beneficial for all and this itself can transform the perception of the destination.

4. Data Collaboration benefits the destination and the Consumer

As previous geographic marketing strategies are no longer effective, for many DMOs the use of data and data collaboration is key to improving a destination and its reach. Destinations can use data to reach more consumers and also form better collaborations with industry stakeholders. Data can ensure DMOs focus on what the consumer really needs, better understand their ideal target audience and also increase and add value for stakeholders involved.

5. Innovation is about Changing Perspectives

For DMOs, giving themselves and their visitors a new lens to look through is important for the development of a destination.  The definition of innovation is "something new or different introduced." However, in tourism, consumers aren’t being offered something new, just a different way of being offered the same thing.  DMOs can use new technology, (differently to before) and data insights to be innovative and appeal to new visitors by changing their perspectives.

Published on:
February 2020
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