The New Role of DMOs

Katarina believes this new role of DMOs is as the mediators as well as the hub for knowledge and the one who initiates innovation.

Setting the scene, Katarina starts by telling us about DMO 1.0, when the 'M' was clearly defined as marketing.

Setting the scene, Katarina starts by telling us about DMO 1.0, when the 'M' was clearly defined as marketing.

Setting the scene, Katarina starts by telling us about DMO 1.0, when the 'M' was clearly defined as marketing. The rules of the game have been changing for some time, with heads in beds no longer the right model for measurement.

There are also new stakeholders, a widened interest in our industry and increasingly cities see an important role for the destination to play in everything from culture to heritage to development. The other new stakeholder is the resident, wondering what the benefits of tourism is to them, rather than having people just interfere in their backyard.

The consumer of the destination can also be considered as a resident, therefore also a stakeholder, whose needs must be considered.

Considering all of this, the stakeholder map is so much wider than it was with the DMO 1.0. It's so much more than just tourism and attracting more visitors but it's also about the quality of life and reflects on the complexity of the differing interests and expectations in our industry.

To add to this, the fast changing 'new world' can seem scary, we don't know what is around the corner. There are pressures from all angles, from climate through to digitalisation to changing world order and these pressures have become ever more prevalent and challenging to address. These issues have truly come to the fore and tangible, requiring us to take action and address them.

  1. Degenerative - doing harm
  2. Sustainable - doing less bad
  3. Regenerative - restore, and rejuvenate

Sustainability and business have also come so much closer together, as shown in recent studies by many research institutions including Euromonitor which show that 57% of consumers are likely to spend more on sustainable products and services.

There is also a heightened focus on the customer and the customer journey, to consider their motivations and concerns and how to focus on them. This is also reflected when we think about data and digitalisation, where the synergy between digital and sustainability is absolutely necessary for businesses to stay competitive. As DMOs, it is important to recognise these pressures and shifts, whilst also understanding that the DMO somehow sits behind competing forces including major online pressures from the likes of Google and OTAs who are also shaping the industry overall.

The New Role

Katarina believes this new role of DMOs is as the mediators as well as the hub for knowledge and the one who initiates innovation. The fact is clear that as an industry made up of hundreds of small actors, there is a need to support the efforts to make these shifts whether it's using data better to understand the impact of making the bigger shifts where guidance, community and leadership play a really important role.

So what's the new role? Maybe just an enhanced interconnecting role on all of these issues but this also means a fundamental change in the way of thinking. This is simply 'not business as usual' but a requirement to change the mindset.

The challenge is to get an understanding and prioritisation of the investment. There is a need for new skills to spread that knowledge, data and insights, whilst the skills to do that new skills in themselves are needed.

Taking bold action here is an opportunity to reinvent the role of the DMO. No other organisation has the overview of the destination and it's unique role gives them the opportunity to choose their new role going forward. Maybe this is placemaking, governance or development but what is key is to define their own relevance.

One thing is clear - data management and sustainability lie at the heart of this.


They are owned 100% by the city and dedicated to the sustainable development of the destination. They've worked with sustainability issues for many years, having worked with other destinations as a foundation as well as with the Global Destination Sustainability Movement which has enabled wide collaboration within the destination.

What does it mean and how does the framework look?

  1. Welcoming & Inclusive
  2. Prosperous and Growing
  3. Environmentally and Climate Smart
  4. Tourism, Meetings, Events & Legacy

These pillars underpin everything. Achieving this requires a process of change management, where data and insights are used more than ever before and a process of change is driven by a continual examination of the data to learn, grow and iterate whilst becoming more data driven as an organisation. At the same time, they're working to develop their own ways to work with data, capture insights and use them effectively.

This process led them to realise that they don't know anything about the guests' today. Knowledge and innovation somehow present themselves as major gaps if you really cannot understand your visitor, where they come from, their impact and their carbon footprint.

Starting to map this out, they drew an end-to-end visitor journey which already presented a dizzying array of issues at every single point - immediately helping them to recognise that they can only focus on the in-destination part of the journey.

Working with Mastercard data, they were able to look at the most important segments in the destination, where families, time to spare and small business activities dominated the majority of visitor spending.

Interestingly, they also looked at how spending changes depending on the type of traveller in town, basing visitation around a large Metallica concert that was in town. This showed, 'road warriors', 'families', 'budget seekers' and 'urban lifestyle' categories all peaked, helping them better understand the types of visitors driven by different activities. They also examined spending alongside these events and saw a big peak in things like the amusement park, where a direct correlation could be drawn.

Who's visiting and what are they spending become key questions which are key to understanding how to influence and shape the impact of tourism. To achieve this they're developing a DDP - Destination Data Platform (DDP) through three key pillars:

  1. Partners
  2. Local stakeholders
  3. Third Party sources

This is all driven by power BI, with both the needs of internal users and local stakeholders deemed as key users, but also enabling partners and third parties to leverage this data through APIs.

Key Takeaways

  • Don't be afraid as there will be failures but these are part of learning and growing.

  • Involve people to be part of prototypes, test ideas and data and experiment and explore what could happen in different scenarios.

  • The industry is not experienced in this so we need to find opportunities to grow on this journey together, to paint the future and start to redefine how we can use data for a better future.
Published on:
December 2022
About the contributor

Katarina Thorstensson

Göteborg & Co