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Over the last few years, tourism has established itself as one of Austurland's primary industries, and after building a new DMO in 2017, it began developing its Destination Management Plan.

A long-term vision designed to strengthen the local tourism support frameworks while taking into account the needs of all stakeholders involved, from the visitors to local residents and businesses. Visit Austurland will be sharing insights on the value of a DMP at #DTTTGlobal, but in the meantime, we caught up with the team with a few questions.

Please introduce yourself and your organization?

We are working with Destination Management for the region of Austurland which is the Icelandic name for East Iceland. We are working for the organization Austurbrú which is a regional development office for Austurland.

Over the last years, we have built up the destination of Austurland and formed a Destination Office. This has meant a lot of different efforts from establishing a movement among stakeholders, to be working with the development of our commonplace brand and our content. The latest step has been to prepare a Destination Management Plan (DMP) for Austurland.

The project Destination Austurland began in 2014 as an initiative from Ferðamálasamtök Austurlands (Austurland Tourism Cluster), and Austurbrú was hosting the project. Since the start, collaboration and co-creation have been of central importance for the project. This was achieved through the coordination and guidance from the Swedish Destination Designer Daniels Byström. Through a process characterized by a shared understanding of challenges and opportunities, reflecting of the common needs from various stakeholders, the movement has led to joint efforts and to building up a platform for collaboration.

The participants in the project have come to realize the importance of learning from the experience of others, seeking out best practices and aiming for doing even better. The goal has not been to design Austurland as a destination for visitors. The goal has been to define what Austurland is in our hearts, the inhabitants of the area, and work on a vision for Austurland as a destination for residents and visitors.

Destination planning is one way of analyzing, organizing and encouraging the implementation of the necessary remedial actions, thus safeguarding the values that are the basis of our guests’ interest in visiting us, as well as to contribute to the benefit of the community in Austurland. We strive for the DMP to encourage stakeholders to work on prioritized projects so that we can reduce visible bottlenecks in Austurland development for the benefit of future generations of locals and guests.

What were the key drivers behind developing a DMP for Austurland?

Our DMP allows us to align the Destination Management into other strategic development aims regionally and nationally. The DMP is defining actions connected to our strategic aims and follows up on the progress and the impacts. It helps us to better understand our preconditions for development, where we are now, where we aim to be and how we are making progress. It is a business plan for our destination. The DMP also stakes out the path for us to take action over the next three years. Our DMP helps us to attract the kind of tourism that we want to have. It also helps us to control how our actions for development are leading to positive progress. We have in Austurland already taken many steps forward to improve our destination. With the DMP, an important piece is falling into place. We now have a full set of tools needed to take action and to achieve the objectives that we have set up for our destination. This DMP can also be considered as a call for everyone involved in our Destination Development to take action.

Our DMP helps us to attract the kind of tourism that we want to have. It also helps us to control how our actions for development are leading to positive progress.

The DMP vision is for 2018-2021. What have been the biggest benefits so far?

The biggest benefits are the recognition we have gotten for our comprehensive work. Apart from that, we are also getting more emails, phone calls and from local companies and others that want to take part or align with our strategy. This gives us the opportunity to work more efficient, more responsible and more sustainable.

And the biggest challenges?

The biggest challenge is lack of hours and resources to implement, and as well that the system is slower in decision making then we are. We are a small organization. We have to find methods to achieve a lot with small resources. We need to use our time in a smart way. This means that we sometimes also challenges the system of traditional decision making. We are questioning, and ask if we maybe can do it in another way and make things more efficiently. We always need to learn a lot from others, and we are always curious. But we also do believe, that we from our preconditions of being a small organization trying to work smart, we have a few things that we could teach others.

We are looking forward to hearing more insight at #DTTTGlobal, what can we all expect from your talk?
You can expect a real-life case on destination development in a rural area with a new methodology on responsible development on places.

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