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Who's in Charge? A Look at Destination Marketing Organizations

Destination marketing organizations (DMOs) are entities dedicated to promoting tourism and driving economic growth in a particular destination. DMOs can take many forms, including chambers of commerce, convention and visitor bureaus (CVBs), economic development organizations (EDOs), city and county governments, state governments, and smaller nonprofit community associations.

Chambers of commerce and CVBs are perhaps the most well-known types of DMOs, as they are responsible for marketing and promoting a particular city or region to tourists and business travelers. EDOs, on the other hand, focus on attracting and retaining businesses to a particular area, which can in turn lead to increased tourism.

City and county governments may have dedicated tourism offices or departments, and state governments often also have their own tourism offices or agencies. Smaller nonprofit community associations or even individual tourism asset operators may also be involved in promoting local tourism and events. Each type of DMO has its own unique strengths and capabilities, and the best organization to partner with will depend on the specific needs and goals of a particular destination.

Chamber of Commerce

A chamber of commerce is a local organization that promotes the business and economic development of a community. It serves as a bridge between the local government and businesses, advocating for policies and programs that benefit the business community. Chambers of commerce are typically membership-based organizations that offer a range of services to their members, such as networking opportunities, marketing support, and business resources. They also work to attract new businesses to the community and promote the region as a destination for tourism and investment. Chambers of commerce can be found in cities, towns, and regions around the world, and play an important role in fostering economic growth and development at the local level.

Chambers of commerce play an important role in promoting tourism, especially for smaller communities. They serve as a hub for local businesses and community organizations to collaborate on promoting the area to tourists. The chamber can provide resources and support to local businesses, such as marketing materials, social media outreach, and events. They also act as an information center for tourists, providing maps, brochures, and other resources to help visitors navigate the area. Chambers of commerce often work closely with local government and tourism organizations to ensure a coordinated effort to promote the area's attractions and events.

In smaller communities, the chamber may be the primary organization responsible for tourism promotion and development, and may work to attract visitors to the area by highlighting its unique culture, history, and natural beauty. Ultimately, the goal of a chamber of commerce in promoting tourism is to increase visitor spending in the area, which can have a positive impact on the local economy and quality of life for residents.

Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB)

A Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) is a specialized type of chamber of commerce that is solely dedicated to tourism promotion. A CVB is typically located in more developed destinations and it plays an important role in attracting tourists and conventions to the area. These bureaus work in conjunction with local tourism assets such as hotels, restaurants, and other attractions, to promote the destination to potential visitors.

They create marketing campaigns, host travel shows, and develop a comprehensive destination marketing plan to attract visitors to the area. The CVB acts as a one-stop-shop for tourists, providing information on the best places to stay, eat, and things to do in the area. They also work with local businesses to coordinate events and activities that will attract visitors to the destination. The CVB is an essential part of the tourism industry in larger, more developed destinations and plays a crucial role in driving economic growth through increased tourism.

A CVB may be responsible for promoting a much larger region, such as a county or state, rather than just a town or city. This can involve marketing and promoting the region's attractions, accommodations, events, and other tourism-related amenities to visitors from around the world. The CVB may work closely with local tourism businesses and government agencies to create comprehensive tourism marketing plans and campaigns that highlight the unique offerings of the region. By doing so, they can attract more visitors, boost the local economy, and generate revenue for the area's businesses and attractions.

In some cases, the creation of a Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) is a response to the need to separate tourism-related funding from an existing Chamber of Commerce. While both organizations may promote the local business community, the focus of a CVB is more specific to tourism promotion and the attraction of visitors. Separating the two entities can allow for more targeted efforts towards tourism, without diluting the focus on other aspects of economic development. This can be particularly important for larger, more developed destinations where tourism is a significant part of the local economy. By creating a CVB, the tourism industry can have a dedicated organization that can work more closely with local government and other stakeholders to develop and execute effective tourism strategies.

Economic Development Organization (EDO)

An economic development organization (EDO) is a group that is dedicated to fostering economic growth in a particular region. While EDOs also support businesses, their primary focus is on promoting the overall economic health of the region through job creation, attracting new businesses and investment, and developing and improving infrastructure. EDOs may be funded by local or state governments and may work closely with other government agencies to achieve their goals. While there may be some overlap in the activities of these two types of organizations, they each have their own distinct focus and mission.

Economic Development Organizations (EDOs) play a vital role in fostering economic growth in regions, and this includes tourism development. In the absence of a chamber of commerce or Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), EDOs may be the primary party responsible for promoting tourism. EDOs typically work with local governments, community stakeholders, and private businesses to create and implement strategic plans that aim to attract tourists and promote local attractions. Their efforts can include developing infrastructure, coordinating marketing campaigns, and providing resources and training to tourism-related businesses. In many cases, EDOs work in close partnership with chambers of commerce and CVBs to ensure that their tourism efforts are well-coordinated and effectively promote the region.

In some cases, chambers of commerce, convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs), and economic development organizations (EDOs) may choose to consolidate their efforts under one roof. This type of consolidation typically involves merging the various organizations into a single entity with a more comprehensive focus on promoting economic growth and development in the region. By combining the resources and expertise of these groups, a consolidated organization can more effectively coordinate tourism promotion, business development, and other related activities to maximize the benefits for the community. This type of consolidation may be particularly effective in smaller communities, where there may be limited resources and a need for greater collaboration between different groups to achieve shared goals.

Municipal Government

In some cases, a city or county government may have its own in-house tourism department that is separate from a chamber of commerce and typically in place of a convention and visitors bureau (CVB). These departments are responsible for promoting the destination to tourists and generating revenue through visitor spending. They work with local businesses and attractions to develop tourism products, promote events and activities, and provide visitor services. In addition, they may work with outside organizations such as state tourism departments and regional tourism associations to market the destination to a broader audience. These departments are often staffed by tourism professionals with experience in marketing, event planning, and visitor services, and may be funded through a combination of public and private sources.

One of the main drawbacks of a city or county maintaining their own tourism department is the cost. It can be more expensive for a government agency to operate a tourism department than for a nonprofit organization like a chamber or CVB. For one, government agencies are typically subject to more regulations and red tape than nonprofits, which can slow down decision-making and result in higher administrative costs. Additionally, government agencies may have to pay higher salaries and benefits to attract and retain top talent, as they are often competing with the private sector for skilled workers.

Another potential drawback is that government tourism departments may be less connected to the local business community, which can limit their ability to collaborate with businesses on tourism initiatives. Finally, government tourism departments may be more vulnerable to changes in political leadership or funding, which can lead to instability and uncertainty in their operations. Finally, government agencies may be required to follow more stringent procurement procedures, which can drive up the cost of goods and services. These factors can all contribute to higher operating costs for a government-run tourism department compared to a local nonprofit.

State Government

A state government-run tourism department is responsible for promoting the state as a whole to potential visitors, covering a very wide area and representing many different destinations within the state. In addition to marketing, a state tourism department may also provide training, research, and grant funding to local tourism organizations.

For sparsely populated communities that may have little to no tourism funding, the state tourism department can serve as a valuable resource, providing information and assistance with marketing and development. State tourism departments may also serve to fill in information gaps for less well-known areas of the state, helping to attract visitors to areas that might not have a well-established tourism industry. However, state tourism departments can also face challenges in managing the needs and priorities of a large and diverse state, and in coordinating efforts with local and regional tourism organizations.

Tourism Related Associations

In addition to chambers of commerce, CVBs, EDOs, and government-run tourism departments, there are other organizations that play a role in destination marketing. Cultural boards, main street associations, and historic societies all work to promote specific aspects of a community's culture and history, which can be a major draw for tourists.

Cultural boards are often responsible for promoting local arts and culture, including music, theater, and visual arts. Main street associations typically focus on promoting and revitalizing downtown areas, often with a focus on historic preservation. Historic societies work to preserve and promote a community's historical landmarks and events.

These organizations can be valuable partners for tourism promotion efforts, as they offer unique insights and experiences that may not be available elsewhere. Additionally, they help to build a sense of community pride and engagement, which can be an important part of a successful tourism marketing campaign.

Attraction Operators

In places with little to no tourism funding, individual tourism attractions may be left to promote the area themselves. These attractions may rely on word-of-mouth marketing, online listings, and social media to attract visitors to the area. Without a centralized destination marketing organization, it can be challenging for these individual businesses to effectively market the region to potential visitors.

However, some local governments or chambers of commerce may offer limited support, such as providing brochures or online listings, to help promote these individual attractions. Despite the challenges, these individual tourism attractions can still play an important role in attracting visitors to the area and may even help to generate interest and support for the development of a more comprehensive destination marketing effort in the future.

Solutions for Emerging Destinations of All Sizes

Regardless of a destination's size or level of development, having an updated tourism asset inventory, go-to-market strategy, and digital destination infrastructure plan is critical for the success of its tourism industry. These plans help identify the existing tourism assets and infrastructure, highlight opportunities for growth and development, and provide a roadmap for destination marketing efforts.

Even small communities with limited tourism funding can benefit from these plans as they help attract visitors, generate revenue, and support the local economy. By understanding their strengths and weaknesses, destinations can create targeted marketing campaigns and optimize their online presence to drive visitor engagement and increase bookings. This can ultimately lead to a more vibrant and sustainable tourism industry that benefits the community as a whole.