April 19, 2023
By Kim Campbell

After facing years of limitations, modified operations, and movement restrictions, modern consumers care more about travel now than before the COVID-19 pandemic. In a recent Expedia travel survey, half of responding consumers confirmed they place a new emphasis on traveling, with 46% of respondents stating they value it more now than they did pre-pandemic. As a result, people are looking for new and exciting places to travel, turning to professional services, like destination management organizations (DMOs), for guidance.

Now you’re probably thinking, “So, what is a DMO, and what does it have to do with travel or tourism?” Don’t worry; we can help.

In this post, we explore what a DMO is to better understand the role these organizations play in the hospitality, tourism, and events industries. As we discuss the duties and responsibilities of a destination management organization, you’ll discover what a DMO really is and how working with one can impact hoteliers, meeting planners, and other industry professionals.

What is a DMOs and why should every hotel know about them?

Whether you’re a hotelier looking for DMO marketing strategies or have never heard of a DMO before, you’ll find helpful information and real-world tips below.

What is a DMO?

A destination management organization promotes and drives a community’s economic development by increasing travel and tourism in the region. The organization is made up of local experts tasked with marketing their community as an attractive travel destination to draw new visitors, businesses, and customers to the area. DMOs may provide a wide range of services to various clients, like leisure travelers and meeting planners, or they may specialize in a particular area, only serving one client type.

In some places, DMOs are called tourist authorities or tourist boards, while titled Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs) in other locations. All DMOs legally operate as either local government entities or incorporated non-profit associations, with their funds typically tied to local government infrastructure. DMOs are able to provide their services for free as they receive the funds to do so from localized occupancy taxes and hotel fees, CVB membership costs, or other government subsidies.

What are the responsibilities of a DMO?

Destination marketing organizations fulfill a broad spectrum of duties and responsibilities. Services may vary from organization to organization depending on its size and the resources available to its members, but most DMOs are responsible for:

Marketing a destination. DMOs advertise an area as an attractive destination for tourists, travelers, planners, and other visitors. They create targeted tourism marketing campaigns highlighting destination offerings to increase travel interest, drive business to the area, and improve the local economy.

Educating visitors. DMOs inform travelers and potential visitors about area offerings, attractions, businesses, recreational opportunities, etc. With intimate knowledge about their location, destination managers help tourists understand what makes your area special and unique.  

Addressing residents. Destination managers connect residents with the tourism industry in their community. As a local government entity, they are responsible for communicating with area residents, answering their questions, and addressing community travel or tourism concerns. Suppose residents have concerns about hosting an event in the area, the negative impacts of tourism on their community, or questions about how to benefit from increased travel demand. If so, they can turn to the DMO for assistance.

Attracting investors. By working with public and private stakeholders, DMOs entice investors to put their money into the community. They work with stakeholders to meet the needs of travelers, residents, and area businesses with new and improved products, resources, and innovative strategies.

Improving business conditions. Destination managers help build more favorable operating conditions for local businesses in the community, acting as an interface between tourists and the local companies that serve them.

Driving sustainability. DMOs help drive eco-friendly initiatives and reduce the environmental impact of travel and tourism on a destination. They work to increase traffic to the area while preventing overtourism, adverse environmental effects, and harm to residents.

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Why are DMOs important?

DMOs bring together a wide range of businesses and organizations that impact the visitor experience, including hotels, restaurants, retailers, and attraction operators, to create and drive sustainable economic growth. Locations with an operating DMO promoting their destination tend to perform better economically and have greater visibility than those without.

Because DMOs work with travel and event planners, local organizations, and residents who need travel or tourism-related assistance, they are a great source of referrals for local businesses. They help drive traffic to hotels, restaurants, venues, and events in the area. In addition to scouting, DMOs can assist with supplier negotiations and other activities.

How do DMOs impact meetings and events?

DMOs provide suggestions for companies and individuals seeking local venues, lodging options, entertainment, or other services, but they are also fantastic, often untapped resources for meeting and event planners. Planners facing rising costs or increased competition should consider working with DMOs, as they can help organizers:

Save time and research efforts. They can offer resources to help book various event types, including business meetings, parties, conferences, and more.

Speed up the sourcing process. DMOs can help planners source available venues, dependable vendors (e.g., caterers, transportation, equipment rental services), and other services.

Gain destination insight. Experts on their particular location, destination managers know the ins and outs of local event spaces. They are a robust resource, full of local knowledge, which enables them to provide out-of-town and remote meeting planners with an intimate insight into destination attractions and unique selling points.

Find the right venue. DMOs know everything there is to know about the venues in their area: their size, capacity, and service style.

Create compelling itineraries. Because destination managers know their area so well, they can provide planners with helpful recommendations for corporate guests, event planners, or bleisure travelers, many of whom wish to extend their stay beyond an event date.

Communicate safety guidelines. Although operating in a mostly post-pandemic world, COVID travel and gathering restrictions, as well as other local health and safety protocols, can still change. If planners are unfamiliar with a particular location's health and safety regulations, they can contact the area DMO for assistance.

In addition to working with event planners, organizers, vendors, and staff, DMOs give local businesses a head’s up when significant events, like trade shows or conventions, are expected to bring an influx of travelers to the area. Companies with advanced knowledge of increased demand can staff up, stock up, and prepare for the traffic.

How can DMOs help hotels?

As destination experts, DMOs make for powerful hotel partners. In addition to bringing new travelers to an area, leveraging DMOs can benefit individual properties by:

Expanding hotel marketing reach. Travelers and travel managers turn to DMOs when sourcing restaurants, event venues, overnight lodging, and other services. As a result, CVB marketing helps hotels bridge the gap between themselves and incoming travelers, connecting them to guests they may not have reached otherwise.

Driving market demand. In addition to marketing a destination, DMOs incentivize travel and event planners to choose their destination for meetings, exhibitions, conferences, vacations, reunions, and other demand drivers.

Boosting social media presence. Partner with DMOs for creative social media campaigns. You can introduce new consumers to your area and the hotel through cross-promotion and engaging content.

Generating new account leads. DMOs can help hotels connect with nearby companies, grow group business, uncover local accounts, increase event bookings, and strengthen community relationships. As new companies come to the area, they may turn to the DMO or CVB for guidance or to become members. Maintain a friendly relationship with your DMO, so you’ll be first in line to learn about potential accounts.

Gaining market insight. DMOs typically subscribe to demographic data reporting services that provide detailed information regarding area tourism, foot traffic, the economic impacts of travel in your destination, and, most importantly, why travelers came there in the first place. Once or twice a year, they may host a tourism summit or conference to review the information with area businesses or chamber members. Connect with your DMO to see what information they use to understand tourism and market demographics better.

Strengthening sustainability initiatives. DMOs partner with hotels, local businesses, and other organizations to identify common sustainability goals, develop community-wide programs, and design green travel solutions. Work with DMOs to promote eco-friendly hotel solutions, green facilities, or brand waste reduction initiatives. Participate in community-wide sustainability efforts to strengthen your hotel’s reputation.

How does working with hotels benefit DMOs?

Hotels also make powerful allies for DMOs, as both entities benefit from the relationship. While DMOs exist to assist travelers and travel businesses, hotels help DMOs by:

Funding the organization. Many DMOs receive their funding, or a portion of it, from hotel occupancy taxes, which vary state by state. Guests pay transient occupancy tax on hotel reservations, which may be passed on to local government organizations, like a DMO or CVB.

Driving digital marketing power. Although DMOs may receive operational funds through occupancy taxes, many non-profit organizations and local government offices lack the financial resources to drive high-quality digital content marketing. Hotels typically have a much higher marketing budget, and DMOs can maximize their advertising potential by collaborating with them. Through cross-promotional marketing, DMOs can promote travel to the region with hotel-financed advertising.

Enhancing traveler experiences. DMOs and hotels can partner to create unique, memorable guest experiences. When a traveler reaches out to the destination management organization, travel managers can offer personalized travel experiences, complete with lodging, dining, and attraction recommendations.

Partnering for training. In many areas, DMOs work with lodging partners in the area to develop internships or training programs for budding hospitality professionals. Hotels sit at the heart of hospitality and are the perfect places for up-and-comers to see what working in the industry is really like.

What can DMOs do for unique or out-of-the-box event venues?

In oversaturated or competitive markets, it’s challenging enough for large, well-known branded hotels to garner traveler attention. Small, boutique, or unusual venues frequently have an even tougher time getting noticed, but the good news is that they can turn to DMOs for help.

Destination managers can assist boutique hotels, specialty travel businesses, and one-of-a-kind venues to get the word out about their services. Working with a DMO can also help smaller hospitality businesses strengthen their reputation and solidify themselves as competitive venue options in crowded markets.  

Find out our top 2023 unique venue trends

Frequently asked questions about DMOs

Still have questions about DMOs or what they do? Check out the answers to frequently asked questions below for more information.

1. Are all DMOs government organizations?

Although most DMOs receive public funds through resources like taxes, some DMOs and CVBs are privately funded. Those that receive funding through hotel taxes or other government-based programs operate as non-profit entities, existing solely to promote and drive responsible tourism to the region. Privately-funded DMOs may be encouraged to cater to the priorities and preferences of their financiers.

2. Should all destinations have a DMO?

Even if you do not consider your area a “tourist destination” in the traditional sense, your region would likely benefit from a DMO, as destination managers are dedicated to promoting it. Can you think of anyone in your town that would be a great fit? In areas with fewer tourism professionals or government resources available, DMO members may volunteer or be elected.

3. Who is in charge of a DMO?

Most DMOs consist of a team of tourism professionals and stakeholders, which acts as an entity, working together to aid residents, local tourism businesses, and travelers. While the organization may have a titled “director,” the particular roles and responsibilities of each DMO member are destination-based. Non-profit DMOs must report to local government organizations, funding services, and destination residents.

Whether seeking ways to increase sustainability efforts or drive new guests to your property, your DMO could be a valuable, untapped resource. Now that you know what a DMO is, you can identify opportunities to work with destination managers in your area.

Put your knowledge of DMOs to good use!

DMOs are just one of the many resources hotels can utilize to capture new business. From third-party distribution sites and Global Distribution Systems to lead generation tools and in-house referrals, there are many distribution channels for hotel sales and marketing teams to explore. For more information about distribution channels and which booking sources your guests use, check out the comprehensive guide to hotel distribution channels up next. 

Headshot of Cvent writer Kimberly Campbell

Kim Campbell

Kim is a full-time copy and content writer with many years of experience in the hospitality industry. She entered the hotel world in 2013 as a housekeeping team member and worked her way through various departments before being appointed to Director of Sales. Kim has championed numerous successful sales efforts, revenue strategies, and marketing campaigns — all of which landed her a spot on Hotel Management Magazine’s “Thirty Under 30” list.

Don’t be fooled though; she’s not all business! An avid forest forager, post-apocalyptic fiction fan, and free-sample-fiend, Kim prides herself on being well-rounded.

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