Are DMOs Evolving into Placemakers?

Are DMOs Evolving into Placemakers?

Since the beginning of 2019, I have been exploring the changing role of destination marketing organizations (DMOs) through conversation with guests on my podcast Destination on the Left. My question revolves around DMOs taking a more holistic approach to managing the destination’s brand and story by engaging with locals in addition to focusing on attracting visitors. My guests have a lot to share on this topic! What follows are some of the highlights from my recent interviews.

Marketing to Leadership

In my interview with Bill Geist of DMOproZ on episode 115, Bill describes the evolution of the DMO as a transition from marketing to leadership. He suggests that the DMO of the future might be called a DLO or Destination Leadership Organization. We discussed how DLOs would be at the table when discussions about economic development are taking place. In particular, the DLO would help guide developments to support a vibrant city and visitor economy, alongside the needs of the residents.

Peter Kageyama is an author of two books For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places and Love Where You Live: Creating Emotionally Engaging Places. In these, he talks about the entrepreneurial culture in cities, and calls the entrepreneurs “co-creators of these cities”. Bill explained that he sees a role for DMOs to help pull these co-creators together by weaving their stories into the brand. One way this may play out is through the use of social media, video and blogs. Who better to tell those stories than the organization that is great at telling the story of a destination?

Tourism and Economic Development

In episode 117 of my podcast, I had the opportunity to interview Connie Stopher and Melissa Barry from Southern Idaho. They are the Executive Director of the Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization and Executive Director of Southern Idaho Tourism, respectively. Both of them on the show at the same time spoke volumes about how intertwined these organizations are. After the interview there was so much to take away from the conversation. Connie and Melissa talked about how tourism and economic development go hand-in-hand and shared some specific partnerships they have forged. They actively recruit people to live and work in the area, and focus on inviting visitors to natural resources without damaging them. They explain that working together with all potential stakeholders is the only way to really get the job done.

Southern Idaho Economic Development recently launched a podcast, Secret’s Out Idaho!: where they interview makers and creators from the region.

Visitors to Residents

In a recently recorded episode, I interview David Gilbert, President and CEO of Greater Cleveland Sports Commission and Destination Cleveland. He shares a new initiative his organization is launching to harness the power of visitors to help generate economic development. David refers to the 1 million visitors that Cleveland sees each year as “first dates”. He explains how they are the best opportunity for conversion into future students, business opportunities or residents. By the end of 2019, Destination Cleveland will be launching a comprehensive talent acquisition strategy based in research and modeling for talent attraction and expansion on the #ComebacktoCLE test campaign they ran earlier this year. Stay tuned for his episodes, coming out in May.

Looking Ahead

The idea of DMOs evolving into community manager, DLOs or placemaker is not new but is picking up steam. A new conference started in 2015 by City Nation Place connects nations, cities, and regions around the world to focus on strategies for engaging citizens, driving investment, attracting talent and developing sustainable tourism.

DMOs have the best opportunity that they have ever had to become leaders in their communities. They are able to start thinking more broadly when it comes to placemaking and economic development. Those who are willing to pivot will become even stronger.