Multi-stakeholder entities and collaborative partnerships are pervasive in the world of tourism. When DMOs, TPAs, counties and other representatives of regions come together, their marketing and economic impact exponentially increases. A new approach to serving the travel and tourism industry goes beyond the typical agency/client relationship. They are called association management companies.
According to AMC Institute, “association management companies (AMC), are for-profit businesses that manage associations to help them grow and prosper. AMCs provide their clients with unparalleled flexibility, agility and financial advantages, which makes the AMC model a good alternative for managing many nonprofit organizations.”
Needing a new structure
One of Break the Ice Media’s first clients was the Finger Lakes Vacation region in NYS. They hired us to administer their regional tourism marketing programs and through our contract, I was named Regional Director. At the time, the group was a loosely-formed committee of the vacation region’s 14 Tourism Promotion Agencies. The group’s budget ran through one of the committee members’ organizations. Grants were applied for through another member. The group met every month to discuss their collaborative programs and provide direction. After three years of operating this way, it became clear they needed a better structure to grow tourism in the region.
Finding our way to 501(c)(3)
We benchmarked how other regions in New York State are organized and found a model in the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council (ARTC). That organization formed as a non-profit with the Board of Directors made up of the region’s Tourism Promotion Agencies. They had a full-time Executive Director and several contracted services including a marketing agency and bookkeeper.
The ARTC Executive Director attended one of our meetings and was open and helpful in sharing how they operate.
After many discussions, and with the help of the New York State Council of Non-profits, the group formed a 501(c)(3) organization in January 2014. The 14 Official County TPAs of the Finger Lakes Vacation Region are now known as the Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council (FLRTC). The FLRTC Board includes representation from all 14 TPAs and counties: Cayuga, Chemung, Cortland, Livingston, Monroe, Onondaga, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, Wayne and Yates.
The world of association management companies
The Board approved applying for a grant to undertake a research study and development of a strategic marketing plan. We received the grant and spent 18 months working with a consulting firm. The research included talking with stakeholders from throughout the region, elected officials, the State tourism office and each member of the Board of Directors. They developed a comprehensive plan to help set priorities for the newly-formed organization.
Among its recommendations, the study proposed keeping the contractual relationship with Break the Ice Media and hiring a full-time Executive Director. This allows FLRTC to continue operations with the benefit of the knowledge and experience of the BTI team.
This approach enables the Board of Directors to focus on developing long-term strategies for increasing tourism. Meanwhile, an association management company – Break the Ice Media – manages the organization.
Continuing AMC success
Break the Ice Media now serves a second client in the same capacity. We recently added a new association management client, Travel Alliance Partners (TAP). TAP is a company owned by qualified, reputable North American Tour operators working together. They develop and promote tour packages with the highest quality, best value and biggest variety.
Much like with FLRTC, we hired a full-time Executive Director. TAP also reaps the rewards of the full BTI team and our tourism industry expertise. We are excited to help TAP grow as an organization and strengthen their position as a thought leader in the travel trade industry.
Working with our clients at this level allows us to truly be a partner in their organization by moving beyond a typical agency/client relationship. Which helps us enable our clients to get great results!
Check out our welcome video for our newest client, Travel Alliance Partners.