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What’s the BIG IDEA for Your DMO Strategic Plan?

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

Why do so many DMO strategic plans come up short? Many become a list of tasks and ways to allocate resources.  These  are low-aiming plans,  essentially just a continuation of what has been done in the past with a few new additions. They manage the status quo. A core idea or concept should drive a tourism strategic plan to be truly strategic and change the competitive playing field. This core idea or concept acts as a guiding principle that shapes the strategic direction and positioning of the destination. Here are five key factors to consider when developing a core idea or concept for a tourism strategic plan:

1. Unique Benefit Proposition (UBP)- The core idea should identify and leverage the benefits your destination provides. Simply listing your destination attributes (which every destination does) misses the mark. Focus on the benefits your destination provides from the visitor perspective.

2. Values Segmentation/Alignment: The core idea should align your destination's values with those of your targeted visitors. Demographic and persona segmentation is not enough; it's critical to understand the values of your destination and community and find those visitors who align.

3. Brand Identity: The core idea should be closely linked to the destination's brand identity. It should reflect the brand values, personality, and positioning. Consistency in brand messaging and experiences is crucial to establishing a strong and recognizable destination brand.

4. Stakeholder Collaboration: Go beyond the usual suspects. Too often strategic plans are developed with what I call lazy collaboration involving the usual suspects, including various industry stakeholders, government bodies, tourism boards, local communities, businesses, and industry experts. You have to go deeper into the community with a lot of conversations with community members and know how to ask the right questions. The passion and best ideas come from unusual places like the ski lift, the surf beach, the farmers market, the trailhead, and more. Be creative.

5. Innovation and Adaptability: The core idea should be forward-thinking and adaptable to changing market dynamics and consumer trends. It should allow for innovation and the incorporation of new technologies and experiences to stay competitive and meet evolving visitor expectations.

By developing a core idea or concept that drives your strategic plan and that aligns with these factors, a tourism strategic plan can effectively drive change, differentiate the destination from competitors in a meaningful way, and create unique and compelling benefits that attract visitors and enhance the destination's competitiveness in the tourism industry. As the saying goes, “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got. Think differently, think BIG and be more competitive.


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