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TXGB responds to the DMO Review by Nick de Bois

DMO Review

The independent review of DMOs in England was published last week, and like many others we had been eagerly awaiting this.

The report illuminates the key challenges faced by the broad spectrum of tourism authorities in play and highlights how important they are in unlocking the potential of the sector.

This is a topic close to our heart at TXGB. Working with DMOs at all levels is central to our purpose as an organisation. We’re currently working with 70 of the 150 mentioned in the report. In addition to the specific references made to the necessity for all DMOs to capitalise on TXGB, we see the national tourism exchange as a critical component in “unlocking the potential” of the sector. This ethos is woven into many parts of this report and this is the exact phrase we use to define our purpose as an organisation.

In fact there are many aspects of this report linked to our mission, so many that I don’t think anybody can be left in any doubt that TXGB and DMOs are two critical and intertwined components of the national tourism strategy.

Given the size and scope of the report I thought it was important to pull out the main areas TXGB will affect when it comes to creating more efficient, effective and sustainable DMOs in England.

Putting consumers first

Consumers buy brands, seek out new and unique experiences, crave convenience and demand intuitive digital services. Almost every consumer is a digital consumer.

England is a “house of brands” and so our consumer facing services must be organised as such. However, just like all large organisations that house many brands, behind the scenes the resources of the wider organisation should be combined to deliver better customer experiences and drive up customer value.

While the narrative of the report focuses on the tiering of DMOs around consumers, TXGB also enables this guiding principle on many levels:

1. Branding: Destinations are free to brand their customer experience and augment any TXGB functionality with content or features novel to them to meet the specific needs of their demographic. We encourage this and have supported numerous DMOs who take various approaches to their branding and marketing.

2. Bookability: The core requirement for consumers is the ability to search and book online with ease. TXGB enables DMOs to do this within their campaigns and digital assets without huge upfront investment and restrictive ongoing administrative overheads. In short TXGB democratises bookability and automates many back office processes at the same time.

3. Distribution: Different consumers have different buying habits and retail channel loyalties. By helping distribute local products via an ever increasing range of channels we help DMOs broaden the reach of businesses in their region, and make it easier for consumers to book via their preferred route.

4. Analytics: The starting point in creating intuitive services that evolve in line with changing consumer needs is analytics. TXGB provides the data necessary to activate analytics on several levels that enable destinations to optimise their approach.

A better data strategy

“On the whole data is weak” and “the Government should improve access to quality data” are two snippets that ring in our ears at TXGB.

Firstly, the report does not draw a clear line between TXGB and the concept of a Tourism Data Hub, so I wanted to highlight that TXGB is already laying the foundation for a radically better data strategy for tourism in the UK.

TXGB, when fully adopted, will be the most comprehensive, usable and reliable source of data available to the UK Government and authorised tourism authorities. Our platform has the potential to supercharge the required national data strategy, however this materialises. While we know the concept of a “data hub” is still quite abstract, we can be sure that TXGB will be the backbone of any forthcoming data strategy for tourism in the UK, as we have seen be the case around the world where a tourism exchange is in place.

TXGB will improve three core areas of data strategy for destinations:

1. Insights: With real time access to actual booking data the insights that TXGB will deliver are unparalleled. As more participants join TXGB the power of this data will increase exponentially.

2. CRM: By building customer data DMOs will be able to create a stronger direct relationship with visitors. This will enable them to create smarter marketing campaigns and improve the overall visitor experience.

3. Accountability: By moving from anecdotal to quantifiable results, the performance of destinations can be better managed on many levels. TXGB is the most robust measure on the table, once fully adopted.

Shared back office

TXGB is a giant shared network made available at no charge to DMOs in England due to the arrangements put in place by VisitEngland. The more DMOs promote and utilise this network the more powerful it will become for those users. The same is true for all participants.

Furthermore TXGB is API driven and interoperable, making it fit to work with legacy systems and evolve as organisations evolve and modernise. This enables the digital transformation that is required as part of this report.

Here we have a unique opportunity for DMOs to stand together with industry, to drive positive change and deliver benefits for their local economy and their organisation.

Sustainable revenue streams

The report is clear, while the Government needs to have a more hands on approach to DMOs, there is a large requirement to leverage assets and increase income to support the wider range of activities crucial to successful destination marketing and management.

Linking marketing campaigns, to trackable conversions and then to commission, creates a virtuous loop of funding. This is of paramount importance and there is a clear edict in this report to leverage TXGB in order to pursue this goal.

Working in this way will accelerate digital enablement of industry and create a stronger bond between DMOs and their partners. With TXGB campaigns can be measured (and optimised in real-time) enabling DMOs to be more focused on commercial outcomes and agile in campaign delivery. Furthermore the automation provided by TXGB to DMOs means commissions can be kept very low, ensuring suppliers get great value from the campaigns.

The long tail

The report touches several times on the diversity and complexity of the tourism ecosystem. There are an estimated 230,000 businesses in the sector, with 98% classed as SMEs. It is a sector where a “long tail economic strategy” must be employed if we are to unlock the full potential of the market. It is clear from this report that both DMOs and TXGB are critical to achieving this.

TXGB is a ready made tool to help DMOs engage the long tail and deliver tangible results that create mutual benefit. We recognise that the diversity and authenticity of the sector is both a blessing and a curse, and that a central and open digital marketplace is the best way to unite the long tail and take it to market effectively.

Final thought

We cannot shy away from the fundamental structural, financial and operational issues for DMOs highlighted in this report. However, TXGB is already available and has made strides forward in some key areas. We recognise DMOs may not have everything they need to fully leverage our platform, but every journey starts with the first few steps.

So we welcome this report. We look forward to understanding if and how these recommendations are translated into a transformation plan for DMOs in England. We will be there to support these changes, and remain committed to helping DMOs work towards some of these targets in the meantime.