How To Be a DMO Hero

Research paints a grim picture for the tourism businesses. Here’s how modern DMO leaders are responding

How To Be a DMO Hero

Matthew Hardy Thomas

Co-Founder & CEO
August 18, 2023

Let’s talk about money and how to make more of it.

In a recent development, Tourism Technology Company announced an exciting investment from the Government of Canada through FedDev Ontario to the tune of $715,000.

On the podium at the funding announcement, a sign reading "Jobs and Growth" was displayed for onlookers. We now have more money to create new jobs here in Canada and grow our operations to meet international demand for tourism software solutions.

Undeniably, the money is great, however, the team at TTC sees it as an investment in a new crop of destination managers around the world. We want to invest in the people who are taking a fresh approach to supporting tourism jobs and economic growth in their communities.

Before FedDev came along, I got a lot of puzzled looks from potential investors who didn't see the incredible opportunity Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) have when given the right tools.

And I can't blame them. Most people don’t know what DMOs are, or what they do. Eight years ago, I was also out of the loop, blissfully running my seasonal tourism business, Bend Bus. My job title was Chief Beach Bum, and my main responsibility was to get travellers to the beach on my trusty yellow bus.

It was during my time as a tourism operator that I caught my first glimpse of what DMOs do for their businesses. Talented destination marketing pros from my DMO crafted marketing campaigns on behalf of Bend Bus.

While they were great at spreading the word by attracting people to my listing on their website, it didn't lead to new sales for my business. Back then, DMOs created awareness because they didn't have the technology to make sales happen. That's when I saw the need for DMOs to help businesses make sales right from their websites.

While raising awareness is nice, I find the sound of a ringing cash register much more satisfying.‍

While raising awareness is nice, I find the sound of a ringing cash register much more satisfying. I made do and my cash register kept ringing steadily enough until March 2020, when overnight, it went silent. Like every other tourism business at that time, my revenue flatlined.

Recent research paints a grim picture for the tourism businesses that managed to survive. They're on life support, with mounting debt loads:

  • Over 51% have over $100,000 in debt
  • 55% lack confidence in their ability to repay loans within the next two years
  • 45% are at risk of closure within 3 years
  • Most shockingly, nearly a third are grappling with outstanding debt exceeding $250,000

I count myself lucky. That would have been my situation if I didn’t get the chance to park Bend Bus and transition into my second act in the tourism sector. During the peak of the pandemic lockdowns, I took over as the Manager of Tourism & Destination Development for the City of Guelph.

It was a wild ride, where I collaborated with talented economic developers and community leaders to dole out over one million dollars in local tourism recovery funds. The need for that support was dire, and it was eye-opening to see what tourism operators need from their DMO.

As a destination manager, I led workshops, webinars, and created awareness marketing campaigns.

Unfortunately, none of those efforts came close to solving our tourism operators' biggest need: financial support.

This insight led me to co-found the team at TTC and create Booker, the booking platform for DMOs and their tourism operators to increase their profits.

While I wholeheartedly endorse initiatives advocating for debt relief within the tourism industry, tangible solutions, not just advocacy, are what our tourism operators need right now.‍

Modern DMO leaders are becoming indispensable marketing partners by turning awareness marketing into actual sales.

I'm not alone in this belief. There's an obvious shift underway in the industry. At TTC, we're working with modern destination managers who no longer see their roles as spectators on the sidelines.

They’re seizing this golden opportunity by using Booker to bring much-needed financial support to their members. They’re becoming indispensable marketing partners by turning awareness marketing into actual sales, and offering all their tourism businesses a state-of-the-art booking system with ultra low fees.

Booker's early success is a testament to the amazing work of highly effective destination managers who are responding to the biggest issues facing their tourism businesses.

If you're a DMO hero who is looking for tangible solutions to support your tourism businesses, the team at TTC is here to back you up every step of the way.