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Destination Marketing Gets an Upgrade: Tracking Reform Since the de Bois Review

Specialist Group Tour Operator & DMC for Cornwall & Isles of Scilly

In March 2021, the landmark de Bois Review on destination management organisations (DMOs) in the UK recommended major reforms to make DMOs more efficient, accountable and sustainable. As a key part of tourism governance and promotion, DMOs faced scrutiny on how they can better support the sector’s recovery. Now, nearly two years later, what developments have emerged from this call to overhaul DMOs?

Streamlining England’s DMOs

One major outcome is that the number of local DMOs has declined by nearly 20% as smaller organisations merged or dissolved. Regional groups like Marketing Manchester have taken over promoting larger areas. While mergers risk reducing localised branding, it streamlines messaging and resources on a broader scale. Critics argue more reform is still needed to reduce duplicated efforts across closely located DMOs.

New Local Partnerships

In 2022, VisitEngland announced a new programme to create Local Visitor Economy Partnerships (LVEPs) across England. These partnerships between local authorities, DMOs and businesses aim to align promotion and planning across wider regions. So far, 15 LVEPs have been created to cover key holiday destinations. Proponents believe they will improve coordination, but their effectiveness remains to be proven.

Enhanced Coordination

Following de Bois’ critique of fragmentation in tourism messaging, VisitBritain launched a new Coordination Framework in 2022. The framework aims to create clearer lanes of responsibility between national bodies like VisitBritain, local DMOs, and private sector partners. Stronger collaboration is emerging, for example VisitBritain partnering with Tourism Northern Ireland on the GB&NI business events strategy. But industry stakeholders say continued work is needed on partnerships between DMOs at different geographical levels.

Diversifying Funding Sources

The review pushed DMOs to diversify revenues beyond relying on public funding. Some DMOs like Experience Oxfordshire have successfully grown their commercial revenue through consultancy work and industry partnerships. However, others are still in transition. Supporters argue DMOs need sustained, core public funds to be able to leverage commercial funding, rather than living hand-to-mouth.

Measuring DMO Performance

Following de Bois’ call for greater accountability, VisitEngland introduced its DMO Accountability and Governance Framework in 2022. Under this framework, DMOs must report on key performance indicators like cost-efficiency, partnership working and sustainability. The framework aims to benchmark DMOs’ impact and value for money. However, its success relies on robust KPI-setting and data collection by DMOs, which remains a work in progress.

While DMO reform continues to evolve since 2021, the de Bois Review provided an important reality check and set change in motion. With new initiatives like Local Visitor Economy Partnerships now emerging, the sector will be watching to see if destination marketing bodies can meet the review’s challenge to become more strategic, targeted and successful in promoting tourism.

About Us

Based in Cornwall we’re the only full service destination management company for our region. Recommended partner of Visit Cornwall, the official tourism board, we work with tour operators, agents and individual group leaders offering it as part of complete packages that can include London, Southern England and the rest of the UK & Ireland.

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