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The Need for the Transformation of Destination Management Organizations

The WTA presented at the 42nd World Travel Market (WTM) November 7 – 9, 2022 in London where more than 2100 exhibitors plus delegates converged to learn, network and form new alliances.

The topic: The Future of Destination Management & How Wellness Aligns with panelists Anne Dimon offering WTA’s 9 assets and attributes that geographic regions should have if they are going to market themselves as Wellness Destinations; Professor Terry Stevens, Founder & Managing Director, Stevens & Associates looking at the future of tourism and why it may mean that DMOs have to step away from the traditional destination development and standard tourism business models; along with Tameka Wharton, Director Tourism, Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority – Canada, and Verna Buensucesooic Deputy MinisterPhilippine Department of Tourism each presenting a quick overview of what their respective DMOs are doing to identify and enhance their wellness offerings.    

In his presentation, Professor Stevens explored the paradigm shifts in destination management, the implications and how reputation management has gained in importance. Here is an overview of his presentation:


by Professor Terry Stevens

 If ‘wellness’ is the new zeitgeist of tourism then ‘destination management’ is the holy grail.

The imperative for geographic destinations around the world is to do the good things for the right reasons. They must remember that COVID has placed a real focus on reputation management. In the future, destination management organisations (DMOs) will be judged by how they behave, and how they will become known for doing the things that the tourists of tomorrow most care about. In the context of growing a wellness reputation, this means addressing the needs of the whole person – mind, body and soul.

DMOs are now challenged to think about the new concept of “caring capacity” for their community rather than a traditional perspective of the destination’s “carrying capacity.” There is now an urgent need for all tourism and other stakeholders in destinations to work and play better together, for optimal sustainable outcomes and benefits for their citizens, the visitor and their environment. This means building common trust, a common vision, based on common sense and common(unity). This demands a shared responsibility to the UN’s sustainable development goals or respon(sustain)ability.

 In pursuing these goals communities that aspire to becoming recognized “wellness destinations” need to consider a range of paradigm shifts taking place in tourism demand and supply, and that give rise to exciting new opportunities. These shifts include:

 •         The rise of hybridity – exciting novel concepts produced by hybrid thinkers that are blurring the traditional ways we define and transform tourism experiences and products and challenge perceptions. The Newt in Somerset (England), Ars Electronica in Linz and Bregenzerwald (Austria),  and Goriska Brda (Slovenia) are good examples of this phenomenon.

•          Many of these hybrid solutions may appear as ‘outliers’ or left-of-field ideas that rapidly become mainstream.

•          These hybrid solutions are built on intense layers of collaboration meaning co-creation and high levels of co-dependency.

•          Their success often relies more on talent rather than traditional forms of qualification and they will challenge the way we perceive value.

 Change is in the air. The next 5-10 years will be a period of unprecedented experimentation. Traditional ways of working will have to change. New formulas, new ways of collaborating and new types of business models will emerge. The eve of transformation is with us. The future of tourism demands a change of mindset built upon greater levels of cross-disciplinary collaboration. 

 Within this wider context of tourism, we have to ensure that wellness tourism is given the recognition it deserves. This needs to be built on mutual respect by all parties; the relevance of what we do within our communities; and the shared responsibility to do the right things.

 The new extraordinary is attainable. Tourism needs to welcome in hybrid thinkers to find the hybrid solutions. Less will be more.

If a geographic destination wants to be recognized as a Wellness Destination, it cannot simply be content to be the best of the best. Each destination must be considered the only one that does what it does. This means strong leadership, collaborative effort, a shared vision and the wise use of community assets.  

This approach is what differentiates some of the leading exemplars of destinations (rural and urban) presenting good practice under the umbrella of wellness tourism, including Mali Losinj, Istria and Opatija (Croatia), Goriska Brda, Julian Alps and Ljubljana (Slovenia), Jackson Hole, Sedona and Park City (USA), the Euganean Hills and Trentino (Italy), Bregenzerwald, Saalfelden-Leogang and Kitzbuhl (Austria) and South Somerset in England.

About the author: Professor Terry Stevens is Founder and Managing Director of the multi-award winning, international, tourism consultancy, Stevens & Associates.  This Wales-based consultancy has now worked in over 55 countries around the world specializing in destination development, management, wellness tourism and place-making. He has worked in the industry since 1970 holding a number of senior positions in the public and private sectors prior to establishing his consultancy IN 1986. Stevens & Associates clients include many of the major international development agencies) as well as national, regional and city governments. Terry is currently working on strategic destination development projects in Slovenia, Ireland, England, Northern Ireland and in Scotland. Terry is also a Member and Research Associate of the WTM. You can follow or contact with Terry on LinkedIN

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