Tourism Society calls for immediate government action on De Bois DMO Review

The De Bois Review confirms the need for Government to recognise and support the capabilities and functions of Destination Management Organisations in England. As the staycation honeymoon comes to an end and outbound travel opens up in time for half term and winter holidays, it is crucial that Visit England is given the tools and resources necessary to compete. The Tourism Society’s Thinktank has considered the De Bois review positively and made the announcement below.

Chairman, Kevin Kaley, commented, “At this stage, we call on all interested parties to warmly welcome the review and to press for its acceptance by Government”.

The Tourism Society recognises and endorses the analysis and proposals set out in the newly published de Bois Review of Destination Management Organisations in England. We call on Government to accept and implement its recommendations so that a more effective network of DMOs can be established to secure the benefits of this £75bn sector for our local communities.

The de Bois review has been painstaking, detailed and forthright in its analysis of tourism in England.  It has exposed the opportunities missed through leaving the sector on the back burner, with declining support and funding from Government, Local Authorities and private sector sources, lack of leadership and a confusing mixture of different types of destination body with varying structures, functions, performance and resources. It has rightly placed a new emphasis on the need for management, which in turn can lead to better places, enriched visitor experiences and more inclusive and sustainable development.

In our paper to Government in 2020[1], the Tourism Society called for stronger leadership from VisitEngland, which should be given the necessary resources to pursue a national strategy for tourism and to define and support the implementation of a functioning network of DMOs.  We are pleased to see this reflected in the review, together with a proposal for a Minister of State for tourism and better coordination of tourism policy between government departments. At a sub-national level, we also applaud the call for enhanced awareness and support for tourism and DMOs from local authorities and LEPs.

Central to the de Bois review is the proposal for a two-tier system of DMOs, to include high level Destination Development Partnerships and second tier accredited Tourist Boards, together with associated recommendations for governance and collaboration.  We welcome this positive step towards a more consistent and less fragmented framework.  Much will depend on how it is further developed and implemented in practice.  In this, we strongly underline the need to collaboratively define the footprints and functions of the tiers and the inter-relationships between them. Fundamentally, the interests of the proposed second tier Tourist Boards, where much practical destination planning and management is likely to occur, will need to be represented and met within the upper tier Partnerships.  To avoid unhelpful competition and confusion between the tiers, the dimensions of the relationship should be set out in the model and reflected in the accreditation requirements.  It cannot be left to competitive bidding between existing entities.  Reference to additional local level activity within a third tier may better refer to the provision of information, community engagement and coordination rather than simply marketing.

The above issues of function and relationship are important details which can be addressed through further engagement with destination and industry stakeholders.

[1] Leadership and coordination for tourism in England through and beyond COVID-19, The Tourism Society, May 2020

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