Tourism Society welcomes Government response to De Bois Review of DMOs

The Tourism Society, the professional membership body for people working in all sectors of the visitor economy, welcomes the government response to the independent review of destination management organisations in England, published on 20 July 2022.

The actions set out in the response, if handled effectively, should enable a significant step to be taken towards meeting the need for stronger leadership and coordination of tourism in England, as set out in the Society’s paper to government in 2020, which heralded the review.

We are pleased to see that the government has agreed with most of the de Bois recommendations.  It is now time for government, industry, local authorities and professional bodies to work together to support their effective implementation. The Tourism Society is willing and able to make a meaningful contribution to a collaborative approach.  In doing so, we would underline the following requirements, which reflect the recommendations identified in our input to the review:

  • Establishing comprehensive coverage. While it is good that government has agreed to introduce a system for the accreditation of DMOs (to be LVEPs) within a national portfolio, it is important that this does not result in a piecemeal and partial framework. Coverage should reach across England, with every tourism stakeholder being able to relate to a LVEP which is relevant to them. VisitEngland should work to achieve such a framework, rather than just responding to individual applications.
  • Providing support for DMOs (LVEPs). It is disappointing that the government has not been able to provide the funding identified in the review.  Many DMOs face severe financial challenges. It will therefore be important for all bodies, at a national and local level, including those referred to in the review and response, to work together on programmes of support for the DMOs (LVEPs) as they move towards the new structure.
  • Being sensitive to bottom-up engagement and opportunity. The government response takes a national perspective.  It is important to recognise the value of locally based stakeholder groupings delivering better management, products and communication, and providing them with a way to feed into the local, regional and national structure of LVEPs.  A limited number of top-tier LVEPs will not ensure fully effective involvement.
  • Recognising the components of effective destination management. Measures of success should no longer be dominated by economic return on investment but should give equal attention to local wellbeing and environmental impact, reflecting international policy and good practice towards sustainable tourism and recent thinking on destination quality.
  • Strengthening leadership through a functioning national network. The Tourism Society has continued to underline the need for a functioning network of DMOs (LVEPs), coordinated through a strengthened VisitEngland, with strong two-way horizontal and vertical communication, which works together to develop and implement an agreed strategy for the visitor economy. While this is recognised in the review, it needs to be given clear focus.

Now is the time to make this work, avoiding further delay. The accreditation process and pilot exercise should be pursued transparently and collaboratively, with well defined and agreed criteria which are relevant to current and future needs.  At the same time, we need to ensure a degree of longevity, together with adequate funding. To be effective, tourism structures need at least medium-term operational certainty.

In conclusion, the Tourism Society is encouraged by the response from government to the review, but we recognise that much will depend on ensuring that momentum is maintained, so that a new, effective and comprehensive nationwide system and strategy is in place, enabling the economic, social and environmental potential of the visitor economy to be optimised and achieved throughout England.

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