DMOs are at the Heart of our Business
by Pat Henderson
Tour operators have a message for their DMO partners: We need you now more than ever.
“There really is nothing more important to me than a DMO who can help me create and cultivate a great tour product,” said Mark Hoffmann, CTP, of Sacramento, California-based Sports Leisure Vacations. “This year, especially, we need to know who is out there and who we can call on.”
Those comments were part of a podcast that Hoffmann and Theresa Nemetz of Milwaukee Food Tours recorded recently. During their 15-minute conversation, the two expressed their appreciation for their destination marketing partners and touted the value of NTA’s annual convention, Travel Exchange—which this year is called vTREX and will take place virtually Nov. 15–17.
“The DMO representatives work so hard to look at what each [tour operator’s] niche is and then find a way to incorporate that into a local itinerary,” said Nemetz. “DMOs are at the heart of allowing us to grow our businesses and grow our cities—and the revenue for both.”
The conversation also covered specific ways in which DMOs are valuable to Hoffmann, Nemetz, and other tour operators.
- Opening up new markets: Nemetz said, “Last year, we went to Poland and to Cuba, and those are places that, honestly, I never had on my radar and never would have thought to go. But, those DMOs met with me and said: ‘You should come here and this is why’ … and we pursued it.”
- The unrivaled insider knowledge: Hoffmann depends on his DMO partners. “I believe the DMO is really the heartbeat of the destination,” he said. “Maybe I need something that is unique or unusual; I’m not always looking for the 5-diamond attraction. I count on DMOs to give me those extra things that cap off a tour.”
- Partnerships with local DMOs: Nemetz praises Visit Milwaukee, her city DMO, as one of her best marketing assets. “I look at what Visit Milwaukee has been able to do for us to recruit groups to come to the city. So often, individuals will give me a call and say, ‘I heard about you from your DMO, and they gave me this sample itinerary. You are on it, and so tell me more.’“
- DMOs need to keep communicating: As a result of COVID-19, Hoffmann lamented that many of his DMO friends are no longer in the industry, have switched jobs, or have changed roles within their organization. “We need to know who our contacts are and who our go-to people are, especially now.”
One of the places that both Nemetz and Hoffmann tout as a linchpin to staying in touch with their DMO partners is NTA’s annual convention. The event, which will be conducted virtually from Nov. 15 to 17, allows them to get updates to help them plan upcoming tours.
“We’ve been off the market for half a year, so the idea bin is getting kind of low,” said Hoffmann, who, like many tour operators, had to stop offering tours because of COVID. “Since I joined NTA over three decades ago, the times when DMOs come and talk to us at Travel Exchange are really the most important days of the year. For us, that is when the idea list gets cultivated; it gets worked and we say, ‘Wow, we can do this, and this is going to be something really cool.’”
Nemetz agreed. “I love being able to meet individuals at [Travel Exchange] to sit down for seven minutes and find out what is great about a destination. DMOs look at my company name—Milwaukee Food Tours/Travel Deliciously—and they think culinary and say, ‘You need to come to my city because of this cooking experience or this historic bakery.’ I appreciate that, because that is what our travelers are looking for.”
The praise for DMO representatives also has been flowing on NTA’s Engage social platform, and it has included comments from tour operators in the U.S., Norway, and Canada.
Fraser Neave, CTP, of Wells Gray Tours wrote in a Sept. 28 post on Engage, “I am so thankful when my DMO partners respond so quickly to my requests for assistance, especially in these difficult times. I just sent out a cry for help to a regional DMO and she responded in about two minutes! To all DMOs out there… for all you do, thank you, thank you, thank you!”