Exploring the Destination Management Organization Model

As Taiwan looks for ways to revitalize its international tourism industry once the coronavirus pandemic eases, part of the effort may be to implement what is known as a Destination Management Organization (DMO) program.

The Travel and Tourism Committee section of AmCham Taipei’s 2020 Taiwan White Paper applauded the Taiwan Tourism Bureau’s plans to implement a DMO system before the end of the year. As the White Paper report explained, the purpose of the DMO model is to “integrate fragmented tourism resources into a common brand image, establish brand recognition for different regions and localities, and use these elements as the basis for international marketing to maximize market impact.”

The DMO model serves to benefit tourists by providing them with insight into the unique features and activities that a specific region has to offer, so as to enrich their travel experience. At the same time, the model helps destinations to develop an attractive brand that encourages tourism, thereby boosting local business enterprises and creating job opportunities.

Under the plan being considered by the Tourism Bureau, budget would be allocated to DMOs in seven locations in Taiwan to help them promote a regional brand. Although the specific localities have not yet been selected, the areas in contention are understood to include Sun Moon Lake, the island’s southern beaches, and the Northeast Coast.

While DMOs in Japan were the original inspiration for the idea of introducing the approach in Taiwan, the Tourism Bureau reportedly concluded that conditions in the two countries are sufficiently different that the Japanese model could not be adopted wholesale. Instead, the Bureau is still at work crafting a unique Taiwan model.

Although the DMO system would be a new endeavor for Taiwan, the Tourism Bureau will be able to draw on the results of previous programs, such as Spotlight Taiwan, that focused on marketing key tourist spots throughout Taiwan. The difference is that operation of the DMO should reflect the interests and opinions of the local community, especially its tourism-related businesses.  

Building that cooperation and consensus can pose a difficult challenge, however. The AmCham Travel and Tourism Committee cautions that in order to effectively take advantage of the DMO model, each local office must take the time to curate a unique brand. That means resisting the temptation to duplicate the characteristics of other regions, instead focusing on developing distinctive features that differentiate the region from others. After devising a comprehensive promotional strategy, the DMO will then need to oversee a professional campaign using a variety of marketing and advertising techniques, including social media.

To ensure local community buy-in, Michael Wu, president of the Dream Travel Taiwan Association, a group of tourism enterprises dedicated to improving Taiwan’s travel environment, suggests that the government provide only half the funds to start with – and gradually reduce that share over time. The remaining portion of the funding would come from the local business communities.

In order to start setting up the necessary communication channels among government agencies, civil society, and industry, the AmCham White Paper urged the Tourism Bureau to release the detailed guidelines for its DMO plan as early as possible.

Wu, who is also CEO of local tour operator MyTaiwanTour, says that consideration of the DMO model comes at an opportune time, taking advantage of the lull in tourism due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. “It’s good timing,” he says. “When we’re too busy, no one would have time to talk about it.”