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Missed it By That Much

2kr5s9When I first starting getting links to a "story" out of an Atlanta metro newspaper serving, as they refer to it, "communities which encompass several of metro Atlanta’s wealthiest ZIP codes and most desirable neighborhoods," I just passed it off as being from an unsophisticated reporter who didn't understand how destination marketing works, and so he'd write about it. But then, I read it again.

In a piece entitled "Hotel Taxes Seek "Free Money" with Few Strings," a reporter for The Reporter utilizes innuendo as the basis of a story where there really is none. But, he has found two sources that, on the surface, sound credible to give his story just enough air to keep it afloat. So, let's break it down:

The writer leads by suggesting the Destination Marketing Organizations are one of the ways that communities "take advantage of the endless flow (my emphasis, as I giggle at the thought of boatloads of money coursing through Atlanta's suburbs) of revenue from taxing outsiders rather than local citizens." Except, no one reading the article is being taken advantage of...so where is the foul?

He goes on to report that his two experts say there are no strings on these revenues requiring any proof of ROI. And that is blatantly false. While I can't claim that every DMO in America operates under an agreement with a local government that requires an annual accounting of ROI, I certainly have never worked with one which doesn't. And we count over 200 DMOs among our clients. One expert also claims "the assumption that visitors can be taxed without negative impact on the hotel business may be faulty." Hold that thought for a moment.

First off, the manager of the Office of Research at the Georgia Department of Community Affairs said, “We don’t have any metrics to gauge effectiveness.” And, I'm quite sure the Office of Research at the Georgia Department of Community Affairs doesn't (because it's not their money, so why would they?)...but that doesn't mean that virtually every DMO in America isn't measuring progress and productivity. Our industry Trade Association offers its members a starter template of suggested productivity measures that lists over 30 things a DMO should be tracking (and we know a DMO that tracks over 100 indicators...monthly).

A researcher from Berry College (and a contributor to a Georgia Policy Think Tank) recently released a study which suggests that hotel taxes may actually have lowered statewide monthly average hotel rentals by 92,000 rooms. And, I have no doubt that he may be right. But that wasn't a locally imposed Room Tax with a clear expectation of local ROI. He based his findings on the effects of a draconian $5-a-night fee on hotels that the State Legislature blindly passed in the dark of night to fund transportation improvements. Apples and Kumquats, my friend.

Here's the deal...you can get pretty much anyone to claim they are an expert in destination marketing because they once took a vacation or attended a conference. This is a story without a point...fueled by experts without a clue.

Or...to be fair to the two experts: Could they have been quoted out of context by a reporter with an agenda?

We may never know...but, in the end? This dog don't hunt.

 

 

 

Bill Geist

Bill GeistBill Geist

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