by Kaylee Hultgren | February 01, 2010

This past December, four years after its inception, the Destination Marketing Accreditation Program, or DMAP, reached a notable milestone. The credential, conceived and administered by Destination Marketing Association International, welcomed its 100th accredited destination marketing organization to the fold.

The DMOs that have achieved the designation have had to conform to a rigorous array of requirements, some of which have been tweaked over time. Following is an update on the accreditation process and its effect on the organizations that proudly claim the new credential.

Enhanced clarity An organization applying for DMAP status must strive to meet a series of mandated and voluntary requirements in 16 areas officially referred to as the Domains, Standards and Essential Elements. These cover issues such as how the DMO is governed, its finances, services to individuals and groups, sales methods, brand management, efforts in destination development and more. (For a sampling of mandated offerings, turn to "Required Services") With experience in managing the credential process, DMAI has modified some of these points.

According to Andi Arabak, DMAI's director of accreditation, the first adjustment occurred in 2008, primarily to clarify some of the wording in the requirements. The changes made it easier for DMOs to comprehend the intent behind certain standards, which in turn helped them document compliance more efficiently.

In 2009, more significant changes were implemented, following a review by a committee of accredited DMO leaders of comments and suggestions posted on DMAI's social networking portal for members, As of last December, aspiring DMOs are required to demonstrate proof of their involvement in professional and industry associations, allow planners to opt out of communications from the DMO if they so desire and implement a policy for reporting internal misuse of funds.

Getting the word out When it comes to marketing their accreditation to customers, some DMOs are ahead of the curve. The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, for example, has added the DMAP seal to marketing materials such as business cards and press communications. Moreover, bureau president and CEO William D. Talbert III reproduced the plaque, awarded upon designation, and sent it out to every council member, several of whom have proudly hung it on their office walls.

DMAI itself is looking into a broader marketing strategy as well. "We've been attending international shows such as IMEX [the Worldwide Exhibition for Incentive Travel, Meetings and Events] and ICCA [the International Congress and Convention Association]," notes Arabak. "We're now marketing beyond the United States."