Times have been tough, and destination marketing
organizations, also known as convention and visitor bureaus, have not
been immune. Among challenges DMOs have faced are reduced hotel room tax
collections (the average decline from 2008 to 2010 was 16 percent),
cuts in funds provided by local and/or county and state governments, and
increased scrutiny and accountability from CVB boards and politicians.
by last summer, some welcome news finally could be discerned: According
to the 2011 Profile of Destination Marketing Organizations compiled by
the Washington, D.C.-based Destination Marketing Association
International, CVB budgets had stabilized (the average budget in 2011
came to $2.8 million) and in some instances actually saw funding
increases for the first time since 2008. Other DMOs that had been under
the gun from local authorities have managed to restore a measure of
credibility and turn around business.
On the following pages,
M&C details how three major DMOs have weathered one of the most
challenging periods the industry has ever faced.
When Gov. Rick Scott took office in Florida last January, he inherited a
state budget with an $3.6 billion shortfall and a mandate to create
700,000 jobs. A key aspect of the CEO-turned-governor's plan called for
the dissolution of several state divisions, including Visit Florida, and
rolling their combined functions into a single economic development
organization, Enterprise Florida Inc. The proposal propelled Chris
Thompson, Visit Florida's CEO, into the professional fight of his life.
fun to tell story now," Thompson says. "It certainly wasn't when we
were in the middle of it, and I was wondering if we were going to
Thompson, who has led the organization since 2009, had
just 60 days to make a case for Visit Florida's continued existence
before the state House was set to vote on the proposal last spring. "We
were in a difficult situation. As a state organization, we couldn't
lobby ourselves," he explains. "We had to walk a fine line and were
dependent on the state's industry at large -- hotels, attractions,
restaurants -- to defend our 15-year success story."
mobilized its forces: Florida House committee members received 25,000
e-mails from tourism and hospitality trade union members who "told them
how Visit Florida and the industry drives investment and strategic
thinking," says Thompson.
He calls the e-mail blitz "the turning
point" of the ordeal. "It created a pause in the legislature. They saw
there really was something to this," he says.
members and supporters also drove home some hard ROI statistics. They
pointed out how Visit Florida touches, via its website, advertising and
other means, 37 percent of visitors to the state. They also reminded the
governor and lawmakers that tourism is the state's largest industry,
employing more than a million workers whose jobs cannot be outsourced.
And they shared research that shows how for every hotel room that opens
in Florida, a new job is created.
The end result: Visit Florida
is alive and well, with just a few minor adjustments. The organization
no longer is a state office, but rather an independent, autonomous
entity that has a contract with Enterprise Florida, the state's new
economic development arm. (The state remains Visit Florida's main
partner and funding source, notes Thompson.)
The other change: Visit Florida's budget was increased by 31 percent -- from $26.7 million to $34.9 million.