IRF Study: How DMCs Can Improve Relations With Meeting Planners

When it comes to relating to meeting planners, destination management companies do a lot right -- but they also sometimes miss the mark. These are the findings of a new study of DMC-meeting planner relationships published yesterday by the Incentive Research Foundation.

Titled "Developing a New Business Model for DMCs by Redesigning Their Value Propositions," the study was authored by Dr. Haemoon Oh, dean of the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sports Management at the University of South Carolina, who used an online survey and focus groups to assess DMCs' strengths and weaknesses in their dealings with planners. Among his key findings:

• DMCs rate their strengths, opportunities and outlook more favorably than meeting planners do.
• DMCs view their own strengths as high-quality events, handling unexpected requests and crisis management. Meeting planners, however, view DMCs' top strengths as their local knowledge and ability to save planners time.
• DMCs believe their greatest weaknesses are misunderstood value and lack of collaboration with other DMCs. Meeting planners, however, believe DMCs' biggest weaknesses are a lack of creativity.
• DMCs and meeting planners agree that Internet search engines and hotels' in-house DMCs are key threats. Social media, however, is viewed as both a threat and an enabler, offering opportunities for promotion and education.

Based on his findings, Oh offers a number of suggestions to help DMCs improve their relationships with meeting planners:

• Continue building strong, dynamic networks of local expertise and vendors.
• Proactively use new social media technologies to provide more convenient services.
• Provide a "satisfaction guarantee" for DMC services.
• Build stronger international site inspections to highlight language and local cultural/legal differences.
• Develop and better promote DMCs' risk-management services.
• Work with larger DMC consortiums to create regional, national or global partnerships, but do not lose the unique, customizable programs for which local DMCs are known.
• Develop informational programs and demos that both raise the visibility and clarify the value of DMC services.

"The valuable information acquired from this research allows us to examine how similarly or differently DMC and meeting planner organizations react to the external business conditions and how well they're prepared to take advantage of future opportunities," concluded IRF President Melissa Van Dyke, who said Oh's research comes down to trust. "The research showed us how building a long-term commitment between a DMC and a meeting planner radiated around trust. Each party's opportunistic behavior, their engagement in communications and their mutual financial dependence were key determinants of that trust."