DMAP Today

Charting the course of the Destination Marketing Accreditation Program

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."

Required Services
Among the many requirements outlined in the official "Domains, Standards and Essential Elements," DMOs must offer the following to achieve the DMAP credential:

• Provide
a destination visitors guide.
• Facilitate site inspections and familiarization tours.
• Conduct either a proposal or a bid-fulfillment process free of charge.
• Provide the organization's staff with continuous destination product sales training.

Though not necessary, voluntary standards will raise the DMO's overall score.
Among them:

• Use return on investment approaches to demonstrate the financial impact of group and leisure travel on a community.
• Adopt programs promoting green business practices.


Going global The Lille Convention Bureau in France was the first outside of North America to achieve accreditation, followed by Meeting in Brugge, Congresbureau, in Belgium. A number of Canadian DMOs have since earned the credential.

European organizations generally require some assistance with the accreditation process, Arabak admits. "There's a lot more hand-holding in such instances. But we're working on translating the standards into French, Spanish and German." Applications, however, must be written in English.

Relevancy and ROI In an era of intense financial scrutiny, some DMOs are finding the accreditation a useful tool for gaining support and confidence from stakeholders, such as city and state governments. Since most DMOs depend largely on public funds to operate, and those resources have, on the whole, been depleted as a result of lower hotel occupancies and legislative budget cuts, demonstrating precisely how dollars are spent has helped some municipalities justify the application of public funds toward tourism and convention services.

The Syracuse (N.Y.) Convention & Visitors Bureau, one of the most recent DMOs to join the ranks of the accredited, is one example. David Holder, the bureau's president and CEO, points out, "For our budget, we have to petition our county executives and administration, and then the county legislature. Having a high level of service builds local credibility. It shows that we can manage public dollars in a way that's in accordance with industry standards."

Similarly, Diana Lawson, executive director of the Elkhart County (Ind.) Convention and Visitor's Bureau and chair of the DMAP committee, found the accreditation -- and the process leading to it -- indispensable when reporters came knocking. "Several years ago, right after we had been accredited, there was some discussion within our community about how lodging tax dollars were being used," Lawson recalls. "All of the sudden we were in the center of it."

According to Lawson, she and other CVB members sat down with a reporter from a local newspaper and explained, in detail, how the funds were being managed. "The accreditation process prepared us to answer tough questions about how tax dollars were being spent. We were totally organized," she says. "Without having gone through the process, maybe we wouldn't have done as good a job. It was perfect timing. In the end, there wasn't even a story in the paper."

DMAP as lure
Will achieving the accreditation bolster business? According to Melissa Dyck, meeting and convention planner for Los Angeles-based Abraxis BioScience LLC, "Having a set of standards that every company must abide by is always incredibly helpful, but if an organization has a strong history and is great to work with, that is what will stand out and encourage us to do business with them."

Holder from Syracuse shares this view. "I don't think [the credential] will bring in new meetings business directly, but it will set a level of accountability. At the same time, publicity around receiving accreditation puts our name out there again. It's a helpful sales tool -- another feather in the hat."


 For a list of DMOs that have earned the DMAP, click here