Co-Authored by Edward Radonic & Ron Caughlin
The Tourism industry in Ontario has seen some disruptive change over the past number of years with the formation of the Regional Tourism Organizations (RTO) structure. A foundation developed as a result of the Sobbera Report and recommendations developed about a decade ago, in the Ontario Tourism industry Assessment Research study performed by Deloitte & Touche LLP. The adopted foundation was designed to support the Tourism Sector in Ontario through a regional approach, one that aimed to reduce the overlap of roles and responsibilities with the multiple Destination Marketing Organizations (DMO), some that could sustain themselves while others who relied on Provincial marketing agency distributions. The ultimate goal was to get everyone singing from the same song sheet and building a strong unified voice from a marketing perspective.
One of the main issues that was identified and still exists today, is that the industry is constrained by a variety of interests and unclear responsibilities. The new RTO structure that was launched in 2011 has not solved this major issue because the current structure lacks overall buy-in related to the roles of each organization at the RTO and DMO level. The current structure creates a challenging environment, even today, to organize and unite operationally- and geographically-disparate groups to work together in a unified fashion for the benefit of the industry in the province.
We believe a better role clarification is required which is critical to moving the Tourism industry in Ontario forward, towards creating a more effective an holistic marketing program. A new organizational foundation needs to be created based on the “Tourism Path to Purchase” (see graphic above). One that is aligned with clear role definitions for the Provincial Marketing Organizations (PMO), Regional Tourism Organizations, Destination Marketing Organizations and Destination Marketing Fund (DMF). This was also identified as a critical issue in the Deloitte & Touche study and one that still remains today even with the implementation of the RTO system in Ontario.
There is a natural progression based on three key pillars of success for the Tourism industry. These pillars include Awareness, Engagement and Conversion. In essence the National Tourism Organization (NTO) known as Destination Canada should take on a role as the overall driver of strategy and information for the Tourism industry in Canada. The NTO also plays the role as an awareness driver of key iconic Tourism experiences through marketing programs and initiatives focussed around the international and cross-border US markets. The PMOs play an additional role of creating awareness for the provincial Tourism sector and associated Tourism partners as well as becoming the content provider to support the DMOs and DMFs – therefore driving engagement and consistency amongst Tourism products within the province. Basically a PMO creates the interest and then acts as a quarter back and passes the lead over to the DMO and DMF to build engagement and complete the sale and transaction. A DMO should provide offers and tactical promotions to convert Tourism leads to actual transactions for the area and Tourism partners.
The diagram above provides a visual representation of the various Tourism body classification within Canada. The colour code represents an overall progression and the role clarification visually. The diagram demonstrates a natural progression from green, to blue to red where green represents our first pillar awareness, blue representing the second pillar engagement and red the all important conversion stage. We believe this provides a natural progression and clarity for the Tourism industry in the interaction of the roles.