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Digital leadership for destinations. What are the first steps?

Digitization and digital leadership must go hand in hand. As a digital leadership culture is the basis of a digital destination. In theory, most people already know this, but what exactly is behind it in practice? How can I successfully implement digital leadership in my destination? In this article we have summarized the first steps for you.

Ultimately, digitization is like so many other situations – “just do it” is the key word. Because digital transformation begins with the mindset. Executives and all responsible parties must take the decision to digitize themselves.


Digitization must have top priority

The most important thing is the will to change. Because if you are not prepared to change something, then nothing will change. Change means to leave something familiar or to tackle it differently. Digitization cannot work if you tackle the topic in addition to all other tasks and put it on the tables of various employees. The matter must be given top priority, otherwise the digital transformation cannot be successful. This does not mean that “everything else” has to be abandoned immediately. But from now on you have to do everything differently, first and foremost digitally. Building on this, you can then digitally operate processes and tasks that were previously processed analogously.


Digitization is a management issue

If the boss doesn’t understand the issue, doesn’t take it seriously and then delegates it to someone just to get it off the table, then digitization won’t succeed. Of course, the manager does not have to do everything himself when it comes to practical implementation. But they have to realize that the topic has top priority and that everything else has to be subordinated. For digital leaders, it’s about initiating change, coaching employees more than leading them, enabling more than determining, and managing more processes than tasks. If the manager doesn’t understand the relevance and refuses to take on the role of “digital leader”, it’s time to think about changing managers. In this case, the politicians are called upon if there is someone there who understands the topic.


For successful digitization, all resources must be pooled. For this, silos must usually be broken open, which means that there must no longer be individual department and project budgets or responsibilities. In the future, all departments, budgets and projects must pay into the same account. To this end, structures and processes must be adapted. This reorganization requires courage and steadfastness, because most people tend to stick to their dear habits and fear for their job very quickly when responsibilities shift. The new task of the digital leader is not only to redesign the organization and make digitization possible, but also to motivate employees to work together. This includes sufficient coaching and appropriate further training of the employees, as well as the reduction of resentment and existential fears among the employees. If motivation alone is not enough, the employees must be forced to work if necessary – digitization must then be an announcement from the superior.


In addition to the employees, the manager must motivate all other stakeholders and top performers in the destination to work for the company. After all, a destination is not a stand-alone, self-sufficient institution that can market a product and fulfil its performance, but a community of all organizations and service providers involved in the tourist experience. This understanding has to be created among all participants and an orchestral interaction has to be organized. The tourist experience of a guest is the overall experience of all services. This applies equally to the digital experience before, during and after the holiday as well as to the service quality on site. A guest also does not distinguish between digital and real services. Motivating the local players on site to take part in a joint, digital and real product and managing the entire guest experience is the main task of tourism organizations in the future. Sometimes, in addition to persuading people, the only way to control tourism is through politics and, if necessary, through funds that can only be spent if they serve the purpose of digitization.


Digital leadership is also the focus of this year’s Outdooractive Conference, the industry event for digital tourism. In the forum of the same name, renowned speakers will give diverse lectures. They question the topic of digital leadership from different perspectives and give practical tips for successful strategies. We have summarized all the relevant information in this article.