Guest article Siegen-Wittgenstein: 4 tips for small and medium-sized DMOs in times of digitization
Siegen-Wittgenstein is a best-practice example of how small and medium-sized DMOs can benefit from digitization – the key to success is leadership, community and the right tools. Siegen-Wittgenstein’s new Destination Website has been online since September. The region was the first partner to choose Outdooractive’s Destination Website. In the following article, Monika Dombrowsky, Managing Director of Siegen-Wittgenstein, together with Julia Hilpisch, responsible for Online Marketing, explains four things that can lead small and medium-sized DMOs to digital success.
Being visible – that’s what everyone wants in the highly competitive market for the guest’s favor. Destinations regularly reach here their personal and financial limits. Small destinations are obviously at a disadvantage: less brand awareness, less visible image, smaller budgets, perhaps less acceptance of tourism as an economic factor in the region itself. But is it really the case that small DMOs are always at a disadvantage? What do small and medium-sized DMOs need in order to use the change in the course of digitization as an opportunity for themselves?
Siegen-Wittgenstein is a destination in North Rhine-Westphalia with 11 associated towns, from the big city of Siegen to rural communities. With a total of approx. 800,000 overnight stays per year, it is one of the smaller destinations on the German travel market. Nevertheless, the region, together with Outdooractive, put the first destination website into practice in 2018 and thus caused some amazement among the experts.
These are the tips from Siegen-Wittgenstein for the courageous “little and medium-sized” ones in the competition between destinations:
#1 Trust in the strength of the community
Initially, we invested a lot of time in internal communication, defined common goals, developed common data quality standards with all local tourism offices, and created a system of rights and roles distribution that determines who assumes which responsibilities within the database.
In short, the internal structures and workflows have been tested first, in order to prepare for the new challenges of digitization. The local tourism experts quickly realized that these could only be effectively mastered together.
#2 Courage for new structures
Since 2018, all cities and municipalities of Siegen-Wittgenstein have been consistently entering their tourism data into the Outdooractive DMS. The database helps to structure data and to process one topic after the other systematically. It creates a transparent competition among each other and promotes cooperation of all kinds.
In the course of the reorganization it became increasingly clear that products that do not fit into the given structures can only be placed on the market with a great deal of time and money. This can quickly become a trap for small regions. Here, too, structures help to remain consistent and only include those services in the portfolio that contribute to common goals.
#3 No fear of letting go
We as DMO take over administrative tasks and only solve problems that affect several TIs. Together we decide which topics have reached sufficient market maturity to create regional products. The DMO is a moderator for the local players, promoting and demanding them in equal measure. We increasingly see ourselves as “facilitators” and keep the course in order to achieve commonly defined goals. The tourist offers, however, are created entirely at the local level and with local competence. And that is where you have your ear to the guest and a direct connection to the service provider.
The result is long-term, customer-centric and authentic offers.
#4 Curiosity about innovation
Once the first three steps have been taken, there is still a pinch of curiosity, a desire to do something you are not used to. When the data pool, which had been jointly developed over a long period of time, was large enough to present the region comprehensively and across all topics, the decentralized maintenance was supplemented by a central playout channel. The Destination Website Siegen-Wittgenstein (www.siegen-wittgenstein.info) was presented at the Outdooractive Conference in 2018.
It took courage to say goodbye to the usual way of a website and to put almost all content into the hands of the locations, to no longer measure its success by the number of hits on its own site and to allow all services to be shared and ratings and comments to be given.
It requires not only the curiosity for new things on the part of tourism professionals, but also the courage to say goodbye and the patience to let processes grow and to put out criticism at times.
By working with the Destination Website, Siegen-Wittgenstein has not only become more visible to the outside world, but has also created a great team spirit within the company and has lastingly changed the way we work together in the destination.
You can find out more about Siegen-Wittgenstein here: https://www.siegen-wittgenstein.info/de/