DMOs, Destination Management Organizations, operate around the world, and have now also been established in Armenia to promote tourism development on a regional level.
With focus on the three northern regions of Armenia, the EU4Business “Innovative Tourism and Technology Development for Armenia” (ITTD) project also supports the development of the tourism sector and, among other things, collaborates with the Tavush and Lori DMOs.
The EU4Business ITTD project is co-funded by the European Union and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by German Development Cooperation (GIZ).
Hovhannes Kandiljyan, Advisor to the Tourism Component of ITTD, shares his thoughts about the role and functions of a DMO, the Tavush and Lori DMOs’ current work and also further needs for support with Mediamax.
To start with, could you please explain what a DMO is?
To understand the meaning of DMO, we need to look at the acronym – DMO stands for Destination Management organization. Consider it a coordinating body that brings together tourism sector stakeholders in a particular defined geographical region, e.g. a Marz or one or several communities, a platform that encourages and facilitates cooperation between relevant organizations from the private and public sectors as well as from academia and civil society.
In more academic terms and based on the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) definition, a DMO is an organization which coordinates tourism experiences, skills, infrastructure, and professionals in a region under a coherent strategy in pursuit of a common goal.
Its membership base can vary. In our cases, for example, the Tavush DMO is more public sector oriented, as its board members are the representatives of municipalities, whereas private sector organizations predominate in the case of the Lori DMO.
What are the roles and functions of a DMO?
We view DMOs as organizations which fulfill a range of defined functions among them coordinating tourism stakeholders in a specific region or, as you could also say, a tourism destination,-says Hovhannes.
Basic functions of a DMOs also include the development of a tourism concept or strategy and marketing plans or the facilitation of that process, as well as conducting sector-specific studies and analyses of collected or acquired data to base decisions on.
A DMO also brings together all stakeholders to focus on a common goal, the entire destination’s development and positioning it on the market for the benefit of all stakeholders including the local population.
Another key function of a DMO is quality assurance. A DMO is constantly seeking to improve the quality of products and services provided in the destination by assessing relevant needs, delivering respective trainings and advise and, if feasible, introducing and managing quality standard systems.
Could you please tell us more about the cooperation with the ITTD project?
Support provided to the Tavush and Lori DMOs in the frame of our project is aimed to assist the DMOs in their organizational development. We especially help to cover costs for office and staff but also for activities related to building capacity and promoting the organizations among potential members. In this regard we provide assistance and invite local and international experts to conduct various trainings and discussions aimed at the further development and sustainability the organizations.
One key characteristic of our assistance is to also raise the capacity of the DMOs to be able to raise additional funds, to become self-sustained after our project will have ended.
The Lori DMO, for example, was established with the support of the USAID-financed My Armenia project in 2020. With the project coming to an end, the organization’s future was not clear. With that in mind, now we are now working with the DMO’s team on different models for financial sustainability so that regardless of our support, the organization can further operate independently.
The Tavush DMO was established much earlier, in 2013, with the support of the "Good Governance for Local Development in South Caucasus" Project implemented by the GIZ. The organization was also set in close cooperation with the District Regen of Bavaria in Germany. There have been constant mutual visits and trainings during the past years.
To continue the work done we also plan to invite an international expert soon who has extensive experience of working with DMOs in different countries around the world. He will deliver training courses on DMO development which will address specific needs of the organizations and include topics such as marketing and strategy development.
What is the main purpose of a DMOs?
I would say the main goal is to provide networks and facilitate sector coordination.
If you would use the term Tavush DMO, that would probably not ring a bell with many, but if you use Visit Tavush, it will probably evoke certain associations. As a matter of fact, the concept of “Visit Tavush” was developed by the Tavush DMO itself. That example shows quite clearly what a DMO does.
We can say the most significant result these organizations deliver is the network they have set up and further build – a networking, which includes all tourism stakeholders of a region and providing a platform for continued exchange and cooperation. Building on such a network, stakeholders do not need to attempt to solve all their problems on their own, but rather in coordination with others and also based on public-private cooperation.
It goes without saying that the work a DMOs does, also advances the recognition and visibility of a tourism destination, be it a marz, a city or a village. Building on thorough analysis they help to understand the tourism potential of a reason and how to tap into it. If not for a DMO there would not be many alternatives to do this job, especially as often local public agencies still do not have at hand sufficient human and financial resources to do so.
Thus, we think that over time a DMO’s important role in coordinating the tourism sector will generally be accepted, and their significance for the development of a destination will gradually become more plausible and evident.
Photos by Emin Aristakesyan