Time for DMOcracy?

Expert Opinion
Time for DMOcracy?

European Cities Marketing (ECM) says it is time to empower local communities in the future of tourism:

Seventeen lead urban destinations convened for the launch of Time for DMOcracy, a collaborative project to roll out across Europe and North America.

Time for DMOcracy styles itself as a journey into citizen activation, the challenges, and imperatives of dialogue, power-sharing and new modes of governance in tourism development. The project is designed to enable destinations to empower their local community in the future of tourism and puts value to the shift from tourism as a goal in itself to tourism as a means to build better cities, communities and increasing the liveability of locals.

European Cities Marketing (ECM) is part of the initiative developed by Group NAO and launched in association with Global Destination Sustainability Movement, The Travel Foundation and TCI Research.

Over the next 12 months, the partners and the, so far, 17 participating destinations will deploy a range of research, case studies, master classes, learnings labs, boot camping and conferencing before delivering a white paper on public engagement in tourism in the summer of 2022. Simultaneously, Group NAO has partnered with Miles Partnership to operate the project in North America and Asia Pacific which is expected to launch in December 2021.

The project partners have signed up with four shared objectives:

  • To unfold the meaning and practice of people-based tourism in a city: Many city agencies and DMOs talk about community involvement – this project will explore best practice and methodologies to put action behind words and engaging citizens for better tourism.
  • To map citizen participation and involvement in tourism: The project will map existing citizen-involvement and participatory models in relation to tourism, develop a typology of current approaches, and discuss the role of the DMO and the challenges involved.
  • To understand democratic mandate and participation: The project will identify new ways of empowering people-based, democratic tourism development and destination governance, including methods that diversify participation and empower actual influence and decision-making.
  • To prepare and upskill the DMO for new modes of governance, and what this means in terms of functions, skills, and accountability. 

Why DMOcracy, why now?

The project partners also say they are addressing the need for destinations to work on local perception and sentiment towards tourism. They feel the business of tourism requires a licence to operate – a destination contract – from the  city and its people.

Destination marketers are not just responsible for attracting more people to the place, but for adding value to it, according to ECM, which says it is time to talk about the democratic imperative of representing identity and values of people and place, adding value to local community.

The partners also point out the return of tourism to cities is not necessarily met with enthusiasm from all locals. ECM believes that resident sentiment will not exclusively pivot to wide-open and hospitable cities in the hope of fast recovery. “Instead,” it says, “it is likely that we will see visitor-phobia with demands for restrictions and regulation.”

They are also looking for a new mandate to bridge what they term as the  disconnections sometimes emerging between the main stakeholders of the city’s visitor economy (political decision-makers, commercial tourism industry stakeholders, local community/citizens and DMOs).

“It is time to start a new discussion on how we can empower more inclusive and democratic destination governance, developing the accountability and legitimacy of the DMO in reflection of the many complex interests at play,” ECM concludes.

Petra Stušek, European Cities Marketing’s president adds: “We are proud to have partnered with Group NAO, with whom we work since 2016 for our conferences content and communication series. This initiative gives a realistic possibility to join forces with other destinations and tourism changemakers in shaping and inspiring the future role and relevance of the DMOs and to develop tourism beyond tourism.”

European Cities Marketing is a non-profit organisation that aims to improve the competitiveness and performance of leading cities of Europe by providing a platform for convention, leisure and city marketing professionals to exchange knowledge, best practice and widen their network to build new business. ECM links the interests of members from 115+ major cities in 36 countries.

For more information, contact, see:


Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World. Write Paul an E-mail

Leave a Reply