TCN Manchester conference explores key destination management challenges

Tuesday November 27, 2018

On November 22nd the Tourism Consultants Network held a thought provoking and informative conference at Manchester Central Library on the varied challenges of destination management. This was TCN’s third regional conference and once again proved the value of this type of discussion forum.

Speakers included representatives from Marketing Manchester, Manchester Airport, VisitEngland, Tourism Alliance, The Netherlands Tourist Board, England’s National Parks, Marketing Liverpool and two consultancy companies, Yellow Railroad and Creative Tourist Consults.  The event was sponsored by Go To Places, who presented a new model for DMO funding, and generated a lively input from the audience.



The theme was “Balancing growth and sustainability”, and the proceedings of the day demonstrated that this is not an either-or situation but that achieving sustainable growth is a fundamental issue for destination management.  Destinations need the right strategy and resources not only to achieve a desired level of growth but to manage and benefit from its consequences.  Many key points emerged from the discussion – here is a brief selection.

  • All destinations need to be watchful of over-tourism as a threat to local wellbeing that could turn opinion more generally against our sector. However, what constitutes over-tourism varies from place to place. The required response is good destination management, using a variety of tools, including better data and communication.
  • Tourism itself can be a tool for conservation. England’s National Parks recognise enjoyment by visitors as a force for caring and protection. Establishing new creative experiences is in line with this process.
  • A more holistic approach is needed in destinations, with tourism playing its part in a wider arena.  In Liverpool, tourism is clearly positioned in the context of place making and marketing, using an umbrella narrative that is applied to different audiences.
  • Spreading demand is part of the answer.  A proactive approach in Holland uses market-facing themes to link towns and rural areas beyond the global hub of Amsterdam.  In the UK, the Discover England Fund seeks to develop the product offer in order to spread international awareness and spending across the country, with a future challenge to benefit partners in new, lesser known destinations.
  • Developing infrastructure and connectivity is a key to growth but also needs to be delivered responsibly. Manchester Airport is seeing a rapid expansion of routes and terminal capacity but is also facilitating the use of more energy efficient planes and handling processes.

Many speakers underlined that committed leadership and partnership is the key to success. In both Manchester and Liverpool the continued support of the local authority, alongside strong industry engagement, has been vital to the work of the DMOs in these two great cities.  At a national level, leadership is also needed, which may be helped by a clearer strategy and direction to which everyone can relateTCN’s thanks go to Anoek Petit for her excellent organisational skills, to Kurt Janson (Tourism Alliance) for his skilful moderation, and to tourism students of Manchester Metropolitan University for enthusiastic assistance on the day.

Anoek (anoekpetit@gmail.com) is now planning to launch a Greater Manchester Chapter of the Tourism Society, and would be delighted to hear from any members interested in getting involved.


Richard Denman FTS, TCN