The RTO has gone through considerable change since 2011 as it works to optimize tourism growth in the region. From early on it has been a test bed for both conventional and leading practices in tourism economic development, all specifically measured against outcomes to optimize the use of resources. In 2015 we enter a new phase of development, one dedicated to strengthening the assets of the region to cut through the marketing clutter that has become endemic to this industry and one dedicated to putting tools, digital tools and strategies, directly in the hand of operators. A shift of resources to stakeholders, enabling DMMO’s to shift to address the powerful disruption the internet and its pervasive effect on the consumer’s buying process has had on their worlds, enhancing the operators ability to surgically reach out and close a sale, are both key to making the ‘experiment’ sustainable over the long term.
The Canadian Tourism Commission has called RTO4 the Petri Dish of tourism development in North America. It is something we are proud of and something we work hard to live up to every day.
The work the RTO has done is starting to resonate. In 2015 we implemented the first ever application of DestinationNEXT (http://www.destinationmarketing.org/topics/destination-next), a project commissioned by the Destination Marketing Association International to create clear, actionable, practical and sustainable strategies and tools for DMO’s in a rapidly changing world. RTO4 as a test bed for DestinationNEXT was a topic of discussion at DMAI’s CEO Summit in April in California and will be further presented at DMAI’s international convention in Austin in July. RTO4 is also a keynote presenter and session presenter at the SoMeT Social Media Tourism Symposium in New Orleans in October, the only conference of its kind dedicated to providing an opportunity for tourism destinations and businesses to share ideas and learn how to leverage social media in the tourism industry. SoMeT (http://www.sometourism.com/about/) is the work of Canadian tourism development powerhouse DestinationTHINK and holds annual conferences yearly in North America, Europe and Australia.
I’ve attached the the Prologue from the 2015/16 plan. It is a recounting of where we have been and a look at where we, together, are going.
RTO4 is entering the third phase of its existence.
Phase 1 involved developing a plan and creating and implementing the measurement systems to test that plan.
Phase 2 was focussed on measuring the effect of the core activities of the RTO to determine what exactly does and does not work in growing the tourism economy in a region such as RTO4 given its unique composition, stakeholders and combination of assets.
Phase 3 is about optimizing the things that are working and can be sustained by stakeholders in growing the regional tourism economy. This is the first year of a three year plan to put the tools that are needed directly in the hands of operators and to empower them to develop the core assets that make the region unique. Strengthening the existing destination organizations by facilitating their “clear” and productive focus and aligning them with stakeholders is a key part of the work over the next three years. In short, it is about enabling the elements of the work to date that has had a measured effect on growing the region’s tourism economy while curtailing those activities that, albeit they are status quo in tourism marketing and development, have proven to be ineffective.
It is worth noting that even in the first two “Phases” of the RTO’s existence, 2011-14, it managed an impressive throughput of sales on the reservation system of over $6,000,000 in direct to operator sales with no fees or commissions, a pleasant side benefit of the measurement system.
Committing to a model that actually tracked results right down to conversion was a bold step by the RTO4 Board of Directors, unprecedented in the province, and it has paid off well with a series of findings (sometimes controversial) that, simply put, have challenged conventional DMO thinking and created the opportunity for a much more accountable model of tourism investment.
David Peacock, CEO RTO4 Inc.