Beach events are fun, but there’s a lot of planning involved. A local DMC can ensure things run smoothly. Credit: 360 Destination Group
As most experienced planners will agree, destination management companies are destination experts and far-sighted professionals who gather meeting planners’ visions and help pull the threads of an event together by providing creative solutions and event design concepts that truly “wow.” As Jennifer Patino, DMCP, CEO of Hosts Global explains, DMCs provide risk mitigation using trusted suppliers, venues and relationships to deliver a safe, effective plan for clients. Each program is developed with not only creative strategies in mind but also a sound logistical plan and attention to the potential what ifs — weather or other business disruptors — that could impact the outcome of a program’s success. While rarely needing to employ “Plan B,” the job of DMCs is to consider many factors to ensure they are proactively planning to execute seamlessly for clients.
“For planners, using a DMC is like having their own trusted VIP concierge,” says Catherine Chaulet, president of Global DMC Partners. “DMCs have a wealth of local connections to make sure attendees will experience the most exclusive activities their destination has to offer,” Chaulet says. “They know best how to showcase their destination and local culture to attendees, elevating the program for a truly authentic experience.”
Dan Tavrytzky, managing director of DMC Network, agrees that DMCs are an educated connection to a destination. Essentially they are the experts in the cities in which they live and work.
“In the DMC Network, we like to say that our partner DMCs are the mayors of their towns,” Tavrytzky says. “They know all of the key vendors, local hot and cold spots, key stakeholders and how to bring out the best in their destination to match the needs and budget of their client.”
As such, a DMC should be viewed as an event or meeting partner, creating a vision for a program in tandem with the client — namely a meeting or event planner.
“In the DMC Network, we like to say that our partner DMCs are the mayors of their towns. They know all of the key vendors, local hot and cold spots, key stakeholders and how to bring out the best in their destination to match the needs and budget of their client.”
The value of a DMC is often best told by painting a picture. The Japanese DMC partner of Global DMC Partners recently managed an incentive program in Tokyo and Kyoto for 55 attendees from Brazil. As Chaulet explains, the planning of this incentive group was particularly challenging, especially where dining and gala dinner venues were concerned.
“Japan is known to have a very rigid structure in place with traditionally early closing times for restaurants and gala venues,” Chaulet says. “The Japanese tend to eat dinner early — between 6 and 8 p.m. — and the planner wanted to offer dinners starting later in the evening at around 9 or so, which is more typical in Latin America.” Destination Asia, a Global DMC Partner, not only worked closely with their connections at all the local restaurants to ensure the client’s specific needs and timing could met, but also sourced a traditional Japanese gala venue in Kyoto that was able to cater to a group wanting to party past midnight with traditional Japanese drumming as entertainment.
“In the end, our experienced DMC partner was able to deliver the incentive just as the client desired,” Chaulet says. “And the guests left Japan with a glowing impression of what the country has to offer. “
As DMCs aren’t membership-based, they offer a complete, unbiased view of the market. Joe Fijol, managing partner, Florida, 360 Destination Group, explains that this comprehensive knowledge and experience enables them to give planners insight into the pros and cons of all the options based on their goals and needs.
“A good DMC will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear,” Fijol says. “DMCs have their finger on the pulse of what’s new in the market and the experience and working knowledge of the details and logistics that can make or break a program. A good DMC knows how to make the walls disappear between a meeting planner’s office and theirs, providing transparency and serving as a seamless extension of the meeting or event planner’s team.”
Jeff Nelke, DMCP, partner – South Florida at ACCESS Destination Services, stresses that meeting and event planners could use more hours in a day and more hands to do the heavy lifting come meeting operation time. That’s where DMCs come in.
“DMCs offer planners a resource to expand their teams and local expertise needed to help pull that proverbial rabbit out of the hat,” Nelke says. “This can be accomplished via a myriad of services DMCs offer. The goal is always to add great efficiencies to the process.”
Imagine being in an unfamiliar, new destination where something goes wrong with your group. Or worse, imagine having to take an attendee to visit a doctor who does not speak your language. As Chaulet explains, common situations like these are when it’s crucial to have a DMC as a local partner. “Safety and security are top of mind for all DMCs,” Chaulet says. “They have local resources at hand to help put together the strongest contingency plans and be ready to take care of any emergency — big or small.”
Like any product or service purchase, doing your homework, asking for referrals and conducting research will give meeting planners the confidence to know they made the right choice in a DMC. The DMC world is proud to have an industry association — Association of Destination Management Executives International (ADMEI) — that supports and promotes the professional aspects of the work of DMCs and provides an accreditation that recognizes DMCs. This recognition means the designated DMCs have gone through the educational rigors and work history to show that they are professional and experienced experts in their field with staff who have a Destination Management Certified Professional certification (DMCP).
“These credentials certainly convey that a DMC is dedicated to its profession and craft and not just working from a kitchen table with a glitzy website,” Tavrytzky says.
Patino agrees. “Looking for an accredited DMC allows you to know that you’re working with a vetted DMC. Look for those companies that have singular focus around their respective destinations with staff possessing certifications such as DMCP, CMP or other such certifications that attest to ongoing education,” Patino says. A planner will be best served in finding a DMC that is client focused — demonstrating the necessary knowledge to deliver on expectations.
“Clients are particularly interested in working with an organization that focuses on account management, allowing each current and future destination to build upon the value of shared experiences and allows fluid engagement,” Patino says.
When establishing a potential relationship with a DMC, there are some key questions meeting planners need to ask, including requesting referrals and samples of past work, which will support the current proposal under review. Tavrytzky also advises meeting planners to ask an official at the DMC about its history, industry involvement, community engagement, insurance levels, accreditations and awards.
“This will also help paint a picture for the type of organization you will be hiring to execute your vision as it’s important that a rapport and trust are created to have a successful working relationship,” Tavrytzky says. “There’s also value in being part of a larger organization that further supports the DMC’s mission and value.”
Chaulet says the questions every planner needs to ask include: How is the DMC structured to be able to operate their program and manage the program until it operates? Can the DMC provide client and vendor references along with insurance certificates? Is the DMC part of a larger DMC network to have additional backing and support?
Additionally, working with a network such as Global DMC Partners, which has over 65 elite DMCs in over 500 locations, will ensure that a planner is working with the best DMCs in each market.
“Before they become a member, each of our DMC partners goes through an extensive vetting process to ensure they are financially sound, well-established, highly recommended and the most creative DMC in their market,” Chaulet says. Chaulet and her team go through the entire process of reviewing their insurance certificates, organizational structure and policies, proposal templates, client and vendor references and their membership in industry organizations.
“It is extremely time-consuming to assess DMCs on your own, so part of our value is that we take that first step — the DMC vetting process — off the planner’s hands so they can focus on other important aspects of their meeting or event,” Chaulet says.
Determining if a DMC has related experience either within a specific industry or the type of event or meeting being held also is paramount. “Find out if the DMC will be operating other programs or have commitments during that time, as that can impact how a meeting is managed,” Fijol says. “Also confirm they have an office in the designated market as that is an indicator of the depth of their relationships and knowledge.”
Be sure to also review a DMC’s staffing plan for a meeting or event program. “Unfortunately sometimes planners get sold the dream and delivered the nightmare, so taking time to ensure sufficient operations support is critical,” Fijol says.
After selecting a DMC, a meeting planner should have clear and transparent goals and shared budgets, both of which are vital for a successful program creation.
“Understanding the parameters of past program successes and failures will help to frame the work to be done and clarify the expected outcomes,” Tavrytzky says. “Also, open, honest and timely communication is key for both the planner and the DMC. Like any relationship, the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it. A great client and DMC relationship is the opposite of transactional — it’s collaborative.”
Fijol also recommends establishing a communication structure that includes regular check-ins to review important information and deadlines at each stage.
“Often a DMC will offer to travel to a planner’s office for a planning day, which is a great way to kick off the partnership and make them an extension of the meeting planner’s team,” Fijol says.
Also be sure to plan at the onset for the worst-case scenario. In doing so, the DMC should review all the potential things that could go wrong — weather, public health issues, or a government shutdown — and be equipped with processes and insurances to make sure the meeting and event is covered.
“Luck favors the prepared, and DMCs have firsthand experience should a planner be faced with a challenge or obstacle they can’t control,” Fijol says.
Once you select your DMC partner, one key way to get the most from the partnership is a “deep dive” conversation. As Nelke explains, this entails exploring a planner’s needs and meeting goals to assure alignment and prevent overstep. An example of this might be determining who is pulling a special event permit and managing the local regulatory obligations.
Patino and her team at Hosts Global have found that the smoothest and most effective relationships begin with adequate time allocated to discovery about the breadth of a meeting’s needs and goals as well as learning more about the various stakeholders for the client’s meetings.
“A proper intake question-and-answer session between the DMC and client allows the DMC to uncover pain points and opportunities to become a valued resource for the planner,” Patino says. “Understanding how the client will measure success for any program allows a proactive approach to the proposed services.”
A DMC selection should be viewed similar to hiring an employee. As Fijol explains, DMCs work best with clients when the shared goal is to develop a long-term partnership.
“Treating a DMC like a vendor is short sighted and a planner will limit their team as they won’t achieve the benefits and efficiency that a deeper, trusted relationship can offer,” Fijol says.
One of the key mistakes meeting planners make when working with DMCs is offering minimal communication. “Clients who can openly communicate and share information in a timely fashion will be better positioned to get the full value and partnership from their chosen DMC,” Tavrytzky says.
Some planners also may not share the appropriate amount of information with the DMC, specifically around program budget, history and expectations. As Chaulet explains, attempting to get the best price by not sharing the budget or pushing too hard to bring the costs down can cause the planner to lose sight of the end result and the most important part of the program — the attendee experience.
“A DMC can provide exceptional options for a whole range of budget needs, but without any idea of the budget up front, the DMC doesn’t have any direction on how best to meet a planner’s needs,” Chaulet says. If there isn’t a specific budget, giving a range, or a couple of ranges is fine so a planner can see the different options at different price points. Ultimately, a DMC needs to know if they are working with a $5,000 budget or a $40,000 budget to know what options to propose so that they don’t get turned away prematurely with the planner thinking they are just too expensive.
Additionally, Chaulet stresses that sharing the program’s history is just as crucial. “Being too vague or using general statements around needing something new and creative isn’t enough,” Chaulet says. Planners must share past experiences, videos, pictures of the program, and how it was operated in the past so the DMC has a clear direction of what kind of elements the planner is looking to incorporate.
“What is new and creative to one client might be old and tired to someone else, so clearly outlining expectations is essential,” Chaulet says.
Underutilization also is one of the largest missed opportunities of working with a DMC. “Maximizing each other’s resources to come together under a common meeting goal can be the difference between a good and ‘wow’ meeting,” Nelke says.
The future looks promising for solid relationships between corporate meeting planners and DMCs. As such, Patino expects the role of DMCs to continue to grow and thrive in the meetings planning industry, especially for those that pursue best-practice development, ongoing education and a client centric approach.
“Good DMCs remain an essential extension and resource to planners,” Patino says. “The sheer number of hours it would require for a planner to conduct a thorough vetting of all local services and goods, establish the logistical plan and provide the proper team to execute on the vision of the program validates the value of a great DMC partner.”C&IT