8 biggest benefits of destination networksOct 12, 2021
My life in tourism started with a tourism network. My first-ever role was as ‘Animator’ of the Burren Ecotourism Network. The job title implied a role that was about ‘bringing something to life’, ‘breathing life into something’ or, less poetically, helping a fledgling Network really get off the ground and build its own momentum. While I worked hard with many other people to deliver that objective, it turned out that the role really animated me! Working with that group over a number of years gave me a fresh lease of life, introduced me to a whole lot of highly creative and innovative people and got my career in tourism off the ground.
Happily my work over the years has meant I’ve stayed connected with a lot of other networks. I’ve had the opportunity to study, research and analyse many aspects of tourism networks within destinations and across destinations. So what I’ve been pondering is what is it about a tourism network that can have that energizing effect on me and also on so many others that I’ve met?
I’ve noticed 8 key animating benefits of strong and effective tourism destination networks. In this list, you’ll notice that it’s 'The Soft Stuff’ that comes first in this list. It’s the soft stuff that’s often the hardest to achieve!
Belonging to a Tourism Network that is representative of a destination promotes a sense of ownership and shared responsibility. It brings people together with a common mission, usually one that’s bigger than themselves. By defining itself around destination geography, a Network provides a shared point of engagement and responsibility.
Along with ownership comes a sense of belonging, one of the most fundamental of human needs. A network creates a tangible point of belonging which can substantially alleviate that sense of isolation that all of us who manage small businesses or even big departments understand. Relationship, friendships and camaraderie are a natural by-product of a tourism network.
3. Pride & Confidence
Coming together to protect, support or promote a destination enhances our sense of pride in our place. Through a network, you get a sense of how others see the place where you work and live, what it is they most value about it, what most captivates their particular visitor type. Through feedback from other members, you begin to understand the value others place on you. Equally, you develop pride in other’s successes and occasionally bask in the shared glow of the achievements of fellow members. This can dramatically boost collective business confidence.
It’s generally accepted that we can achieve more together than we can individually, that the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts. Coming together to define a vision and then brainstorming strategies and actions to achieve that vision can unleash a powerful sense of potential. An idea articulated to a group can inspire greater ideas in others that then grow into plans and ambitions that nobody could have formulated on their own. Again, belief and confidence grow and become infectious.
5. Action & Ability to Implement
Big ambition leads to big action. With adequate co-ordination, structure and leadership (none of which are easily got, it must be said!) a group of people working together can execute plans more quickly and more efficiently than if they are working in isolation. That just makes sense.
6. Shared Learning & Knowledge
Once a culture of collaboration and partnership embeds itself, a culture of sharing knowledge and learnings can also take root. The most effective learning that happens within a Network framework is that which comes from sharing experiences, challenges and the solutions that can overcome those challenges. In addition, return on training investment rises as the Network has the ability to collectively implement learnings across the destination.
7. Visibility & Status
One large organisation has more visibility and impact than do 2, 4 or 10 smaller sub-organisations. It’s the Achilles Heel of many destinations – lots of groups and committees working in parallel rather than together. A strong lead group becomes a visible and credible voice that can advocate for the region, can respond to changes in the external environment and can engage constructively with state agencies invested in the destination.
8. Visitor Resonance
Those who visit our destinations experience us a whole, not as a series of individual parts. To them, we’re all part of the same team, the same product. Actually acting like a team, through a Network framework, allows tourism businesses within a destination to better meet the need of their visitors. This is achieved through jointly creating destination experiences, itineraries, festivals, events, websites and in-holiday referrals and recommendations.
Some of the benefits I’ve listed here satisfy our more social needs, some satisfy our business and commercial needs while others speak to our legacy needs. Whatever the need, many networks can attest to the benefit of collaboration and partnership within and between destinations. In fact, it’s hard to see any other alternative if we truly want to build sustainable businesses and destinations that can endure and deliver net benefit to all.
Tina O'Dwyer is an expert in collaboration and tourism networks. Watch out for her upcoming course on "How to build a strong and effective tourism network".
If you would like to join our Tourism Network, why not think about coming a member of The Tourism Space and meeting other driven and like-minded tourism professionals at our weekly Huddles? Learn more by visiting www.thetourismspace.com/membership.
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