Thursday, April 15, 2010

Membership Driven Resources Rob Visitors

While only 4% of Destination Marketing Organizations are still part of a Chamber of Commerce, there are still many others who are independent but also restrict promotions to members only.

Memberships as a model are very obsolete but I have some perspective on that because during my nearly 40 year career in destination marketing, the first half was spent in two different destination communities where we relied on memberships.

But I think it is very unfair for a community’s Destination Marketing Organization to deny visitors information based on who is and  isn’t a member.  It should be about visitor satisfaction, not just the businesses and organization who benefit.members-only3

One DMO I know runs all promotions including paying for construction and operation of the visitor information center with revenues from a tax paid just by those visitors who stay overnight in commercial lodging.

But then it turns around and restricts the businesses and organizations it lists in publications, on websites and in the visitor information center to just those businesses and organizations who pay a special membership fee and then it charges even those members an extra fee to be in the information center.

And I doubt very much the visitors to that community have a clue they are being given very limited options and an extremely narrow perspective.

I don’t see a problem with charging memberships, although the cost of such a program compared to the benefits has always seemed suspect.  But I believe members should get value added-benefit, not exclusivity.   Publications and information about a community should be as comprehensive as possible and then bold listings or editorial for those who pay extra such as members.

That way it’s much fairer to the most important stakeholder of all – the visitor.

Oh, the same goes for private so-called visitor or relocation guides that restrict listings to advertisers and worse only print a smidgeon of what’s needed to serve the visitors or newcomers, pocketing the rest as profit or as a kick back to another organization.

They are doing a disservice both to communities and visitors.

There should definitely be a prohibition on deliberate misuse of references that mislead visitors and newcomers into thinking they are getting objective, balanced information.

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