What is the Difference Between Destination Management and Destination Marketing?

What is the Difference Between Destination Management and Destination Marketing?

By Tom Mcloughlin, Founder, SEO Travel

What is the Difference Between Destination Management and Destination Marketing?

Destination marketing is a topic that we’ve been discussing a lot on this blog recently. Brands across the travel industry have been using the approach as a way to promote new destinations and encourage tourism, steering away from explicit marketing messaging and finding creative ways to promote the experience offered by different locations. 

When you’re looking into destination marketing, destination management is a topic that is likely to come up as well. The two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but they’re actually referring to very different things.

In this article, we explain the difference between destination management and destination marketing. We also discuss how the two overlap and which you should focus on as a business in the travel industry.

What is Destination Management?

Destination management refers to the coordinated process of managing every aspect of a destination to improve and sustain tourism and maintain a positive image of a location. This will involve local resources, accommodation, transport systems, marketing and advertising, the environment, local activities and events, and specific tourist attractions.

Tourism is predominantly a positive thing for a location, and destination management approaches and controls this in a holistic way, instead of letting each different aspect of a place be organised by a separate organisation. It may be that things like events, transport and accommodation are outsourced or managed by other companies, but this management will be influenced and directed by the overall destination management strategy.

There can be drawbacks of tourism however, such as natural environments getting damaged by visitors or local people being forced to move from their homes because of rising living prices or a lack of affordable, residential accommodation. Destination management also works to ensure that these negatives don’t occur, balancing improving a location’s image whilst also managing its resources.

To summarise simply, destination management seeks to facilitate and control tourism to a destination in a way that benefits it.

What is a Destination Management Organisation?

A destination management organisation, often referred to as a DMO, is a group or company that is responsible for coordinating all aspects of managing and promoting a destination. They will work with other organisations, such as local authorities, hospitality and accommodation businesses, environmental groups and even government boards to manage funding, plan marketing campaigns and create a strategy for promoting and preserving their target destination.

DMOs may work to manage the tourism of an entire country, or they may focus on a smaller location such as a region, city, or an area like a national park. These smaller destination management organisations may work together with other local organisations to ensure that resources are appropriately managed and that any action taken isn’t going to harm another organisation’s campaign or project.

The purpose of a destination management organisation is to manage a location so that tourism has a positive impact on it. By coordinating the efforts of multiple different organisations within this, it’s much easier to work towards goals and produce tangible results, as well as ensure that tourism grows sustainably.

What is Destination Marketing?

Destination marketing is an approach to marketing in the travel industry that focuses on promoting a location and the experience that it offers. Using a variety of marketing techniques, this approach aims to increase awareness of the target destination so that more people decide to visit and bring more tourism to the area.

What differentiates destination marketing from traditional travel marketing is that it doesn’t explicitly sell a particular trip type, tour package, holiday accommodation or any other specific product or service. Instead, it seeks to improve the reputation and status of a destination by painting it as a desirable place to stay or explore.

Many travel companies use destination marketing as a method of subtly promoting their offering, but it’s also an approach that is commonly associated with tourism boards seeking to bring more visitors to their target locations, boost the local economy or establish a place as a holiday destination.

The overall intention of destination marketing is to bring a location to the target audience’s attention and nurture their interest until they decide to visit. This is often done by tapping into their emotions and desires and organising campaigns or content that help a place stick in their mind.

What is a Destination Marketing Organisation?

A destination marketing organisation is an organisation that uses destination marketing to promote a location as an appealing place to travel. They might be a tourist board or a tourism authority which works to attract more travellers and acts as a source of information about their target destination.

Travel companies that focus on a specific location may use destination marketing as part of their advertising efforts, but they aren’t destination marketing organisations unless they operate solely to promote a location. However, they may work alongside destination marketing organisations and benefit from their work.

What’s the Difference?

Many people use the terms destination marketing and destination management interchangeably, which isn’t the end of the world as the two approaches have a lot in common. However, there are subtle differences that are important to understand when it comes down to what each approach actually involves and why each approach is important in its own way.

The main difference between destination marketing and destination management is that destination marketing is an approach that may be used as part of a destination management plan. The former specifically involves using different marketing techniques to help improve a location’s image and reputation, which can contribute to a wider destination management strategy.

In terms of scale and impact, destination management tends to have much more of an effect on improving the reputation of a place and helping to successfully transform tourism with certain goals in mind. Destination marketing may also have an impact on tourism, but the effort behind this tends to be smaller and more specific.

The key difference between destination marketing organisations and management organisations is that the former will solely focus on creating and implementing a marketing strategy for their target location, whereas the latter will develop an overall strategy for managing a location, which may involve elements of marketing. Those that work in a destination marketing organisation will often have specific marketing or travel marketing experience, whilst those working as part of a destination management organisation will come from a more general tourism or project management background.

Should you Focus on Destination Management or Destination Marketing?

As discussed above, destination marketing can be viewed as an element of destination management, which means that by focusing on one, you will automatically spend some of your time focusing on the other. But whilst this is a pretty straightforward approach for tourism organisations or businesses that already deal with destination management, what about other travel companies wondering whether destination marketing is an approach that may soon fall out of favour?

The general consensus in the travel industry is that there has been a shift from destination marketing to destination management in recent years. This is partly due to incidents where the sudden boom of interest in a location has created a wave of tourism that the area hasn’t been prepared for, causing long-term problems and ultimately doing more harm than good. Destination management seeks to ensure that any efforts to increase awareness of a location and attract more visitors are done in a controlled way that has been anticipated and prepared for, reducing the likelihood of negative effects.

If you’re a business that regularly uses destination marketing techniques, you can really benefit from thinking about this work in the wider context of how a destination is managed overall. You may not have any interaction with other organisations involved with this, but your marketing campaigns will be much more considered if you think about their potential impact, what you’re actually trying to achieve and how this might fit into other actions being taken by other businesses in the area.

Gaining a destination management perspective may also lead to collaboration with other organisations as part of your destination marketing strategy.

Another reason why destination management is taking more of a priority is that organisations are more focused on delivering meaningful and memorable experiences to travellers. If you take an entirely marketing-focused approach, you run the risk of making claims about a destination that you can’t deliver on, which will negatively impact a place’s reputation.

By thinking about promoting a place with destination management in mind, you ensure that your marketing efforts are working in tandem with the resources and attractions that are actually available. You may also end up creating marketing campaigns that are more authentically aligned with what a location has to offer, which is a big help when it comes to the success of these campaigns.

So, when it comes to focusing on destination marketing or management, first consider your position. If you’re an organisation involved with the wider management of a destination then taking a holistic view of how you promote it will lead to a much more harmonious strategy, which destination marketing should be a part of. If you’re a business in the travel industry mainly concerned with marketing a specific destination, consider how your efforts may fit into a wider scheme to bring more visitors to your target location, and be mindful of how these may interact and what you can do to collaborate successfully.


Destination management is a topic that is becoming more and more talked about in the travel industry. Understanding how it intersects with destination marketing and why it’s important is very useful for anyone working in this sector that wants to learn more about how their marketing efforts can fit into wider promotional strategies for different destinations.

If you need more information or help with your travel marketing strategy or want to find out more about approaches like destination marketing and management, get in touch with SEO Travel for a chat and to find out more about the range of marketing services that we offer.

SEO Travel

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *