Community Engagement Global Best Practices

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by Chris Adams
Head of Research & Insights

It's Time for DMOcracy - Recommendations and Resources from a Major Global Study

Time for DMOcracy is the largest-ever global research and education project on community engagement in tourism. Led by Group NAO and Miles Partnership in Europe and North America, respectively, it is an international study that defines global best practices in building successful, resilient and enduring partnerships with local residents, community groups and businesses.

Time for DMOcracy’s reports and supporting resources are aimed at destination marketing and/or management organizations (DMOs) for whom community engagement is an urgent imperative. While 77% of North American DMOs rate community engagement as a high or very high priority (65% of European DMOs), four data points from the study underline the size of the challenge:

  • Less than 33% of North American residents feel included in tourism's development and management in their community
  • More than 75% of DMOs agree that their local residents feel excluded
  • 13% of DMOs in North America survey local residents regularly 
  • Less than 80% of DMOs have not developed any key performance (KPIs) to report progress on community engagement 

Sources: August 2022 Survey of 215 North American DMOs conducted in the Time for DMOcracy study and an October 2022 survey of North American residents, Longwoods International. See:

map with pinpoints on participant destinations

Time for DMOcracy was undertaken in collaboration with 42 partner DMOs and academic, agency and association partners across Europe and North America (see here for more details). The study consisted of a wide range of virtual and in-person education events, expert presentations, interviews with DMO leaders, case studies from both continents, a global review of all existing secondary research and a major survey of North American and European DMOs at whom the study’s insights and recommendations are aimed towards.

The North American and European editions of this report share a huge range of recommendations and resources for DMOs to tackle these challenges. The North American edition of the report specifically includes six in-depth “toolkits” on these priority community engagement issues:

  1. Community Participation Models
  2. Resident Sentiment Research
  3. Workforce and Staffing
  4. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
  5. Media and Communications
  6. Short-Term Rentals 

Each toolkit has a separate section of the report along with global case studies and summaries of important research and other resources on that topic.

The European edition of the study presents more detail on citizen assemblies, digital engagement, community storytelling, volunteering plus the concept of “participatory placemaking”.

Amidst the wide range of insights produced by the study, there were several “foundational” recommendations that emerged for all DMOs, regardless of their size and budget:

  1. Invest in understanding what your local community really thinks about tourism. Both through informal consultation and formal research with residents and businesses monitor their perceptions of tourism’s impact and benefits in the community.
  2. Build your destination management plan with the community at its core. Ensure tourism is being managed first and foremost to make your destination a great place to live and work. A community that has a high quality of life and is vibrant and welcoming is a community that travelers see as a great place to visit.
  3. Include community voices in your formal and informal governance and consultation. Create and nurture ongoing touchpoints for all parts of the local community to be consulted on the right vision and management of tourism in your community. This needs to be an ongoing partnership, not just part of a destination management plan or strategy.
  4. Be involved in finding solutions to practical problems. Community engagement is not simply a public relations & communications challenge. No number of positive press releases can solve the practical, and often complex, issues that tourism faces in many communities. From congestion to parking, workforce shortages and the impacts of short-term rentals—DMOs need to be active in understanding both the benefits and challenges that tourism generates. Community engagement must include the DMO and tourism industry helping find practical, workable solutions— in collaboration with government, community and business partners.

Time for DMOcracy and its set of reports, case studies and research summaries outline a road map for DMOs looking to tackle this urgent priority.  It’s Time for DMOcracy - plan to review, restart and renew your community engagement efforts.

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