Working as destination management futurists and tourism keynote speakers, we’re often asked to talk about the future of each respective industry. That makes sense, given that the former business especially (which revolves around the strategic oversight of a destination’s tourism prospects), is rapidly evolving in response to the changing dynamics of global travel. In the wake of global shifts, destination management futurists and organizations (DMOs) are constantly looking for ways to differentiate and adapt. Let’s talk about some of the trends they’re evolving in response to.

For example, audiences’ growing push for sustainable tourism. There is a rising consensus that over-tourism is detrimental to both the local communities and the environment. To combat this, DMOs are increasingly shifting towards a sustainable model, promoting low-impact activities and local experiences that preserve the destination’s natural, cultural, and social resources. The phenomenon is manifesting in innovations like eco-accommodations, carbon offset programs, and community-based tourism initiatives.

Furthermore, many organizations are tapping into the power of technology and big data to drive destination management strategies. In effect, data-driven insights allow these organizations to understand visitor behavior better, predict trends, optimize marketing efforts, and even manage visitor flow during peak periods. For instance, the use of geolocation data can help manage crowd control at popular sites, thus improving visitor experience and preserving the destination’s integrity.

Another innovation that is transforming destination management is the use of augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR). If you’re not familiar with them, these high-tech advancements provide immersive experiences that can simulate a visit to a destination, even from thousands of miles away. Depending on how you look at things, AR and VR can not only act as powerful marketing tools for destinations but can also help manage visitor expectations and plan their visits more efficiently.

The rise of “localhood” concept is worth contemplating too, as it sees many firms moving away from promoting only the “must-see” attractions alone to growingly emphasizing the authentic, local experiences. Perhaps the way to think about it is that this practice capitalizes on the increasing number of travelers seeking unique, personal, and localized experiences. By highlighting local arts, cuisine, lifestyle, and culture, DMOs can distribute tourism more evenly and create a more sustainable tourism model.

Innovation in destination management is also visible in the adoption of blockchain technology. Such advancements could reinvent how we book travel, offering greater transparency, reducing middlemen, and enhancing the security of bookings. Moreover, they can also provide travelers with a more personalized and seamless experience by facilitating sharing of preference data securely among service providers.

With the COVID-19 pandemic driving the need for health and safety assurances, there is a new trend toward developing “clean and safe” protocols and certifications for destinations to boot. Health-focused innovations include the incorporation of touchless technologies, advanced sanitization methods, and even the design of spaces to accommodate social distancing.

All these trends and innovations are centered on creating more value for tourists, while also ensuring the sustainability and resilience of the destinations – a positive depending on whatever way you look at it.