Role of regional tourism organizations in Slovakia from their perspective

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Role of regional tourism organizations in Slovakia from their perspective

Destinations play a key role in tourism system with destination management organizations (DMOs) as entities responsible for finding the intersection between supply side (destination with its offer) and demand side (visitors) in destinations which they manage. DMOs perform various functions and have various roles in tourism system. Authors dealing with destination management mention several DMOs’ functions and roles. In Slovakia official establishment of DMOs supported by law started in 2011. Act No. 91/2010 Collection of Law on the Support of Tourism specifies the role and functions of regional tourism organizations (RTOs which can be considered as DMOs in Slovak conditions) in Slovakia. This means that on one hand we know the views of authors dealing with destination management and on the other hand we know the law. However, little is known about the view of RTOs themselves – how they perceive their role in tourism system and tourism development. The objective of this paper is to find out how regional tourism organizations as destination management organizations perceive their role in tourism development in Slovakia. The paper is structured into three parts: Literature review, Methodology and Results and discussion.

Literature review

Destinations have become the basic units of analysis in tourism (UNWTO 2002). Destination is a geographically defined area or place as continent, state, region, city, or even a specific small place with offer and potential for tourism development (Pike and Page 2014). It is important that in destination there exists a primary offer (attractions) as well as secondary offer (infrastructure) which are interconnected and sold to tourists (Palatková 2011). Small destination full of various attractions can be much more interesting for tourists comparing to geographically spacious destination which offers nothing interesting (Bornhorst, Brent Ritchie and Sheehan 2010). Destination is a strategically managed and competitive unit of offer in tourism market (Palatková 2011). It is necessary to manage and coordinate the supply and demand side of tourism in destination together with resources in destination, cooperation as well as relationships among various stakeholders in destination. The approach that involves management of all these destination components is called destination management (Pearce 2015). According to UNWTO (2007), destination management is a coordinated management (which uses the strategic approach) of all elements which create the destination (attractions, marketing, pricing policy, etc.). Morrison’s definition is based on UNWTO’s definition. He interprets the destination management as “a professional approach to guiding all the efforts in a place that has decided to pursue tourism as an economic activity. Destination management involves coordinated and integrated management of the destination product (attractions and events, facilities, transportation, infrastructure, service quality and friendliness)” (Morrison 2019). Vystoupil and Šauer (2006) emphasize the cooperation of public and private sector in the destination when defining destination management. According to them, destination management is a way to face the challenging tourists’ requirements as well as the intensifying competition in tourism. Destination management is based on cooperation of public and private sector (services providers) in destination which contributes to better management of supply and demand side of tourism in destination as well as improves competitiveness of destination. Longjit and Pearce (2013) presented the conceptual framework for destination management which is based on three management features, namely 1) goals, 2) management structures and 3) activities. Management structures as a part of conceptual framework for destination management means that there must exist organizations responsible for destination management. These organizations are called destination management organizations (DMOs). Pearce (2015) pointed to the fragmentation of views in interpreting the abbreviation DMO and generally understanding of this type of organization – whether it is a destination management organization, destination marketing organization or destination management and marketing organization. According to Pike and Page (2014), DMO is destination marketing organization due to the fact that the main task of this type of organization is destination marketing and not destination management. They are convinced that using the term destination management organization is misleading since in such case it evokes that the main task of such organization is destination management while in reality it is destination marketing. According to Hesková (2011) the organization which is established with the aim of creation, management and marketing of destination and destination’s products is called destination management organization. This type of organization is usually created and financed by the biggest and most important players in destination as they realize the need for management of destination. Despite the fact that the main task of DMO is usually marketing (Beritelli and Laesser, 2014) which is important since marketing activities often unite the conflicting interests of various groups like citizens, visitors, service providers, etc. (Olšavský, 2014), DMO performs many other functions as well (Beritelli and Laesser, 2014). Wang (2008) has specified nine roles of DMO based on his research. According to him DMO is an 1) information provider, 2) advocate, 3) network management organization, 4) partner and team builder, 5) convener and facilitator, 6) organizer, 7) catalyst, 8) funding agent and 9) community brand builder. He uses the term destination marketing organization but at the same time he acknowledges that the emphasis is currently shifting from marketing to management. According to Bieger (1998) DMO has four basic functions: planning, development of products, marketing and pool. Pearce (2015) has summarized the results of various case studies dealing with destination management and its functions as well as destination management organization and its functions. He created a list of DMO functions and listed them according to the frequency of functions’ citations (but not the importance of these functions). The list of DMO functions according to Pearce’s analysis is shown in Table 1.

Table 1: DMO functions
Source: Adapted from Pearce (2015)

In order to improve and develop tourism in Slovakia destination management organizations have been established. Some tourism clusters have been created since 2008 in form of open partnership. These clusters were mainly responsible for coordination of marketing activities and creation of simple products (Gajdošík 2017). Creation of clusters was not supported by law. In 2011 Act No. 91/2010 Collection of Law of Slovak Republic on the Support of Tourism came into force and since December 2011 new type of organizations have been established – regional tourism organizations (RTOs) which can be considered as destination management organizations in Slovak conditions. According to this act, RTO has various functions. We mention some of them: support for RTO’s members’ activities in creation and implementation of tourism development concept; marketing and promotion of tourism, destination and RTO’s members; cooperation with municipal authorities with the goal of destination development; events organization for residents and visitors; provision of advisory and consultancy services for its members; creation and implementation of tourism development concept; creation, management and presentation of tourism products, etc. (Act No. 91/2010 Collection of Law on the Support of Tourism).

Methodology

Authors dealing with destination management describe various functions and roles of DMOs. On the other hand, Act No. 91/2010 Collection of Law on the Support of Tourism specifies the role and functions of RTOs in Slovakia. Here arises the question: How do RTOs in Slovakia perceive their role in tourism system and tourism development? Does their perception correspond with the theoretical basis of destination management and DMOs? To what extent?
The objective of this paper is to find out how regional tourism organizations as destination management organizations perceive their role in tourism development in Slovakia.
We decided to include all the 37 RTOs operating in Slovakia into our research however two of them were not willing to cooperate, therefore 35 RTOs were included in our research. We decided for qualitative research using the method of in-depth semi-structured interviews with representatives of 35 RTOs. 25 interviews were made personally, 6 interviews were made by phone and 4 through e-mail communication. During each interview we asked one open question: “What is the role of your organization?” When it was necessary we asked additional questions. Personal and telephone interviews were recorded (except for one) and regarding email-interviews we received written answers. Research was conducted between August 2018 and January 2020.
For analyzing the obtained data and obtaining the results, content analysis and comparative analysis were used. We decided to analyze the data gained from interviews about roles of RTOs following the list of DMO functions summarized by Pearce (2015) – see Table 1, summarized them and lined them up according to the frequency in which they appeared during interviews (number of RTOs’ representatives who mentioned them).

Results and discussion

According to Pearce’s summarization, the top three most cited functions of DMO in analyzed case studies were: 1. destination marketing, branding and positioning, 2. relationship building/coordination/facilitation and 3. product development/development activities (Pearce 2015).
Results of our research among 35 RTOs in Slovakia showed that these are exactly the three most mentioned roles of RTOs which RTOs’ representatives mentioned during interviews. Destination marketing, branding and positioning were mentioned by 26 representatives (Pearce’s order: number 1), product development/development activities were mentioned by 24 representatives (Pearce’s order: number 3) and relationship building/coordination/facilitation were mentioned by representatives of 18 RTOs (Pearce’s order: number 2). All functions of RTOs (summarized by Pearce as DMO functions) together with number of regional tourism organizations, representatives of which mentioned the functions when identifying the role of their organization are shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Function and role of RTOs according to RTOs’ representatives
Source: Authors

We have already mentioned the top three RTOs’ functions mentioned by RTO’s representatives. The order of other functions (according to the number of RTOs’ representatives who mentioned the function when identifying the role of their RTO) was following: information provision and reservations was mentioned by 8 representatives, representatives of 4 RTOs mentioned destination planning, strategy formulation, monitoring and evaluation as well as human resource development and training. Three interviewees mentioned destination management when answering about role of their organization and functions: quality assurance, business support and enhance well-being of destination residents were mentioned by 2 representatives. Service provision and coordination was mentioned by representative of only 1 RTO. The other functions (resource stewardship, environmental management, research, information management and knowledge-building, visitor management, managing the visitor experience, policy making or enforcement, assistance with accessing finance) did not mention any of the representatives.

Role of RTOs by RTOs’ representatives

We have already mentioned that in literature there are different points of view on what to understand by abbreviation DMO – destination management organization, destination marketing organization or destination management and marketing organization. The reason seems to be the fact that often destination marketing is considered as a key function of DMO. This fact was confirmed by results of our research among 35 RTOs in Slovakia. 26 of the RTOs’ representatives consider destination marketing as their key function when talking about role of their organization. This means that RTOs put a lot of effort as well as financial and human resources on promotion of their destinations. They create printed promotional materials, promote destinations on tourism fairs and exhibitions, they create and manage destinations’ webpages, communicate with visitors through social media like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, pay for advertisement in television, radio, newspapers and magazines, advertisement on billboards as well as for online advertisement. Some of RTOs also create and manage destination mobile applications.
Second most mentioned function among RTOs’ representatives when identifying the role of RTO was product development and development activities which was mentioned by representatives of 24 RTOs. RTOs create products like information and promotional materials as very simple but very important product. They organize events, construct routes like hiking and cycling routes, cross-country trails, via ferratas, educational trails and necessary equipment like sightseeing towers, panoramic maps, telescopes, etc. Some RTOs also create, manage and sell regional card, organize sightseeing tours and buses like ski-buses, tour-buses, bike-buses. RTOs also organize and sell thematic trips and create regional games (Marišová and Smolková 2020). In this way RTOs are able to enrich the destination offer, improve its competitiveness, create some income by selling some of the products and contribute to the destination development (by construction of routes, educational trails, sightseeing towers, etc.) Besides the construction of routes, RTOs are also responsible for their maintenance.
Relationship building, coordination and facilitation was the third most mentioned RTOs’ function which was mentioned by 18 RTOs’ representatives when talking about role of their organization. RTOs’ managers realize the need for cooperation among entities within the destination and thus try to support relationship building (especially among organizations’ members since each RTO has members from public sector, private sector and other members). This varies among destinations due to the fact that in each destination different resources (financial and human) are available and so options which RTOs have also vary. Despite that, RTOs realize that their role is to coordinate entities in destination and try to build and improve relationships among them.
Obtained results are also supported by visualization of key words got from answers to the question “What is the role of your organization?” asked during interviews. This visualization is shown in Figure 1 (the font size of key words depends on the frequency of the keyword in which it appeared in answers of RTOs’ representatives). We can see that the words that appeared most frequently in the answers are: destination, members, marketing, products and region. These words correspond with the three RTOs’ functions most mentioned by RTOs’ representatives.

Figure 1: Visualization of key words from answers about role of RTOs
Source: Authors

Role of RTOs – What are the shortcomings?

Results of our research also show the shortcomings in the perception of the RTOs’ role. For instance, only 3 RTOs’ representatives stated that destination management belongs to their role. There can be two reasons for this: 1. RTOs’ representatives do not consider destination management as role of their organization or 2. they consider other functions which they mentioned as part of destination management and thus did not mention destination management separately. Only 4 representatives mentioned destination planning, strategy formulation, monitoring and evaluation when identifying the role of their RTO. Lack of understanding of the importance of strategy in destination management by RTOs’ representatives together with the consequences which it brings was mentioned in the article by Marišová, Smolková and Vaľko entitled Strategic Planning in Destination Management: Do Slovak Destination Management Organizations Realize the Need for Strategic Planning? (Marišová, Smolková and Vaľko 2020) and was confirmed by results of our research. Destinations have to be strategically managed and RTOs should set goals which they want to reach and create plans how to reach the goals. Otherwise they face problems with lack of members as well as lack of financial and human resources.
Further we see great room for improvement in the following (when talking about RTOs’ role): quality assurance was mentioned by only 2 representatives. RTOs as tourism authority in destination should control the quality level so it is able to ensure quality services for visitors. Research, information management and knowledge-building was not mentioned by any RTO’s representative. RTOs should regularly do research in order to get necessary data for decision making, management and marketing. Data could help RTO to choose the suitable promotional methods, to create the right products and manage the destination as successfully as possible.
When demonstrating our findings we have to take into consideration the limitations which our research and results had: for instance the information gained during interviews could have been incomplete or a certain degree of subjectivity in answers might have appeared which should always be taken into account when using the in-depth interview method. Despite the identified research limitations we think that we have reached the paper’s goal.

Conclusion

Results of our research supported the theories that the main function of DMOs is destination marketing what causes differences in views on understanding of the abbreviation DMO. Due to the fact that destination marketing is usually considered as main DMO function, many authors refer to DMO as a destination marketing organization. Research results showed that 26 out of 35 RTOs’ representatives mentioned marketing when talking about role of their RTOs. However, using the term destination marketing organization could be confusing due to the fact that besides destination marketing, RTOs’ representatives mentioned other functions when identifying the RTO’s role. The other two most frequently mentioned functions were a) product development and development activities and b) relationship building, coordination and facilitation. That means that RTOs can be mainly considered as marketers of destination. RTOs are also development agents who are responsible for destination development and products creation. Besides that, they are also coordinators and relationship builders who motivate entities operating in the destination to cooperate, who coordinate them and in that way contribute to destination development. On the other side, research results showed that for instance planning and strategy formulation, destination management, quality assurance or research and information management do not belong to the main functions mentioned by RTOs’ representatives when identifying the role of RTOs which means that they do not consider RTOs as strategic destination managers, quality controllers or researchers and information managers.

Poznámky/Notes

This contribution was supported by the VEGA research project no. 1/0737/20 „Consumer literacy and intergenerational changes in consumer preferences when purchasing Slovak product “, which is solved at the Department of Marketing, Faculty of Management, Comenius University in Bratislava.

Literatúra/List of References

[1] Act No 91/2010 Collection of Law of Slovak Republic on the Support of Tourism.
[2] Beritelli, P. and Laesser, Ch., 2014. Getting the cash-cow directors on board – An alternative view on financing DMOs. In: Journal of Destination Marketing & Management. 2014, 2(4), pp. 213-220. ISSN 2212-571X.
[3] Bieger, T., 1998. Reengineering destination marketing organisations – The case of Switzerland. In: 33RD TRC-MEETING BRIJUNI, Croatia, 1998. [online]. [cit. 2020-05-15]. Available at: <https://www.alexandria.unisg.ch/14221/1/ReengeneeringCh.pdf>
[4] Bornhorst, T., Brent Ritchie, J. R. and Sheehan, L., 2010. Determinants of tourism success for DMOs & destinations: An empirical examination of stakeholders’ perspectives. In: Tourism Management. 2010, 31(5), pp. 572-573. ISSN 0261-5177.
[5] Gajdošík, T., et al., 2017. Innovations and networking fostering tourist destination development in Slovakia. In: Quaestiones Geographicae. 2017, 36(4), pp. 103-115. ISSN 2081-6383.
[6] Hesková, M., et al., 2011. Cestovní ruch. Praha: Fortuna, 2011. p. 153. ISBN 978-80-7373-107-6.
[7] Longjit, Ch. and Pearce, D. G., 2013. Managing a mature coastal destination: Pattaya, Thailand. In: Journal of Destination Marketing & Management. 2013, 2(3), pp. 165-175. ISSN 2212-571X.
[8] Marišová, B. and Smolková, E., 2020. Product creation in destination management – What types of products do regional tourism organizations in Slovakia offer? 2020. Unpublished contribution to the conference proceedings. In: 1st International Student Conference „Days of Management and Economics Students 2020”.
[9] Marišová, B., Smolková, E. and Vaľko, L., 2020. Strategic planning in destination management: Do Slovak destination management organizations realize the need for strategic planning? 2020. Unpublished contribution to the conference proceedings In: International Scientific Conference „Horizonty podnikateľského prostredia V”.
[10] Morrison, A. M., 2019. Marketing and managing tourism destinations. Abingdon: Routledge, 2019, p. 8. ISBN 978-1-138-89729-8.
[11] Olšavský, F. Marketing územných jednotiek v kontexte komunálnych volieb. In: Marketing Science and Inspirations. 2014, 9(4), 43-57. ISSN 1338-7944.
[12] Palatková, M., 2011. Marketingový management destinací. Praha: Grada Publishing, 2011, p. 11, 52. ISBN 978-80-247-3749-2.
[13] Pearce, D. G., 2015. Destination management in New Zealand: Structures and functions. In: Journal of Destination Marketing & Management. 2015, 4(1), pp. 1-12. ISSN 2212-571X.
[14] Pike, S. and Page, S. J., 2014. Destination marketing organizations and destination marketing: A narrative analysis of the literature. In: Tourism Management. 2014, 41, p. 202-227. ISSN 0261-5177.
[15] UNWTO. Conceptual framework. Market intelligence and competitiveness, 2002. [online]. [cit. 2018-12-03]. Available at: <http://marketintelligence.unwto.org/content/conceptual-framework-0>
[16] UNWTO, 2007. A practical guide to tourism destination management. Madrid: World Tourism Organization, 2007, p. 4. ISBN 978-92-844-1243-3.
[17] Vystoupil, J. and Šauer, M., 2006. Základy cestovního ruchu: distanční studijní opora. Brno: Masarykova univerzita, Ekonomicko-správní fakulta, 2006, p. 121. ISBN 80-210-4205-2.
[18] Wang, Y., 2008. Collaborative destination marketing: roles and strategies of convention and visitors bureaus, 2008. In: Wang, Y. and Pizam, A., 2011. Destination marketing and management: Theories and applications. Wallingford: CAB International, 2011, p. 10. ISBN 978-1-84593-762-1.

Kľúčové slová/Key Words

destination, destination management, destination management organization, destination marketing, regional tourism organization
destinácia, destinačný manažment, organizácie destinačného manažmentu, destinačný marketing, regionálna turistická organizácia

JEL klasifikácia/JEL Classification

L83, M31, Z30, Z33

Résumé

Úloha oblastných organizácií cestovného ruchu na Slovensku z ich perspektívy

Autori zaoberajúci sa destinačným manažmentom poukazujú na rôzne funkcie organizácií destinačného manažmentu a prezentujú rôzne pohľady na ich úlohu v systéme cestovného ruchu. Avšak doposiaľ nebolo preskúmané, ako svoju úlohu vnímajú samotné organizácie. Príspevok skúma pohľad oblastných organizácií cestovného ruchu (OOCR) na Slovensku, ktoré môžu byť považované za organizácie destinačného manažmentu v slovenských podmienkach, na ich úlohu v rozvoji cestovného ruchu. Do výskumu bolo zahrnutých 35 OOCR z celkového počtu 37. Výsledky výskumu poukázali na to, že OOCR za svoju úlohu považujú hlavne marketing ich destinácie, rozvoj cestovného ruchu v destinácii, tvorbu produktov cestovného ruchu, či budovanie vzťahov medzi subjektmi pôsobiacimi v destinácii, ich koordináciu a podporu. Na druhej strane výsledky výskumu poukázali na to, že OOCR za svoju úlohu nepovažujú napríklad plánovanie spolu s tvorbou stratégie, destinačný manažment, zabezpečenie a garanciu kvality služieb v destinácii, či marketingový výskum a manažment informácií.

Kontakt na autorov/Address

Mgr. Barbora Marišová, Comenius University in Bratislava, Faculty of Management, Department of Marketing, Odbojárov 10, P. O. BOX 95, 820 05 Bratislava 25, Slovak Republic, e-mail: [email protected]

doc. PhDr. Eva Smolková, CSc., Comenius University in Bratislava, Faculty of Management, Department of Marketing, Odbojárov 10, P. O. BOX 95, 820 05 Bratislava 25, Slovak Republic, e-mail: [email protected]

Recenzované/Reviewed

20. May 2020 / 28. May 2020