Who you work with plays a vital role in the travel industry – not only to deliver the right offering to the right audience, but also to provide the best possible experience to travellers. Choosing a DMC in a foreign country can be a daunting task, but by keeping a few non-negotiables in mind, it becomes far less formidable. Tourism Update spoke to several DMCs to get their advice on how to select the best partner.

DMCs are the eyes and ears of the overseas travel agent and tour operator, says Martin Wiest, CEO of Tourvest Destination Management. Considering this alone, partnering with the correct DMC becomes vital. Add to that that tourism is not just based on destination attractiveness but flawless service and unique experiences, and it becomes tantamount to ensuring travellers are returning with a smile on their face.

“It’s simple, really: the core reasons for having a DMC ‘in country’ need to be consistently met,” says Wiest. “The DMC differentiator is the ability to deal with complexity, customisation and volume alike.”

The three Rs

Look for a DMC that is reliable, relevant and revolutionary. “Without those there is little motivation to make use of an intermediary in the booking process,” says Wiest.

Reliable translates to a long track record that brings with it experience, industry connectivity and stability. “Experience to call upon stakeholders when needed. Connectivity to make things happen and financial stability to weather storms,” he explains.

Andre Laget, Managing Director of Akilanga, agrees and says the solvency of a DMC should also be at the top of any checklist. “Choose a company that is financially stable. Speak to references and make sure you know what you are dealing with.”

Accuracy, competitiveness and presence create a case for relevance, says Wiest. “A DMC must add value through its strength and reputation in the industry, underpinned by skilled experts to fulfil travel arrangements.”

According to Angela Iacovazzo, Head of Global Sales and Product Development at Touch Down DMC, local relevance in each destination is also important. “Experience and presence in the local market you are targeting are essential for delivery,” she says.

Gavin Rennie, Director of Off2Africa, believes the best option is to choose an in-country DMC, “who lives, breathes, knows and travels their country, and who is respected and has the correct relationships in the trade is extremely important”. “No one knows the country better than someone who is immersed in it and lives in it every day. It also goes beyond that too, and this is particularly true in Africa. Knowing and understanding the culture and people make a massive difference.”  Lacovazzo also highlights adequate resources and reputation.

For Laget, looking for aspects such as creativity and innovation are also important factors. “It is a highly competitive market and being able to continuously up your game and improve your offering does bring a certain advantage.”

A modern DMC, says Wiest, must also be revolutionary at times and willing to implement game-changing technology that could still be somewhat experimental.

Relationships

“Being a DMC is all about the transparent stakeholder relationship that exists between us, our clients in international markets and our supply chain of products,” says Suzanne Benadie, Sales Director at Tourvest DMC. “We manage relationships based on honesty, integrity, loyalty and the value we add to the relationships we hold. It’s vital that we maintain longevity in markets, drawing on our experience to do so.” It is essential when choosing a DMC, says Lacovazzo, to look for one that has solid relationships and partnerships in place.

“A DMC must have partnerships with reputable suppliers and strong working relationships with the contacts in those organisations, giving them the ability to select the best possible products and services to offer their clientele.”

Relationships also extend to that between the DMC and the agents it serves internationally. This approach, says Laget, ensures the DMC truly understands the needs of the company and requirements of travellers it is working with. “It goes a long way in ensuring the right fit between companies, which ultimately leads to happy travellers,” he says.

When it comes to the Italian market, for example, says Debora Maestroni, Market Manager for Italy at Tourvest DMC, personal contact is a critical factor for operators when choosing a DMC, as are trust and confidence in that representative. “Having the personal contact with a DMC allows them to have the care that the Italian market searches for when they make a choice. They enjoy having a ‘go to person’ who speaks their language and understands the culture.”

According to Rennie the importance of relationships is often highlighted not in the good times, but when things go wrong.

“Choose a DMC that is well placed to choose the best experiences, that goes over and beyond and has the knowledge, experience and relationships to deal with challenges when things go wrong.”

Know the facts

When it comes to DMC choice, not only is it necessary to know exactly what you are getting for the money you are paying, but also who its other clients are. “The company must be able to provide all the services that you require. Not all DMCs are able to do this as some are very niched,” says Laget. “It is also pertinent to know who their clients are as they might be servicing a direct competitor and be offering everyone the same product.”

Andrea Schaffner, Market Manager for North America at Tourvest DMC, says it is important to ask several key questions when appointing a DMC to ensure you have all the facts at hand. This should include “do they have the capacity to deal with my enquiries?”, “what is their buying power in Southern Africa?”, “do they offer my guests financial security?” and “are they on top of industry trends and remaining relevant through their product offering?”.

“To partner with the correct DMC is vital in the tourism industry as we don’t sell tangible products but an intangible service and, for that, one needs to have absolute trust that the DMC understands the requirements and delivers on it,” says Sabine Blehle, CEO of GoVacation Africa.

The best questions to ask a potential DMC, says Wiest, are those that will make up your needs for entrusting a DMC. “Be open and honest about it,” he says.

And don’t just focus on the price being offered. It’s a common mistake often made to purely base the decision on choosing a DMC on price, says Blehle. “Look at the value proposition of the DMC with regard to service offering and securities as well as stability versus price. Technology capability and development should also be factored into your decision.”