The Government is to reform England’s Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) with a new core funding package of £4m.

The new funding model will make it easier for both leisure tourist and event organisers to find the right location and to learn more about an area through a new accreditation scheme. As a result, DMOs will be renamed Local Visitor Economy Partnerships (LVEPs).

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has said it wants a “simpler structure” where DMOs, often known as tourism boards, are a “one-stop shop”.

In 2021, an independent review into DMOs was carried out by the chair of VisitEngland’s Advisory Board Nick de Bois, who found that the landscape is over-crowded and fragmented. At present, there are 46 DMOs of all shapes and sizes in the South-East alone, which makes it confusing for event organisers, tourists, businesses looking to invest.

The DCMS will provide £4m over the next three years to fund the new accreditation scheme, developed and administered by VisitEngland, for the highest performing DMOs.

This funding will also be used to create a pilot in one region of the country, giving one top-tier DMO or a group of local DMOs the opportunity and investment to restructure under a new model, to show the best their region has to offer.

Currently, DMOs are funded differently across England, with some supported by local authorities and others requiring private funding, either through membership, sponsorship, or fee structure.

In an events context, DMOs are often vital in booking accommodation, venue-sourcing, supplier connection, and helping plan incentive activities.

Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “Our brilliant tourism sector is vital to our levelling-up agenda. It creates jobs, helps drive local economies and promotes pride in place, making villages, towns and cities more attractive to visit, live and work in.

“This new scheme will show people where to visit and help them plan the best possible trip, supporting our tourism industry to be bigger and better than before.”

Economic value

At their best, DMOs can make a real difference to their local areas. For example, Visit Cornwall helped to secure over £40m investment for its Eden Project, which has welcomed more than 18m visitors and generated £2bn for the South West.

Marketing Manchester has generated almost £400m a year for its local economy in visitor spend as well as promoting new international air routes, and Cumbria Tourism was instrumental in winning the coveted UNESCO World Heritage Status for the Lake District National Park.

VisitEngland’s director Andrew Stokes welcomed the Government’s response to the de Bois review of DMOs in England and the opportunity to play a part in implementing the recommendations. “DMOs are a vital part of England’s tourism landscape, connecting with local businesses and Government agencies to attract investment and visitors across the regions, boosting the visitor economy,” he said.

“We look forward to implementing the accreditation scheme and the Destination Development Partnership pilot, ensuring we have the right national and local infrastructure to enable England to continue to be a compelling destination for domestic and international visitors. This will also strengthen the case for future funding.”

Malcolm Bell, chief executive, VisitCornwall, said that there had been a growing, and more recently, urgent need to ensure that the tourist board structure in England is fit for purpose for the challenges facing the visitor economy in the coming decades.

He added: “These partnerships between the private and public sectors, will ensure coordinated domestic and overseas marketing, delivering increased productivity and improving  the quality of employment through tackling seasonality, capitalising on business tourism,  whilst making significant progress on net zero and regenerative tourism developments that are key for the future success of the sector.”

International investment

Sheona Southern, managing director, Marketing  Manchester, said that it has long recognised that there needs to be better connection between national policy and local delivery and that she hoped that this initiative will be the start of creating an effective tourism structure required to make England competitive globally and put tourism at the centre of local policy making.

Meanwhile, Gill Haigh, managing director, Cumbria Tourism, said: “DMOs are the glue that bring together the huge array of parties in an area that make up its visitor economy. There has been overwhelming support for the outcomes of the De Bois review which really captured the opportunities to sustainably grow our visitor economy, as well as some of the barriers, but importantly offered Government a clear route forward.

“Cumbria Tourism therefore welcomes the announcement from Government today that it intends to simplify and strengthen the structure and looks forward to hearing the finer detail and to ensure we can maximise our potential and work with DCMS, Visit England and partners locally to support sustainable visitor growth, investment and business support.”