Is 'Visit Wales' a story of success or another example of the habitual failure of destination management systems?
Destination Management Systems (DMSs) have had a chequered history, with only a few which have been perceived as successful. The habitual failure of DMSs and criticisms of the assumptions of the benefits accruing to Small and Medium Tourism Enterprises (SMEs) from DMS representation must put a question mark over the wisdom of DMS developments. In 200l, the Wales Tourist Board (WTB) signed a $3 million contract with World.Net (an Australian company) to build a strategically focused DMS. This study aims to identify generic guidelines for the implementation of a successful DMS and to evaluate if the WTB has successfully achieved its intended aim of marketing the tourism businesses in Wales to a wider market through VisitWales - Wales' first DMS.
The advent of the Web has created strategic opportunities and challenges for destination management organizations (DMOs) and persuaded many involved in destination marketing to implement DMSs and promote SMEs in their regions. The thesis explores a typology of DMSs, their funding models, their 'raison d'être', their development, the challenges they face and critical success factors. The literature review culminates with an organising framework enabling further exploration of DMSs operating currently in the different parts of the world.
A research string of constructionism (epistemology) - interpretivism (theoretical perspective) - case study (methodology) is used to study the DMS phenomenon and to provide an understanding of different perspectives of key stakeholder groups using DMSs. Semi-structured interviews, document and website analysis, on-line survey, both participant and non-participant observation and discourse analysis, are used as tools for the development of the case study. Subsequently, discourse analysis has been used to go beyond the face value of what is said or written and enable a deeper exploration of the power structures and the political element influencing DMSs.
The thesis examines some contemporary DMSs including visitsouthwest.co.uk, Tiscover.com, Purenz.com, VisitScotland.com along with VisitWales as separate case studies, focuses on their development and their perceptions of success and failure. The thesis presents generic guidelines for the successful implementation of DMSs. In attempting to explain why the majority of the DMS initiatives appear to have failed despite heavy investment, it suggests a wider political agenda influencing DMSs.
It is concluded that success in implementing DMSs is attributable to a number of critical factors. These include: needs analysis, consultation, commitment of funding, co-operation of stakeholders, appropriate technology and investment in training. It is impossible to exclude the political element in the development of DMSs. Investment in DMSs is vested with a positive outcome as they are deemed to be effectively collaborating and distributing the fragmented SMEs, increasing both destination and SME competitiveness. However, this study challenges this view and recommends that a hard look should be taken at the financial implications and the political context within which they operate.