A cooperative approach to destination development is required to achieve success. Visitors are much more likely to visit an area if they have a clear image of that area and its identity, and if businesses in the area fit with this identity and promote their product accordingly. This approach will help achieve standout for the destination.
1.1 Identify key stakeholders in the destination area
The first step is to identify relevant key businesses and organisations and to establish a working destination development group. Ideally, this group should have approximately 12 people in order to be effective, but this number will vary depending on the destination.
For example, the group could include representatives from the Local Authority, Leader Company, County Enterprise Board, Údaras na Gaeltachta, key tourism businesses and other key businesses, or business entrepreneurs within the destination. It could be a group that is already in existence, for example a marketing or community group that recruits new members, or it may be a totally new group.
Following Step 2, others may need to be recruited and added to the group. Individuals can also be added at certain times for specific actions, as they are identified through the work of the group.
Do not limit the members to only those involved in pure tourism businesses. Other individuals, such as restaurant owners and shopping centre managers, could be very relevant to the group and have worthwhile ideas for developing the full visitor experience. In addition, other companies will likely benefit from increased business as the destination develops and visitor numbers increase.
In addition to this, an attempt should be made to map the destination area. Drawing the area on a map can highlight further opportunities, such as attractions located just outside the area initially considered that could be included.
1.2 Review plans and strategies
A review should be undertaken of all local strategies and plans which the destination plan needs to link into and complement. These could include the tourism section of the County Development Plan or Local Area Plan, a Leader Development Plan, or other Agency plan for an area. It is unlikely that these plans will correlate exactly with the destination area. This exercise could be undertaken by consultants, or even a local college.
1.3 Meet key stakeholders and establish partnerships
Partnership is central to destination development. For this reason, it is important to meet the key stakeholders in the destination to begin developing a shared vision in advance of beginning work on the destination plan. These meetings can be one-to-one with each agency, before identifying those who will form part of the destination development group.
1.4 Build trust, credibility and understanding of the value of a destination plan
It is important to demonstrate that a destination plan can benefit all involved by encouraging individuals to work together to achieve a shared vision for the area. Ideally, involvement of the wider community, including school children, college students, community and voluntary groups, should be encouraged. This involvement could amount to a simple thing, such as a primary school project on the destination (examining what the area is known for, what people come to see and do and what needs to be developed in the future). This will help also to inform parents and others of the destination plan identity and vision.