Embracing public participation in destination governance

The Time for DMOcracy project was conceptualized, initiated, and launched by Group NAO in Dec 2021, in search of new, more inclusive, and participatory approaches in the governance and development of tourism. With a collaborative approach, the project explores different ways of citizen engagement in destination governance and the role of DMOs as part of that.  

The first edition of DMOcracy was concluded in January 2023 with the publication of a white paper that covers the extensive research and project findings related to citizen engagement and new approaches to destination governance: 

State of DMOcracy Today – To understand the status quo of citizen participation in today’s visitor economies, a transatlantic survey of tourism authorities and destination organisations (DMOs) is conducted. The findings show that citizen engagement is seen as important to strategizing a sustainable visitor economy, yet DMOs also report challenges of engagement – including bringing out conflict within the community and other complexities.

8 Participatory Approaches of DMOcracy The Time for DMOcracy White Paper identifies 8 approaches to participation in tourism. While some approaches are widespread, others are only practised by few leading destinations:

  1. Resident Sentiment and Citizen Science  
  2. Strategizing and Ideation  
  3. Digital Engagement and Online Participation  
  4. Citizen Assemblies, Councils and Panels  
  5. Participatory Place Branding and Storytelling  
  6. Placemaking by Community  
  7. Volunteering for Tourism Welcome  
  8. Community Funding and Participatory Budgeting

More case studies in the white paper demonstrate how DMOcracy unfolds in practice. 

The Fluid Role of DMOs in DMOcracy – Lastly, Time for DMOcracy challenges the conventional roles of destination organisations and calls for a more fluid approach to the role and function of the organisations. The fluid DMO model outlines a spectrum of different responsibilities that the DMO could undertake in different contexts of DMOcracy: 

  1. The DMO as gatekeeper, advocate, and/or expert that promotes the value of tourism
  2. The DMO as participant, observer, and/or marketer that balances community interests with tourism interests 
  3. The DMO as supporter, storyteller, and/or co-creator that invites collaboration for better tourism 
  4. The DMO as mediator, facilitator, and/or initiator that contributes to community efforts & priorities for better tourism  


  • 22 European destination partners 
  • 20 North American destination partners 
  • See all partners on project website linked below. 


  • Miles Partnership, North American project lead  
  • Global Destination Sustainability Movement 
  • The Travel Foundation 
  • TCI Research 
  • City Destinations Alliance 
  • University of Surrey 


Group NAO conceptualised, led and partnered the project, carried out extensive research and destination interviews, curated a series of webinars and online learning labs, DMO survey, best practice case studies, and a 2-day bootcamp in Copenhagen as well as a one-day Learning Lab in Toronto to explore participatory design and practice in destination management. 


Find out more about Time for DMOcracy project: https://timefordmocracy.com/ 
Access Time for DMOcracy white paper here 
Access Time for DMOcracy tool kits here 

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