What is a DMC in Travel?

July 8, 2024

DMC, which stands for destination management companies, is one of many (many, many, many) travel acronyms out there. 

If you’re wondering what the heck a DMC is and how they function in the wide world of travel, you are in the right place! 

We’ll cover:

  1. What is a DMC?
  2. Where do DMCs fit in the overall travel ecosystem?
  3. How do DMCs work with travel advisors?

What Is a Destination Management Company?

A Destination Management Company is an in-destination travel business with deep knowledge of the country, region, or locality it represents. With its expansive and deep-rooted knowledge of a particular destination, DMCs are uniquely positioned to create unique and culturally immersive trips working with local land operators such as guides, lodging providers, transport providers and more.DMCs, due to their regional specialization, may also be referred to as “on-sites.”

DMCs most commonly work with inbound travelers, which are travelers that are coming into the destination from a different country or region (e.g. travelers from the United States or Peru would be considered inbound travelers to a DMC located in Ecuador). 

DMCs may connect with inbound travelers in any of the following ways: B2C (business to consumer, selling directly to the consumer); B2B (business to business, selling trips to travel agencies or tour operators, who then sell the trips to travelers); or both. 

Their locality uniquely positions DMCs to offer specialized, customized, and culturally immersive trips for travelers, whether it’s one segment of a trip (a local transfer, accommodation, or activity) or an entire FIT or tour. 

Additionally, with representation in the destination, they are also able to offer travelers on-the-ground support if issues arise during travel.

Support & Service-Oriented

With their ability to tailor trips and offer on-the-ground support, DMCs are positioned to be extremely service-oriented. During travel, they can offer on-the-ground direct support to travelers. This can be ideal if there’s an issue during travel as it minimizes communication and increases responsiveness to issues that may arise during travel. 

As such, they provide a critical link between local land operators (suppliers that offer a single service such as transportation or activities) and the booking agent – whether it’s a tour operator, a travel agency or an individual traveler. 

Where do DMCs Fit in the Travel Ecosystem?

Some DMCs work directly with clients (B2C), some work only with travel agencies or tour operators (B2B), and some may sell to both. 

DMCs offer a link between local travel companies and travel businesses or individual travelers, while tour operators and travel advisors are the link between the DMCs (their breadth of knowledge) and their client base. 

The image below illustrates the DMC’s role in the travel ecosystem, serving as a connection between in-destination tour operators to the travel distributors.1  

DMC Role in the travel ecosystem


How Is a DMC Different from a Tour Operator? 

While larger tour operators may cover dozens (or even hundreds) of different travel destinations across continents, what makes DMCs distinct is that they are much more specialized, with boots on the ground in the destination they represent. 

Here’s how some of these differences come into play.

Specialization

As referenced earlier, DMCs are regionally focused whereas tour operators may cover destinations more broadly. In this way, a DMC may fall under the umbrella of a tour operator. (DMCs are always a type of tour operator but a tour operator is not always a DMC.)

Tailored Itineraries

DMCs are typically more flexible than larger tour operators. They can use their relationships with land operators to put together and customize the puzzle pieces of an entire trip. This flexibility and customization is another thing that differentiates them from larger tour operators, which are more often limited to pre-set itineraries. 

Marketing & Branding

Since they are rooted in destination with a focus on building local relationships with travel suppliers to create and customize itineraries, DMCs often do not have the resources or bandwidth to prioritize marketing their services to inbound travelers (especially with a global reach).

Conversely, tour operators and travel advisors selling multiple types of travel and destinations likely don’t have the bandwidth to invest the time, resources, or locality to research and build knowledge of specific destinations in the way a DMC can.

This is where partnering with travel advisors and tour operators can fill this need. DMCs may leverage their relationships with travel advisors and tour operators may function as a de facto “marketing arm” for a DMC’s services in order to foster a more global reach. When a DMC arranges an itinerary it may be “white-gloved” (or branded to) the tour operator who is selling the trip. 

In this way, a DMC is comparable to a freelance writer. A company can hire a writer to create content for a single page on their website, or to customize their entire website. Regardless of the scope, the content is tailored and attributed to the company it is created for. 

Similarly, DMCs can provide a few segments of a trip (a single blog on a site) or create an entire custom itinerary (create an entire website) that can be branded and marketed as a service provided by the tour operator. 

Where Can You Find DMCs for a Trip?

When it comes to finding the best DMC for a trip, how you find them depends on who you are! 

How Travelers can find DMCs

The best way for a traveler to find the best DMC for their vacation is to connect with a travel advisor. Specifically, travelers will want to find a travel advisor who specializes in building FIT trips (aka trips customized to the needs of the traveler). 

You can search for advisors using ASTA’s (American Society of Travel Advisors) advanced advisor search filter. When you search for a type of travel, the best way to find advisors who specialize in working with DMCs is to select “Customized Itinerary.” 

Image of ASTA (American Society of Travel Advisors) website indicating with a red circled text to choose "Customized Itinerary" under "Type of Advisor" dropdown..


How Travel Advisors can find DMCs

When it comes to travel advisors connecting with DMCs, there are multiple pathways you can pursue. Here’s a few tips on how to find DMCs to work with to plan your client’s trip.

  1. Host Agency or Consortium preferred partners: Finding DMCs that are preferred with your host or consortia ensure they have been vetted by companies you are aligned with.
  2. Trusted FIT Solutions: A directory of DMC providers that are vetted based on financials, insurance, and future sales. 
  3. Adventure Travel and Trade Association (ATTA) member directory: DMCs will be listed as “tour operators” (the umbrella term) in ATTA’s directory. However, the ATTA specializes in boutique tour operators including DMCs who provide tailored itineraries. If you are searching for DMCs that focus on active travel in specific regions, this is a great channel for you!
  4. Travel Events & Tradeshows: Attending travel events is a great way to meet with DMC reps in person. Focus on looking for events with supplier round tables, trade shows, and/or panels that address working with DMCs. 

Overwhelmed by Travel Terms and Flowcharts? We Hear You and We’re Here for You. 

If you looked at our flowchart and felt like you were tangled up in all the industry relationships, you are not alone! While you now know the basics on DMCs, there’s a ton more out there to learn if you’re thinking about becoming a travel agent.


Want to learn more? You’re in the right place. We're always happy to help answer questions. Drop your questions in the comments below or tune in to our Friday 15 podcast, where we answer the questions you've sent our way. :)

If you know you’re serious and really want to get your leaning on, check out our 7 Day Setup Accelerator course. Our digestible on-demand video tutorials, custom resource, and peer community (yes, with real live instructor support!) will help you cut through the noise and start connecting with those DMCs and other travel suppliers in no time.  

7DS Accelerator


Footnotes

  1. The image provided represents examples of trips segments and distributors! Other types of travel companies may also provide trip segments or package and sell itineraries. These are just some of the more common examples.
About the Author
Mary Stein - Host Agency Reviews

Mary Stein

Mary Stein has been working as a writer and editor for Host Agency Reviews since 2016. She loves supporting travel advisors on their entrepreneurial journey and is inspired by their passion, tenacity, and creativity. Mary is also a mom, dog lover, fiction writer, hiker, and a Great British Bake Off superfan.