For this first episode in a special two-part series of Destination on the Left episodes, I visited the Destinations International 2022 Annual Convention and spoke with several attendees who are experts in the travel and tourism industry. These convention attendees share valuable insights, and the common thread woven through our conversations was the importance of building strong relationships and partnerships for the future of destination marketing. I’m excited to share these mini-interviews, and I’m sure you’ll find them invaluable in navigating your destinations’ challenges. The brilliance each of these leaders shared is certain to be invaluable as we continue to navigate the pandemic.
In this episode, you’ll hear from these extraordinary leaders:
- Barry Biggar – President and CEO of Visit Fairfax
- Beth Gendler – President and CEO of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism
- Celestino Ruffini – CEO of Visit Beloit
- Dave Herrell – President and CEO of Visit Quad Cities
- Deana Ivey – President of Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp
- Dominic Bravo – CEO of Visit Cheyenne
- Jason Outman – CEO of Explore Branson
- Kelly Groff – President and CEO of Visit Montgomery
- Lance Woodworth – President and CEO of Destination Toledo
- Lindsey Steck – Marketing and Communications Manager for Visit Pensacola
Insights on the Future of Destination Marketing at the Destinations International 2022 Annual Convention
The Destinations International Annual Convention is a memorable industry event that brings together marketing specialists focusing on the travel and tourism industry to exchange ideas, share strategies and forge relationships. In 2022 the convention continued to focus on cultivating the need for marketers to take an innovative approach to overcoming the problems the industry has faced over the last two years and how they can continue to serve their communities. I was delighted to be able to speak to ten experts in the field about building successful partnerships, how to move through shared challenges, and get their insights on what they think the future of destination marketing will look like.
Barry Biggar of Visit Fairfax
Barry shares how the creation of the Northern Virginia Visitors Consortium has helped Visit Fairfax tap into visitors to Washington DC and how together, they can make a more significant difference in their region. He goes on to describe what Visit Fairfax does to continue to be relevant and the valuable lesson about connecting with the residents of the local communities that the pandemic taught them.
Beth Gendler of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism
Beth shares a recent example of a partnership with the local Fire Department Beach Safety Team that has worked well for her organization to improve the beach experience for visitors to the area. She also shares why workforce development is a problem for Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism, how the pandemic exacerbated the problem, and their amazing education solution enabling them to move through the challenge and still provide their fabled southern hospitality.
Celestino Ruffini of Visit Beloit
Celestino explains the number one challenge for Visit Beloit, why community engagement is so low, and how his team is trying to ensure that residents feel connected to the travel and tourism industry. He highlights the reasons why he would use the word ‘visionary’ to describe the Destinations International Annual Convention, not least because of the wonderful opportunities to share plans and strategies with others in the travel and tourism industry.
Dave Herrell of Visit Quad Cities
Dave details how Visit Quad Cities has collaborated to elevate their community by aligning more strongly with the Chamber of Commerce to create a tourism master plan through their new regional brand initiative, QC, That’s Where. We also discuss why the Destinations International Annual Convention is a fantastic chance to connect with colleagues and take back so many valuable golden nuggets of information, inspiration, and insight to his community.
Deana Ivey of Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp
Deana discusses why the key to partnerships is going into it as a long-term relationship, not just a one-off. She shares why her organization goes into relationships like they’re a marriage to be in it together and help each other out and describes why Jack Daniels has been a fantastic partner of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp for 30 years. We also dive into why a large part of the future of the travel and tourism industry includes ensuring residents are happy and proud that there’s tourism in their locations and creating a balance that benefits the community and visitors alike.
Dominic Bravo of Visit Cheyenne
Dominic and I discuss the power of partnership, and he shares how Visit Cheyenne created their plan, engaged with partners on their vision, and put their plans into action as a team. Dominic also highlights the importance of being nimble and dynamic as a destination marketing organization and describes why he views the Destinations International Annual Convention as a game changer for marketers.
Jason Outman of Explore Branson
Jason talks with me about how Explore Branson works closely with one of their largest developers Bass Pro, and why an emphasis on relationships has led to a broader vision for the entire region. We discuss why funding is the number one issue facing Jason’s organization currently, how they are overcoming the challenge, and continuing to advocate for their community.
Kelly Groff of Visit Montgomery
Kelly joined me to share how the pandemic contributed to Visit Montgomery building critical, long-lasting relationships and how that opportunity paved the way for the future of how they plan and approach their marketing and strategies together. She also digs into what she sees as the future for destination marketers and why she feels the Destinations International Annual Convention is bringing sunshine to the travel and tourism industry.
Lance Woodworth of Destination Toledo
Lance and I talk about the importance of clear expectations of what the goals are when partnering or collaborating. We discuss how to measure success and ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding the project. He also emphasizes the power of partnership when hosting large-scale events and shares the story of how his destination hosted the Solheim cup in 2021.
Lindsey Steck of Visit Pensacola
Lindsey, Destinations International 30 under 30 honoree, shares her insights on why destination marketers must be connected to their local community in order to tell the unique stories of the businesses and experiences that are found there. She describes why she believes that the future of destination marketing organizations hinges on their ability to continue being dynamic and engaging with others.
The Future of DMOs
All our visionary leaders shared why they believe that the future of successful destination marketing organizations lies in their ability to be flexible. We discuss the myriad ways in which relationship building has helped marketers do their best to serve the communities that they live in.
I hope you enjoy this first part of the two-part Destinations International 2022 Annual Convention series. Next week, we’ll catch up with several more exemplary leaders to dive into how they have overcome the challenges of the past two years, their vision of the future of destination marketing, and the importance of bringing the community with them in their mission.
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