Episode 182:

A seasoned tourism executive with more than 35 years of experience in the industry, Don Welsh serves as the President and CEO of Destinations International. Since joining the association in March 2016, Welsh has implemented a strategic realignment for the association through a renewed commitment to focus on member needs to deliver the resources members have determined to be essential to the success of their organizations.

Prior to joining Destinations International, Welsh served as the President and CEO of Choose Chicago. He also held the CEO position at the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and the Seattle Convention & Visitors Bureau. Prior to joining the destination marketing industry, Welsh served as senior vice president for Westin Hotels at its corporate headquarters, and has held senior leadership positions in sales and marketing for Westin Hotels and Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas.

On our podcast, we are joined by Don Welsh, the President and CEO of Destinations International. In our discussion, Don shares his perspective on the impact the pandemic is having on the tourism industry. He explains the current and future role of DMOs, the funding challenges they are facing, and how the pandemic has equalized the tourism industry.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Don’s perspective on the impact the pandemic is having on the tourism industry
  • The roles of DMOs now and how they will change in the future
  • The funding challenges DMOs are facing amidst the pandemic
  • How the global pandemic has equalized the tourism industry
  • How the relevance of tourism organizations has been exposed
  • The concept of community shared-value and Don’s new project, Destination Next
  • How DMOs are being incorporated into reopening discussions
  • How smaller destinations are approaching their reopening
  • Why DMOs and the brands they uphold are instrumental in getting tourism moving again

The Equalizer of Travel and Tourism

Don Welsh is a veteran of travel and tourism, and he currently serves as the President and CEO of Destinations International. Throughout his career, he has accrued more than thirty-five years of experience in our industry, holding several senior leadership positions with international brands like Westin Hotels and Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, and the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino. On our podcast, Don shares his perspective on the impact the pandemic is having on the tourism industry. He discusses the current and future role of DMOs, the funding challenges DMOs are facing amidst the global pandemic, and how the pandemic has equalized the tourism industry.

A Universal Flattening of Our Industry

Don’s organization represents more than six hundred CVBs and DMOs in over thirteen countries. So the good news is, he has a pretty strong grasp on what’s happening in travel and tourism around the world. Unlike localized natural disasters and other disruptive events that are unique to each DMO, this pandemic has been an equalizer. It has been a universal flattening of our industry, and from South America to Europe, we are all experiencing a similar struggle. It has been a time of transformation, where historic highs for airlines, restaurants, and hotels were tanked almost overnight. We quickly learned what it’s like to not have that, and DMOs are adapting as a result.

More Relevant Than Ever

For a long time, DMOs have made up an invisible industry. They operate quietly in the background doing significant work that often goes unacknowledged. But the relevance of tourism organizations in our communities has been exposed by the global pandemic. The concept of community shared-value ensures there is an alignment with tourism organizations and their local communities. To achieve sustainable tourism down the road, we need to promote the same level of understanding and awareness for DMOs as we do for other organizations in the community. A significant evolution must take place to respond to changes presented by the pandemic, and with the oversight of organizations like Destinations International, the process is already underway.

Episode Transcript

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