Shifting Towards Sustainability, with Rachel Brown

Episode 345:

Rachel Brown is the Executive Director of Visit Durango. In her role, she leads the team of tourism marketing and sustainability experts at the award-winning Destination Management & Marketing Organization (DMMO) for southwest Colorado’s most visited region. Rachel has over ten years of experience in tourism marketing and has held director positions at Visit Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, and Visit Oakland. She has earned a Global Sustainable Tourism Council Certification, sits on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Tourism Office, and is the Chair of the Marketing Committee for the Colorado Tourism Office. Rachel has always had a passion for travel and tourism and has visited over 40 countries on six continents.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Rachel Brown about sustainable tourism and the ways that Visit Durango is supporting sustainability throughout the community. She shares why they created a new organizational structure and moved from being a Destination Marketing Organization to a Destination Marketing and Management Organization.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Why Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) need to take action and address sustainability issues
  • Opportunities and challenges faced by DMOs during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the need to shift towards a sustainability stewardship approach and the importance of effective communication
  • Rachel shares the benefits of building partnerships and discusses how they got Durango included in the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop
  • The advantages of having an in-house marketing team for a DMO including agility, adaptability, and cost savings
  • Why they transitioned from a destination marketing organization to a destination marketing and management organization, and their triple bottom line approach (planet, people, profit) in destination management

Recognizing the Triple Bottom Line Approach

Rachel shares how the shift to sustainable destination management has brought so many benefits to Durango. It has helped alleviate the negative impact of over-tourism, ensured the preservation of natural resources, and enhanced the local community’s quality of life. By prioritizing sustainability, Durango has become a more desirable destination for socially and environmentally conscious travelers, attracting visitors who appreciate and support responsible tourism practices.

Visit Durango also recognized the need to adopt a triple-bottom-line approach to sustainability, encompassing environmental, social, and economic factors. While DMOs have traditionally focused on the profit aspect, Visit Durango is committed to prioritizing environmental conservation, supporting local communities, and creating a balance between the three aspects.

Shifting from Marketing to Stewardship

Rachel shares more about why Visit Durango launched the Care for Durango stewardship campaign to embrace sustainable destination management. This initiative aims to educate visitors and residents about responsible tourism practices and encourage them to actively participate in preserving Durango’s natural beauty and cultural heritage.

Creative Partnerships

We also discuss how Visit Durango came to be included in the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop. Although they initially met with resistance, Visit Durango worked tirelessly to join the group of popular destinations, and their inclusion, along with other local hot springs, has resulted in increased collaboration and marketing opportunities for all. The inclusion in the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop showcases the stunning natural landscapes and the healing power of hot springs and highlights Durango as a must-visit destination in Southwest Colorado.