Nicole Mahoney: 00:23 Hello listeners, this is Nicole Mahoney, host of destination on the left. I am passionate about traveling, tourism and love learning from the experiences of professionals in the industry. That is why I’m so excited to introduce today’s guest Brook Kaufman. Rick grew up in Norfolk, Nebraska and moved to Casper, Wyoming in 2015 during her time in Casper, she has fallen in love with the people of Casper and the sense of community. She is the CEO at visit Casper and her favorite part about her position is continually forming strategic partnerships with fellow community members and working together to come up with creative solutions for impossible problems. When she’s not at work, you can find her out for a run reading at the beach or planning her next adventure. Brook is also a big fan and attendee of many of the events that go on throughout downtown and says her favorites are the 51 50 feast and 51 50 festival which take place every year in August. Thank you so much for joining us today on the show.

Brook Kaufman: 01:19 Nicole, thanks so much for having me. It’s such an honor to be here.

Nicole Mahoney: 01:22 Yeah, and I’m excited to talk to you. Just a I, I get your energy and vibe just from our little pre-interview chat. So I know this is going to be a really exciting conversation, but before we dive in, I could you tell us a little bit more about your journey and your story in your own words. I find it adds just so much more context to our conversation.

Brook Kaufman: 01:41 Yeah, so I, and thank you just for the kind words, any intro, I don’t, I’ve, and you’ve probably heard this, you’ve done so many interviews by now, nobody really says, I’m going to grow up and be the CEO of a convention and visitor’s Bureau. So I think we all somehow stumble into this and it turns out that we’ve figured out really quickly that we have the best jobs ever in our community. So I will say same thing. So before this I lived in Denver and I was an entrepreneur and did a lot of, um, keynote speaking and leadership training and strategic planning and had some things change in my personal life and I was like, you know, I, I want to sell something that feels less personal. So when you’re an entrepreneur, you’re usually selling yourself in something that you’re doing. And I was like, I would rather put my energy into doing something and take the focus off of me, but yet be somewhere where I can help a community grow and create jobs and you know, really impact the quality of life.

Brook Kaufman: 02:28 So I stumbled onto it. Uh, I love this job. I’m never bored. I think anybody in the industry will tell you that this hospitality and tourism industry is absolutely [inaudible] incredible. And I think, and one of the things you mentioned in your bio too that I want to stress is I feel like we’re all in this role. We all behave like Switzerland. So I think visitors bureaus or demos are really solved with solving problems every day. And how do you bring stakeholders together? And I know we’re gonna get into some of this, but that’s a little bit of the backstory. I also loved to run and wrote a book about running and running groups all over the world via social media. And it’s just, it’s been a really spirited past and it’s all really helped in the role that I’m in today. So I feel really lucky.

Nicole Mahoney: 03:09 That’s awesome. And I love that. Uh, we behave like Switzerland and I, I do want to learn more about that. I think you’re so right. And I’d love to learn how you are living that, uh, you know, in your role. Um, I just think that’s a really good analogy for folks and I’m sure they can relate to that. So let’s dive right in. Our first topic is on creativity and, uh, as we know it is a very fun industry, but also tourism enhanced hospitality is very competitive. There is a lot of choices out there for people, places to travel to, things to do or even, you know, the choice to stay home and um, you know, and, and surf, surf one of those streaming channels. So I’m wondering, um, what you have done to help visit Casper really stand out from the crowd?

Brook Kaufman: 03:54 So I think, and this is such a timely question that you asked us, I think we have struggled for a long time with being just a vanilla destination where we had a lot of things. We haven’t, we’re rich in pioneer history. We have incredible access to outdoor recreation 10 minutes from our downtown core. But I think you can really dilute your message when you feel like you have to be everything to everyone. So we’ve actually been on this journey since I’ve been here about how do we differentiate where we are? And there’s a couple of things. We just actually, or in market launching a new campaign that’s called the one. And only, so working with an agency, we did find that Casper’s the only Casper in the world. And then we talk about through that campaign, what are the things that you can only do in Casper so that we can really help highlight that and really set ourselves apart or you know, at least communicate some differentiation between us and some maybe specifically regional competitors.

Brook Kaufman: 04:43 I think the cool part about Wyoming is we’re run at route two, Yellowstone national park, and that that forever is driving tourism to our state, which is wonderful. But people have choices on their route. Yellowstone and Teton national park too. So how do we make Casper the logical or even the emotionally appealing stop on your way to Yellowstone? So things like that. So I feel like in some of our marketing stuff, we’re really aggressive in that way. And then I was thinking about this pre show, how do we do it on the sales side, because we go to shows and compete with destinations like Palm Springs or you know, things that are super sexy for somebody to just fly in and they can host great things and their facilities are brand new. And I think the one thing that we’ve really touted for us that’s worked well is you like if you are a big fish in a small pond and we do value your business and you are going to get a letter from the governor inviting you to bring your piece of business here.

Brook Kaufman: 05:33 So we just, it’s a different type of advantage, but we really are leveraging, we’ve got good access to electeds or partners or we can help build a meeting that you may not get the same level of attention if you’re going into a first tier market. And then the last thing is a few years ago, and we’re going to get into this, the solar eclipse in 2017 Casper, Wyoming was right on the center line of that. And right around the time before the eclipse we launched the tourism ambassador program. And I will tell you from a frontline perspective, that has absolutely changed the game. So I think when you have people, when you’re sending all this money to market and bring people to your destination, that’s great. But if we’re falling down on the service side where they’re coming and they’re like, Oh my gosh, I just got told this place is Wendy and boring, we’re not winning. So we take that whole front line piece very seriously too. So kind of a kind of a three prong approach across all services to say, how do we, how do we do it better? How do we raise the game?

Nicole Mahoney: 06:24 Yeah, I love that. I love the holistic viewpoint that you just laid out in terms of, you know, what is our position, how do we position ourselves? And Oh cool, you’re the one and only, I don’t think I’ve met any other city that’s the one and only, only yet on the show. So who knows, right. But really trying to figure out your positioning, you know, an understanding like I love how you know, you’re understanding where you are and people’s travel route, right? And what are the things they’re going to and the, there are these huge, uh, attractors for you and your area between Yellowstone and Teton, a national park. Um, so I love that. And then to take it even a step further and think about, well, what are we doing on the sales side? How are we positioning herself for those meetings and groups that we want to attract?

Nicole Mahoney: 07:09 And then one step further, well, how do we deliver on all of this, right? Once everyone’s in market, how do we make sure that we really do surprise and excite those visitors so that they, they want to come back or they’ll tell their friends about it. So I think that’s just a really, really awesome approach. Um, aye. I’m wondering on the, um, on the positioning side, the one and only can you share with us a little bit, um, what you’re doing to, you know, push that message out and how you’re, how you’re really showcasing, uh, the destination under that campaign.

Brook Kaufman: 07:41 So we, this is really exciting for us because we’ve, we’ve spent the last few years just stabilizing our brand. So this organization [inaudible] Brooke, I guess, I don’t know if there’s like a pre Christ but prepared,

Nicole Mahoney: 07:52 right?

Brook Kaufman: 07:53 We had a lot, we had a lot of brands and a lot of colors and a lot of stuff going on. I mean, like every year and you’re just like, Oh my God, could we just get some stability here? So we have not gone out with a campaign of any kind since I’ve been here. And it’ll be four years in November. So, uh, we looked at this, we have identified our key market segments, so it could, it’s anglers, it’s a national park, travelers in state visitors that’s out of state visitors. So we’ve looked across all of those avatars, our customer segments, and said, what do we, what do we have that’s in that segment that we can deploy? So of course it’s across traditional media. So some of the first print applications that we’re going to see as in the Wyoming office of tourism state guy that’ll go out in January, obviously we’ve kind of implemented, are kind of cross pollinated with some of our internal stuff with our visitors guide in our website.

Brook Kaufman: 08:39 So, but a lot of it’s digital and I, so I don’t think we’re doing necessarily anything other destinations aren’t doing, but we just took a big look at what are we doing that’s out of home digital, traditional, how we speak about things, how we advocate, right? How do we pull some of this into our advocacy plan? And to really have that comprehensive approach. And I love that you said that earlier too, just across all, all media and platforms so that we’re really consistent and saying the same thing and we’re reaching all of our groups with the same message. So multi-pronged, but probably not doing anything from like a social media perspective that other people aren’t doing. I wouldn’t say it’s that, I would say for us where we’re hoping to really win is just in the consistency across all things we touch.

Nicole Mahoney: 09:21 Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s a really great point though is is the consistency and how you described it as stabilizing your brand, but how important it is to have that consistency even in coloring and, and, uh, donation and the types of things you’re sharing. Right? And I can really see how this can really pull all of that together for you. Um, and so I’m, I’m curious with this next question. It’s one of my favorite questions to ask our guests and the, I’ll be curious to know what your answer is, but I love how creativity usually appears, you know, in the face of adversity or challenge. Like I think we’re at our, um, creative problem, problem solving best, right? When faced with a problem actually in your bio, Oh, what did you call it? Impossible problems, right? I think those impossible problems give us the best opportunity to be creative. And I’m curious, um, what is a challenge maybe that you faced as an organization and then a creative, uh, problem that, or I’m sorry, a solution that you’ve come up with.

Brook Kaufman: 10:23 I was really, when I saw this question, I’m like, this gives me such a good opportunity to tell a great story. So I mentioned earlier that we were on the center line of the eclipse in 2017 and it was right when I took my job. Nobody really told me this eclipse was coming or what the hell was going to happen. Excuse me. But I mean, I really had no idea that this was such a big deal and nobody wanted to take responsibility for like what we were going to do with tens of thousands of people who come to our community. How are we going to move them around the city? How are we gonna keep them safe? How, how are we going to have emergency management services on Sunday? I mean, what are we gonna do with these people for the five days that they’re here? I mean, nobody wanted to touch it.

Brook Kaufman: 11:01 So finally the city manager called me in and said, you got gotta do this. And I’m like, I don’t even know what that means. Like what do you mean we have to do this? So our office took it on and it was a, it was an enormous undertaking. We ended up setting up a separate five Oh one C three we hired a director. It had it’s own like from a liability perspective and just protective from, even from a staff perspective, it had its own staff and insurance policies and bank accounts because everybody who wanted to be involved needed to be a step removed if something happened. Right. So it, it really, what I love and people always say, how do you build community? Or how do you move people in the right direction? I’m like, well, I think you have to pick one thing and go to war together.

Brook Kaufman: 11:39 And that’s what our community did. I, the eclipse was in a war, but boy were we all trying to solve one problem. And that’s what to do with tens of thousands of visitors over a five day period in August. So it turned out to bring the best out of all of us. I’m so proud of our community. I get goosebumps even telling you this. So I would say it was an enormous undertaking and a huge challenge, and we didn’t know how to solve it. It wasn’t like anybody said, here’s the playbook on how you plan for this. Because the last eclipse in the U S was in 1979 we didn’t have social media or anything back then. So it, it really, it really stretched us. And I, I’m happy to say it worked and nobody died. And every time somebody called and said, how many body bags did you order?

Brook Kaufman: 12:19 We got to tell them none. Like we’re in good shape. There’s no, you know, there’s nothing going on. So it just, it, I’m so proud of our community in those moments. And so I would say that was one of them. And I, that’s why I say Switzerland. I think the, I think tourism offices often are the problem solvers. And how do you bring city County emergency response, Wyoming department of transportation game and fish. How do you bring everybody together? Why don’t we medical center, right? So your medical team and say, how do we have you solved this problem? Cause they’re all solving for the same thing. And that’s when things get really powerful and move. So it was, it was awesome.

Nicole Mahoney: 12:52 Absolutely. That is awesome. I’ve got to ask you a few more questions about the eclipse because actually the community where I live, um, is posed to be, I don’t know if they’re created the center line, but right in the middle of it for the next eclipse, which is coming much quicker than it was from, you know, 1979 till the, to the clip such as happen. So, um, I’m curious, uh, from that experience, I’ve actually two questions for you. Uh, one is, you know, what were like kind of the lessons learned, uh, from, from that, that you could share with others who might, you know, have this type of huge event coming, whether it’s an eclipse or some other type of event coming. And then the second is what types of benefits or lasting benefits have you seen from it in terms of your office and the community?

Brook Kaufman: 13:37 So I think maybe this isn’t going to be what anybody else would say. I think for us, when we originally agreed to take this on, I think sometimes our tourism is still looked at as the party planners are, Oh, those people who you know, do fun things. And I think for a long time, even when we first hired the director and said we’d take it on and raise the money, we still were looked at as maybe lesser than, and we would still go to city council meetings and just, it was always like we were in a position of lesser than like, like we had to report out like here’s what we’re doing and here’s how we’re spending your money. And it just felt like we were subservient, I guess, in that, in that situation. So I would say maybe five or six months in after we had our director in place, I finally was like, this is crazy.

Brook Kaufman: 14:24 Like we’re doing the town of favor and we’re going and getting our butts kicked because we’re having to report to all of our partners. I’m like, we’re not going to report to our partners anymore. We’re going to be at the head of the table and we’re inviting them to our show. So that flipped everything. So I would say the biggest lesson is you’re only lesser than until you’re not. And that was huge. And that was finally a really good, a really good example of how tourism can take it seat at the table as an equal or a to some of these other agencies instead of we’re going to be the dog you can kick. And that was such a powerful moment for me to make it transition or a pivot in my own mind to say, we are your partner and we’re going to be treated as such and you’re, we’re all going to be at the same table looking eye to eye to solve this.

Brook Kaufman: 15:07 So I would say that’s what we learned. The benefit was 225 million media impressions. So many people for even just for the entire state of Wyoming. It was like we rolled out the red carpet and welcome to people to Wyoming and most for the very first time. So what an opportunity to really showcase the state and our assets. And our culture and the way we treat people. And I mean, we just delivered all through the state. It was just absolutely incredible. So we still, like we do visitor profiles and research studies and a huge percent, I want to say 35% of people who came for the eclipse said that they would come back. So I’m certainly think we’ll see return visitation. But I think it was Wyoming moment in the sun and we, we stood in it famously and that field, and I don’t say that to brag, I just mean I was so proud of this place and what we did. So I would say that’s, that’s, uh, what I learned. And those are some of the benefits.

Nicole Mahoney: 16:00 Yeah. I think that’s fantastic. And, uh, I love that mindset change that, you know, so many times, you know, in our professional lives, I can think of many in my own life where all of a sudden you realize what is stopping me. You know, I, if I just look at this differently or you know, instead of going to their meeting, I’ll invite them to my meeting. That’ll shift, you know, that’ll shift it around. That’s just kind of those little ah, changes, um, an approach that can make such huge difference. And I think that’s a great lesson.

Brook Kaufman: 16:29 Well, thank you. And I’m sure everybody who’s listening to this already knows to invite people to their table, but it just was a real eyeopener for me. Like, you don’t, you don’t have to do this. Like you can lead this because that’s what the community wants you to do. I’m like, we should be doing that then. So it was, it worked out for the best, but yeah, huge lesson for me.

Nicole Mahoney: 16:47 Yeah, that’s like, that’s incredible. So, uh, Brooke, looking into the future, are there some projects or a project that you’re working on that you’re really excited about?

Brook Kaufman: 16:58 I feel like there’s, so there’s so many. I I w ah, it’s so, it’s so hard to probably 10 point it to just one. I would say that’s what I appreciate about, appreciate about this job. There’s always a challenge or there’s always the next project. And I keep thinking to my four year anniversary is coming up and I think when are you, when are you going to feel like you have to move on because you’re not learning or growing anymore? And I, I just never feel that way. So one of the things that we’re challenged with, and this is, we’ve been trying to solve this problem in our community for 12 years is we, we have tired facilities from a meetings and conventions perspective and there’s been a lot of talk and a lot of research and a lot of studies and our market is tied to energy.

Brook Kaufman: 17:38 So when we’re up or killing it, when we’re down, boy, you could shoot a cannon into this place. But we’ve really tried to solve the problem on convention space or larger meeting space. So that’s of coming down the pipe again for us, you know, we’re looking at some new, one of the things I want to be more involved in is product development. So there’s some things that are conversations happening in our community that I think we can really learn to. Aye. I think continuing to help the industry just be seen as credible and authoritative. That’s one of the things personally I’m very committed to is we all, if we all do our part and we all do good work, then we elevate together as, as equal partners in a lot of this stuff. So I don’t know if that really answers your question. It’s not very specific, but there’s just a lot of things on my mind of how do we grow this place and do it better and make sure my neighbors have jobs and it’s all that stuff.

Nicole Mahoney: 18:27 Yeah. Well that’s, that is exciting. And, and uh, now I think that’s a great way to describe it. It doesn’t have to be, Oh, we’ve got this big website launch or new in a new hotels coming online. We’re so excited. This is more about kind of that longterm vision that you have. You know, what makes you excited? And I love that you talked about, you know, you’re always learning and growing and that’s what excites you. And I think that that’s, um, yeah, that’s so true for so many of our listeners and that’s why they listen actually to learn and grow. So, uh, I think you make a really great point and, uh, you know, this idea of helping the industry [inaudible] be seen as equal partners is a common theme that I hear from a lot of a lot of folks that I talked to you on the show and, and, uh, I, you know, we’ll get into it a little bit later down the line here, but I am seeing this kind of shift, I think where, uh, tourism, uh, professionals are being elevated to that table and, and being more active in those community discussions.

Nicole Mahoney: 19:23 So I think that’s awesome that that’s something that, that you’re seeing as well.

Brook Kaufman: 19:27 Our work is never done.

Nicole Mahoney: 19:29 Right. Right. Exactly. So another favorite topic I like to talk about is collaboration. And a, you’ve already described a huge collaboration, um, when you talked about the work you did for the eclipse. Um, but what I did, they really love about the travel and tourism industry is how often I see perceived competitors come together. You know, and, and cooperate or collaborate on, on a program, um, to do something bigger than they can do on their own. And, and I think especially with, you know, smaller destinations, uh, second, third tier, um, markets that that’s so important. And so I, I’m wondering if there’s a time other than the eclipse that we’ve already heard about, um, when a collaboration, um, has really worked for you.

Brook Kaufman: 20:14 So a couple of things come to mind for me. I think pretty standard, and I’m sure people see this across the board, is when we host fam, like if we’re going to do something where we bring people into the state and they move around to different destinations and then they end up at Yellowstone or they end up here. So I think we work really well within the state on some things we have explored in conversations with some of our neighbors, uh, in other States. How do we do like a regional marketing effort? But one of the things that, and I think your listeners will really relate to this too. I would say that what we’ve worked really hard on in the last few years as a state and then bureaus individually coming together is last year legislatively we had a lot of activities. So we do not right now we all are funded with a local lodging tax, local option, lodging, tax [inaudible], uh, but we don’t have a statewide tax.

Brook Kaufman: 21:02 So one of the pushes was to get the Wyoming office of tourism off the general fund and fund it with statewide lodging tax. So we, we’ve worked on that initiative two or three years. It died on the last vote of the Senate side. So almost made it across the finish line and did not. So that’s when my peers come together and we go to Cheyenne to testify in front of different committees and everybody’s marching to the same drum. And I can’t say that we got it over the finish line initially, but I still, there’s funding conversations still to be had. We also won the state of Wyoming do not have tourism improvement district legislation. So we’ve worked really hard collectively because it benefits all of us. So I’ve been really inspired by how, if there is a common good or a greater cause, there’s no, I mean we’re friends at the end of the day and we want Wyoming to win. So we’re all willing to sit down what we need to and just get to work on behalf of doing the right thing.

Nicole Mahoney: 21:52 [inaudible] yeah. And I think funding is a wonderful example because, um, that is the case where you’re really securing the future for all of the tourism within, uh, within the state. Um, because you’ve got to have those strong funding models and in place to be able to continue to do the good work that you’re all doing. Right. So I think that’s a great cause for all of you to rarely behind, for sure.

Brook Kaufman: 22:17 Yeah. And I think about, and I’m gonna, I’m gonna take more time on this and you’d probably want to, but I think about we have to go to the voters every four years for approval, for funding. So we don’t go to city council or the County. We have to be on the ballot. And I, and I think about our legislature pass that in 1986 and my office are in [inaudible] County where I am. We [inaudible] built a Bureau in 1989 so we’re 30 years old this year. And those people fought their butts off to be able to get that done. And I think it’s on our shoulders today to create stability and funding for the people who are coming up to run these organizations after us. So I feel very committed to finding diverse funding solutions as I do Mo, as most people do because we don’t, this can’t stop this effort, just can’t stop. So anyways, thanks for letting me divert. But I think we all have to be that committed to it to find the solution.

Nicole Mahoney: 23:05 Well, absolutely. And I always find it interesting to hear how funding differs from community to community state to state. And so I think that that’s a, a really good point that you just made. And, and especially, you know, those, those people who over 30 years ago fought to get that in place in the first place. Right. Um, and now you’re that kind of, you know, future generation that’s working, um, to actually stabilize it so that it’s guaranteed to be there for, you know, many, many decades to come. I think that’s very important work. So, um, yeah, I’m glad that you brought that up.

Brook Kaufman: 23:41 Good. No, thanks for letting me share it. I just, I’ve, that’s one thing I’m like, if you said, what are you most passionate about? I’m like [inaudible]

Nicole Mahoney: 23:47 hearing funding. That’s right. It’s very important. Um, so I’m wondering through your work, you know, your collaborations, all of the different, um, collaborations that you’ve been involved with, are there some best practices or some things that kind of stand out in your mind as listeners are thinking about their own collaborations or looking at, you know, finding new strategic partners, um, that you think, you know, would be good advice for them to take into consideration as they’re working on their own projects?

Brook Kaufman: 24:17 You know, and I’m gonna come back to my comment when we started about being Switzerland. So I, I tell my staff all the time, keep your nose down and just do good work. And I think one of the things our office does really well, and I, I use, I, I don’t want to use the word compromise, but I can’t think of a better word to say, but I’m always looking for the middle. I’m always looking for how do you get what you want? How does the organization standing next to you get what they want, where are you willing to give? What can you not give on? So I constantly feel like doing this dance energetically of finding where people can land and be good. So compromise feels like you’re giving something up. And I guess to a degree you are. But I, I just think we navigate the winds of change really well.

Brook Kaufman: 24:57 And that’s what allows this office in this community to be successful. So I, there’s no ego at the table here. We just want to do, keep our nose down, do good work, and you know, make sure our neighbors have jobs. So that’s one of them. And I would also say that we, we listen and we rarely, we rarely say no unless it’s out of our lane. And we’re getting better at saying no and it’s out of our lane. So I would say finding like navigating the winds of change and figuring out where everybody can land and be good. And then also we just listen, listen, listen, listen, listen all the time.

Nicole Mahoney: 25:28 [inaudible] yeah. I imagine, I mean listening, especially the way you described this as trying to find that middle ground, uh, listening is going to be so important to be able to find that. Right. Cause if you’re not, if you’re not listening, you’re not going to be able to find those commonalities where you might be able to actually meet. Um, and I appreciate how you described, you know, compromise might feel like a negative, but the way you described it, it’s not really compromise. You’re looking for a place where both parties can actually feel good about whatever it is that you’re trying to, to move forward. Um, you know that [inaudible] really, you know, when for you a win for me, I might not get everything I wanted, but this still gets me to where I want to go.

Brook Kaufman: 26:06 And still, yeah, still solves a problem. And the other thing is I’m listening to you is I think we can, I think egos really stop us. I really do. So I think diplomatic communication, always, always, always, always. No matter how mad you are or how freaked out you are, like you have just got to keep your mouth in check.

Nicole Mahoney: 26:24 Yeah, absolutely.

Brook Kaufman: 26:26 I just thought that’s probably going a little too far, but okay.

Nicole Mahoney: 26:28 Yeah, that’s a great point.

Brook Kaufman: 26:30 Just be elegant in your communications all the time.

Nicole Mahoney: 26:33 Absolutely. No, I think that’s a fantastic point. So that’s a great lead into the last question that I wanted to ask you and that has to do this of destination marketers being more, ah, involved within their community, more like community managers. Um, you know, as we mentioned earlier, being invited to the table, being part of those bigger discussions. Um, you know, when I kind of have described as this more holistic approach to managing the destination, not just looking for, you know, those heads and beds, but really looking at the whole brand and how that impacts, uh, residents as well as visitors that you’re trying to attract. And so I’m wondering if you’re seeing examples of this and the evolution of, of your work and then the four years you’ve been with visit Casper.

Brook Kaufman: 27:21 So yes. Uh, yes, that’s my short answer. I would say I still feel like, and maybe this is only in the state of Wyoming or maybe it’s only in Casper, I still feel like we, like we’ve spent the last four years building credibility [inaudible] authority to the people who do drive our destination forward like city County because they manage the assets or they have the budget or whatever, you know, they can do product development where we cannot. So I feel like I’ve spent Mo my entire career here [inaudible] fighting for a seat at the table. I would say we’re at the table and I do, before we wrap up, I hope I get a chance to weigh in on because I want to share one more thing. But one of the things that’s really done that for us in addition to just doing good work is we have really become the source for research and data in our community.

Brook Kaufman: 28:11 So we can’t invest in product development because state statute doesn’t allow us to invest in capital, but we can’t invest in promotion. But we also invest heavily in research so that when somebody wants to make a decision or pursue something or go after a grant, nine times out of 10 we have data that’s helpful for them and now all of a sudden instead of just, Hey, they’re the party planners that are bringing this convention now it’s, Hey, they’re a great resource and they can help build our case for why this is so important. So that’s probably one of the very specific ways we’ve done that. But I feel like it before you can influence your destination or claim to be the destination manager, you better have some authority to do it. So we, and we also, this year we’re very involved with destinations international and earned R D map certification this year. And that was again important to me to say we are like, we have what we need to be able to be at the table with you. Like, this isn’t just something like w w this is industry recognized best in class level stuff. So just everything we can do to really earn that seat and keep it as we’re, I feel our energy has been.

Nicole Mahoney: 29:12 Yeah, I think that’s a, that’s great. And, and what a, um, a good example of how, you know, you have the, have you used those credentials, those certifications, you know, uh, leaning on your industry associations in such a way, um, that you’re able to, you don’t really have the credentials really help you build that credibility and authority. Um, and then I also love that you found, you know, we’re more than just promotion. We also have this research and this data that can really help you. I think that’s a, another great example of, uh, of the other resources that you can bring, um, to that table. So that’s awesome. And I do want to give you an opportunity to, to talk about one more thing [inaudible] and I’m wondering if it has to do, and if it doesn’t have to do with this, then we’re going to talk about two more things. Um, but earlier you mentioned the certified tourism ambassador program and they did want me to circle back to that and ask you to, uh, share a little bit more with our listeners about what that program looks like for you and, and how you’re executing on that.

Speaker 4: 30:14 Okay. So we’re going to have two things left. It’s all about them. You’re not going to be done with me as bad as you think. Uh, so we,

Brook Kaufman: 30:21 I set this up already. We brought CTA here because our board said, Oh my gosh, strategically how are we going to support the infrastructure that it’s going to take to do this, the Wyman eclipse festival and do it well. So we, I honestly got, I taught the class before I was ever even CTA certified. And it’s a program, I don’t know if you’ve heard of Mickey Schaefer and associates. She’s in, I think Tucson. So they developed the curriculum for us, the class, all that great stuff. So today I’m really proud to share. So we’ve been in, it’ll be three years in November and we’ve certified over 600 people in our destination. So we, we do classes, we do events, we teach the class every couple months. It started out where Brooke was teaching the class. Now my whole staff does. But I would say from a forward facing perspective, it’s the program our partners engage with the most.

Brook Kaufman: 31:08 So now all of a sudden we’re, you know, we’re creating value. It’s a really low price point. [inaudible] people come back to work and say, this is the best thing I’ve done for myself in a really long time. It’s energetic, it’s fun. And the thing that about CTA that even brings tears to my eyes to share with you [inaudible] is I can’t tell you how many people have looked at me at the end of class and said, I didn’t realize how important my job was. You know, and they’re $8 an hour housekeepers. But I mean, if they’re treating the guests while we’re doing better as a community than if they’re not paying attention or they just can’t respond or, so it just has, we created this community sense of pride. And we always say we’re not done until we certify every single person in the hospitality industry in our County. So it has changed the game for us. I also love, it’s a perfect program. I think for the size of our community, I would be so curious to talk to some of the larger destinations that have CTA, but we were just so much closer to our stakeholders because our number of people, our population is smaller. So I, but best thing we’ve ever done, honest to God, I wouldn’t, I’d go back and do it. I’d do it over and over and over.

Nicole Mahoney: 32:09 That’s amazing. And I love that comment. I didn’t realize how important my job was. You know, sometimes they, um, that just to me that gave that, you know, cleaner that front desk person or whomever it is, I’m so much more passionate about the work that they’re doing. So much more meaning, right. Um, for the work that they’re doing,

Brook Kaufman: 32:28 it just brings tears to your eyes. I mean, you really like, you really didn’t know, you know, and they’re like, Oh my gosh, I can impact my economy. If somebody buys another gap, you know, gallon of gas or a bottle of water or they stay an extra night because they love Casper. We treated them well. That’s, you know, that impacts our quality of life and our streets get plowed in, our parks get mowed and they just never do the connection. I’m like, it starts with you. We spent a ton of money to bring them here, but if we treat them terrible, we’re out. We lose. Yeah. So it’s, yeah, it’s just, thank you for letting me be, I, that is one thing I’m very passionate

Nicole Mahoney: 32:58 about as our team

Brook Kaufman: 32:59 program. It’s just been a great fit for us.

Nicole Mahoney: 33:00 That’s awesome. Okay. And before we say goodbye, there is one more thing that you wanted to share with us. So, uh, feel free to dive in. I’m looking forward to hear what it is

Brook Kaufman: 33:12 being the pre-call to you. But when you talk about the evolution of destination marketers or destination organizations becoming community managers, one of the things I had the opportunity to do this year was go through the appointment process and I was appointed to our County commission and that has been one of a personal goal for me for a really long time as I’ve always been very interested in that. But I’m very, I’ve been very surprised this year, so I was appointed in February, so it’ll be a year in February. How much influence you can have over things that are directly directly impact the tourism economy as well. So if anybody is listening, 2020 is a big year, there’s going to be a lot of open seats. I think fewer, I think women are underrepresented in elected positions, so if anybody’s listening and you have it in your heart that you want to serve in that capacity and you are in the hospitality industry, like there’s, there’s some co-benefits in that that I think can drive your destination forward in ways that you can’t if you weren’t. So I just, that always my last thing is I would, I would encourage anybody who feels like they’re called to do it, to step up and do it takes a lot of courage, but it’s all worth it.

Nicole Mahoney: 34:14 That’s awesome. Uh, and, and I think that’s really great advice and, and they love how you’ve found, you know, so many different ways that you can bring, uh, that tourism industry again to the table, right? And in a, in a much different way, but see all of the different impacts, um, and decisions that are being made and how those impact the industry. I think that’s really, really awesome. So thank you so much for taking time to be with us today. You’ve shared so much, we’ve learned so many new things and uh, could you let our listeners know where they might be able to find you?

Brook Kaufman: 34:49 Everything you ever wanted to know about the best destination in Wyoming, is that visit casper.com

Nicole Mahoney: 34:55 awesome. Of course it is. And thank you so much for being with us today.

Brook Kaufman: 35:00 Hey, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Speaker 1: 35:03 It’s time to hit the road again. Visit destination on the left.com during your travels for more podcasts, show notes and fresh ideas.

Speaker 5: 35:48 [inaudible].