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Destination On The Left

Destination On The Left is a podcast focused on the travel and tourism industry that explores successful collaborations, creative marketing ideas and best practices. Interviews are a mix of Destination Marketers, Industry Leaders, Consultants and businesses in the industry. We explore consumer marketing programs and travel trade marketing programs. This podcast provides an opportunity for professionals in the travel & tourism industry to share what they have learned and successes that they have achieved.
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Sep 28, 2022

Scott is a longtime travel industry data guru, having served in senior executive roles at United, Adara, and Orbitz. He was instrumental in the founding of Orbitz and is CRO at Journera, which has been recognized as one of the World’s “10 Most Innovative Travel Companies“ by Fast Company and a “Technology Pioneer” by the World Economic Forum. Participating companies include United, American, Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, IHG, and many others.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Scott Garner, Chief Revenue Officer for Jounera, about the brand’s unique data collaboration model that sees hotels, destinations, and airlines working together. He describes how the shared data helps marketers to create a 360-degree view of the travelers’ journey, identify potential customers and anticipate their needs seamlessly.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How Journera facilitates seamless travel experiences and how they got the six big founding partners on board
  • Why competing travel brands come together and share data to learn how the consumer is moving through the planning and purchase stage of travel and arrival
  • How to focus on the areas of common interest and common benefit when creating a partnership
  • How to foster communication and collaboration in the travel industry while still allowing brands to retain their uniqueness
  • What Journera does with the data to benefit and provide those solutions for their clients
  • The importance of data in digital marketing in the travel industry
  • What historical data tells you a lot about a person’s future behavior and how that helps marketers in the travel and tourism industry

Collaborating with Shared Data

Journera was founded to take advantage of the insights that the travel and tourism industry can take from sharing data to make the visitor journey as seamless as possible. Scott talks about why it’s so important to bring together travel companies, even companies that are competitors, for the common good, which is to make the travel experience better. Travel involves piecing together many components, and you need companies, from airlines to car rental agencies, to enhance the traveler experience, and sharing data is the way to do that.

Retaining Uniqueness

There are times when Journera partners compete fiercely against one another, but there are also times when they’re stronger and need to collaborate and work together to create more efficient marketing solutions. Scott describes how he and his team create a win-win scenario while also being mindful that there are some parts of that relationship that have to be fenced off. The critical thing is to focus on the areas where cooperating benefits everybody involved, especially the consumer.

Using Data to Move Forward

At the core of what Journera does is assess data and then distill the findings to make them more usable in a marketing context. Scott describes how the team integrates individual partners’ data into their broader digital ecosystem, enabling marketers to target their potential visitors with greater precision. He outlines how data drives intelligence, which in turn helps DMOs make sound investment decisions to put themselves in the best position to move forward with confidence.

Resources:

We value your thoughts and feedback and would love to hear from you. Leave us a review on your favorite streaming platform to let us know what you want to hear more of. Here is a quick tutorial on how to leave us a rating and review on iTunes!: https://breaktheicemedia.com/rating-review/

Sep 21, 2022

Michelle Ng brings people closer together by creating rewarding experiences through her two businesses – Vancouver Foodie Tours and Granville Island Gifting. Forbes has named Vancouver Foodie Tours one of the top 9 food tours in the world. They offer food walking tours, introducing guests to the culinary gems, vibrant cultures, and history that make Vancouver unique.

Michelle’s second business, Granville Island Delivery Co, was founded at the start of the pandemic as a way for the community to support local artisans and to send Granville Island gift boxes to friends and colleagues. Michelle has been recognized by The Entrepreneur magazine and Vancouver Sun for her contributions to uplifting the community during the pandemic.

What excites Michelle the most? She loves to generate happiness and appreciation by creating rewarding experiences that uplift the community. Michelle’s story is of resilience and optimism.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Michelle Ng about how she built her Foodie Tour business over 12 years and how her pandemic pivot led to the formation of a second company. She shares what she sees as a successful food tour in other destinations and why technology is core to both of her business’s success. We also dive into a collaboration Michelle kickstarted involving other small tour operators and how that collaboration has subsequently resulted in an injection of funding.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Michelle’s journey and how she got to where she is today with her two businesses
  • How food has a magical power to bring people closer together and break down barriers
  • What happened to Michelle’s business when the COVID-19 pandemic hit North America
  • How the Granville Island Delivery Co. came into being to serve the local community
  • How Michelle evolved the design and marketing of her tours to better suit visitors who don’t know anything about Vancouver
  • Michelle gives an insight into her most popular tours and why visitors love them
  • How technology has enabled Michelle to be able to run a successful business
  • The part collaboration has played in spreading the word about Michelle’s businesses and attracting visitors
  • Michelle shares her advice for listeners hoping to grow and scale their business

Refining Your Business

Michelle Ng, founder of Vancouver Foodie Tours and Granville Island Gifting, shares why she is constantly in the process of tweaking and refining the experience she offers her customers. She describes why it is so important to her to be constantly listening to her customers, what they’re asking for and what they’re interested in. Pursuing excellence and creating rewarding experiences is very important to Michelle, and she highlights why it’s at the core of what she does as a business owner.

Creating a Network

We discussed how Michelle got involved with her local destination marketing organization and details the two most effective steps she has taken to develop her business. She walks us through what she has learned from some of the world’s most successful examples of food tours. Michelle also shares how the DMOs in Vancouver, in British Columbia, and in Canada have supported her work and provided access to the international markets by showing her how to pitch and win the business of tour operators worldwide.

How Collaboration Led to Collective Success

Both of Michelle’s businesses are built on a foundation of collaboration, and she shares how that has contributed to her success. Michelle describes why she really believes in uplifting the community in everything she and her team do and why, whenever they are looking at partnerships or any other business decisions, they’re striving to create win-win relationships. They view their foodie tour experiences through the lens of setting up an experience, interaction, or initiative in a way that serves everybody that’s involved.

Michelle also shares why she reached out to some of the small group tour companies in the city, who she felt were giving the highest quality experiences in the city, to suggest they form the Experience Vancouver Group so they could learn from each other and share their expertise.

Resources:

We value your thoughts and feedback and would love to hear from you. Leave us a review on your favorite streaming platform to let us know what you want to hear more of. Here is a quick tutorial on how to leave us a rating and review on iTunes!: https://breaktheicemedia.com/rating-review/

Sep 14, 2022

Kelly Blazosky is President of Oneida County Tourism & Founder/Partner of Adirondack Barrel Cooperage. She is an experienced President with a demonstrated history of working in the non-profit organization management industry specializing in Destination Marketing. Kelly is skilled in Nonprofit Organizations, Advertising, Marketing Strategy, Public Speaking, and Tourism.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I welcome Kelly Blazosky back to the show. Kelly was my second guest way back in 2016 when the podcast launched, so I’m excited to learn more about her journey in destination marketing since then. Kelly also shares her three-prong approach to marketing Oneida County and explains why moving from generalized messaging to specific detailed messaging has helped her county stand out from the crowd.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • The learning curve for Kelly in moving from destination marketing in Ohio to New York State
  • How Oneida County is standing out from the crowd as a destination
  • How to lean into partnerships to attract visitors to a broader region
  • The framework that gives Kelly’s team a clear-cut way to execute their marketing campaigns
  • Past challenges and the creative solutions that Oneida County Tourism found to move through them
  • Why Kelly and her team find so much value in working with an external marketing agency
  • Some of the exciting things that are coming up in Oneida County, including the new cheese trail
  • How DMOs can help, support, and be part of the community they’re in

Oneida County’s Marketing Framework

Kelly explains how her community has found that when it comes to consumer engagement across the various marketing platforms, it’s most effective to focus their efforts on three things; events, experiences, and exhibitions. She and her team have found that it pays to be very specific in their messaging and regularly highlight particular art exhibitions or events happening in the area.

We also discussed how she overcame resistance to that approach and was able to show that by stepping outside of the box, they were able to attract potential visitors’ attention.

Creative Collaborations

Kelly and I discussed some of Oneida County’s current collaborations, including their partnership with the Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Institute (MWPAI), a wonderful free museum housing paintings from artists from Van Gogh to Pollock. She describes how the MWPAI moved to a changing exhibition model and began planning them further out, which enabled Oneida County Tourism to prepare promotions and highlight the events, such as curated talks and lunch and tea events.

This is just one of the ways that they can work within their framework and attract people to engage with the specific events that interest them. It also means that when they’re talking with their other partners locally, they can direct them to the month-by-month programming for a particular exhibition which gives them more to talk about and helps them evolve.

Building Partnerships

Finding the right partner to collaborate with can often be a sticking point for DMOs, so Kelly shares her best practices and advice for listeners planning to create their own collaboration. She shares the importance of first defining which market you’re developing the product for, travel, trade, international, or domestic, then finding who are ready for those kinds of visitors.
We talk about why a key part of collaboration is finding common threads that have some relation to the story you want to tell and demonstrating why creating a well-rounded experience helps draw visitors by giving the DMO a better product to promote.

Resources:

We value your thoughts and feedback and would love to hear from you. Leave us a review on your favorite streaming platform to let us know what you want to hear more of. Here is a quick tutorial on how to leave us a rating and review on iTunes!: https://breaktheicemedia.com/rating-review/

Sep 7, 2022

Karen Kuhl is the Executive Director at Cayuga County Convention and Visitors Bureau. She is a tourism and management professional with hospitality and F&B experience and has 15 years of experience as a tourism destination manager. As the former Director of Tourism and Hospitality Operations for Selva Negro Ecolodge and as Owner of Tastefully Nicaragua, she focused on sustainable tourism in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. Her responsibilities included: marketing, sustainability certification process, human resources, long-term planning, and itinerary management. Karen’s experience in the public and private sectors makes her an excellent advocate for the Cayuga County CVB’s role in marketing and product development in the tourism industry.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Karen Kuhl, Executive Director for the Cayuga County CVB. Karen shares the programs her destination is currently working on and how their offerings are evolving as they dive deeper into how the internationally known abolitionist Harriet Tubman lived and worked in the region. Karen’s team is also making a significant impact in DEI in the rural community and championing and supporting economic development as much as possible.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Where in the world Karen has worked, and what brought her back to the US
  • An overview of Cayuga County, where it sits, and what it offers
  • The importance of Harriet Tubman to Cayuga County and Auburn and how the CVB is using the significance of this historical figure to stand out from the crowd
  • Why it’s critical to build a solid foundation of DEI
  • Their Harriet Tubman initiatives and how they are evolving
  • How Cayuga County is promoting and elevating Black-owned businesses in their community
  • The challenges and obstacles Karen has worked through and creative solutions that have helped her team navigate them

An Important Legacy

Karen describes how her destination, the Cayuga County CVB, draws visitors in through their connection to the internationally famous American Abolitionist, Harriet Tubman, and how they use that link to elevate and support economic development in the region. We discuss how Karen and her team live Harriet Tubman’s legacy in Auburn by ensuring that the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusivity were built into the DNA of their organization.

An Evolving Story

The visitor experience in Auburn is a thriving story that continues evolving as the CVB finds out more and more about the businesses that were in town while Harriet Tubman would have engaged with them. Karen has also made a concerted effort to identify the broader individual Harriet Tubman was and uncover the human connection that so beautifully reveals all the facets of her character from the conductor of the Underground Railroad to a military leader, spy, nurse, and forger.

We discuss why it’s important as a destination marketer to appreciate all facets of why visitors might want to connect with a historical character and how CVBs can form partnerships that help them dig through the data to paint a fuller picture.

Authenticity and Purpose

Karen shares how her organization works with local businesses and community leaders to share their message, including putting together a grant to support the promotion of events around the Harriet Tubman bicentennial year in 2022. We also dive into why the tourists of today and tomorrow are traveling with a focus. And the importance of building a solid and authentic foundation as a destination and living it through your decisions.

Resources:

We value your thoughts and feedback and would love to hear from you. Leave us a review on your favorite streaming platform to let us know what you want to hear more of. Here is a quick tutorial on how to leave us a rating and review on iTunes!: https://breaktheicemedia.com/rating-review/

Aug 31, 2022

For the second episode in a special two-part series of Destination on the Left episodes, I talked to ten inspiring leaders in the world of destination marketing all about successful partnerships that their destinations are taking forward into the post-pandemic world. My interviewees also share the most significant challenges they are facing today and how they are moving through them creatively to serve their residents, visitors, and partners alike. I’m excited to share these mini-interviews, and I hope you find them as fascinating and insightful as I did.

In this episode, you’ll hear from these extraordinary leaders:

  • Louise Bishop – President of South County Tourism Council in Rhode Island
  • Olivia Novak – Marketing Manager with Discover Lancaster, Pennsylvania
  • Paul Nursey – CEO of Destination Greater Victoria, BC
  • Racene Frieda – CEO of Glacier County Regional Tourism Commission in Montana
  • Rachel Ludwig – CEO of Tourism Canmore Kananaskis in the Canadian Rockies
  • Rachel Riley – Associate Vice President of Communications for the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board
  • Rebecca McKenzie – President and CEO of the Culinary Tourism Alliance
  • Sarah Hughes – Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Visit Norfolk
  • Scott McCray, President, and CEO of Fairbanks Alaska
  • Stuart Butler – Chief Marketing Officer with Visit Myrtle Beach

Stories of Inspiring Partnerships at the Destinations International 2022 Annual Convention

I love coming to the Destinations International Annual Convention because it provides a unique opportunity to come together as marketing specialists, network, share ideas and discuss our wins and our challenges. I asked each of my guests this week to share the word that they would use to describe the convention, and each of these wonderful leaders shared a word or idea that really encompassed the experience of attending the event, from ‘opportunity’ to ‘camaraderie.’ I was also excited to learn about the creative partnerships all of the destinations represented in this show have built to move forward.

Louise Bishop of South County Tourism Council

Lousie joins me to share why she feels it is so important for her destination to partner with environmental and coastal resource management organizations, in addition to the cities and towns that make up the South Country region. She also discusses techniques she uses to get all of the stakeholders in a project on the same page and going in the same direction.

Olivia Novak of Discover Lancaster

Olivia is one of the Destinations Internations 2022 30 under 30 honorees, and she joins me to discuss the key partnership her organization started with the Lancaster Farmland Trust, food producers, and local restaurants to promote an amazing restaurant week in Lancaster that became a win-win for everyone and enabled all of the partners to realize their goals.

Paul Nursey of Destination Greater Victoria, BC

Paul and I talk about Destination Greater Victoria’s goal to lead the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in a sustainable way. He shares the details of the Impact Sustainability Conference that his destination launched and how and why it has become a leading international conference.

Racene Frieda of Glacier County Regional Tourism Commission

Racene tells us all about the challenges her destination faced during the COVID-19 pandemic when a whole new type of visitor discovered the state of Montana as a desirable destination and how the solution to managing these unexpected tourists resulted in new public-private partnerships that have lasted beyond the pandemic.

Rachel Ludwig of Tourism Canmore Kananaskis

Rachel shares how her DMO in the Canadian Rockies started up as a new destination and why forming a new destination marketing organization intent on building a solid foundation of trust in the community and partnerships takes time, effort, and skill. She also shares why her words to describe the Destinations International Convention are ‘opportunity’ and ‘connection.’

Rachel Riley of Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board

Rachel highlights the importance of partnerships in destination marketing and shares how a collaboration between the County Commerce Department, Chambers of Commerce, and the Tourism Office created the ‘Make It Main Street’ campaign and hashtag as a way to help the community out of the pandemic and boost local businesses.

Rebecca McKenzie of the Culinary Tourism Alliance

Rebecca shares how the Culinary Tourism Alliance, a not-for-profit Destination Development Organisation based in Toronto, Ontario, works with member destinations to help them grow partnerships. She also very rightly points out that those authentic partnerships are the key to creating those unforgettable experiences that the consumer is looking for.

Sarah Hughes of Visit Norfolk

Sarah tells us all about the City with Bite video series that Visit Norfolk launched and why it’s doing so well that they’ve just finished filming their second season. She discusses why her destination was inspired to focus on a chef-owned restaurant in each show highlighting everything from why they opened a restaurant in Norfolk to their specialties in the kitchen.

Scott McCray of Fairbanks, Alaska

I was excited to hear all about how the Tourism Office and Chamber of Commerce in Fairbanks rallied up their business partners and members of the local community to participate in positive picketing by holding pep rallies outside of local hospitals during shift changes to show support and thanks for health care workers during COVID-19. Scott shares their behavior’s effect on hospital staff and why the business community was inspired to take action.

Stuart Butler of Visit Myrtle Beach

Stuart shares how his team rallied the brilliant people in the agencies that his organization at Visit Myrtle Beach works with, who are used to working in siloed organizations to perform cross-functionally. He goes on to explain how connecting people and organizations has led to better problem solving, more efficiency, and more effective campaigns.

Challenges and Silver Linings

In all of these mini-interviews, I asked similar questions about some of the challenges that destination marketing organizations face. Many of my guests cited workforce as being an issue they needed to put time and thought into currently, and although that didn’t surprise me, frankly, I was wowed by the breadth of creativity that the travel and tourism community is putting into solving the problem – and some of the unexpected positive side effects of that creativity. We also discuss the importance of partnerships to DMOs, and they shared their predictions for the future of the travel marketing industry.

I hope you enjoy the second part of the two-part Destinations International 2022 Annual Convention series. I’m excited to share it with you.

We value your thoughts and feedback and would love to hear from you. Leave us a review on your favorite streaming platform to let us know what you want to hear more of. Here is a quick tutorial on how to leave us a rating and review on iTunes!: https://breaktheicemedia.com/rating-review/

Aug 24, 2022

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:

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.

We value your thoughts and feedback and would love to hear from you. Leave us a review on your favorite streaming platform to let us know what you want to hear more of. Here is a quick tutorial on how to leave us a rating and review on iTunes!: https://breaktheicemedia.com/rating-review/

Aug 17, 2022

Thomas Dunne is the founder and CEO of STQRY. As an experienced Chief Executive Officer with a demonstrated history of working in the computer software industry/SaaS Companies, Thomas is skilled in Start-up Ventures, Sales, Leadership, Emerging Technologies/Trends, and Entrepreneurship.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Thomas Dunne about his company’s strategic initiative to grow by acquisition and how that intersects with the theme of collaboration and partnership. He also shares his knowledge about how self-guided audio tours can enhance guest experience and how easy it is to get started with offering this type of experience to visitors.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • More about the technology behind offering audio guides and how to customize and personalize the customer experience
  • Why STQRY is passionate about growing the brand through international acquisitions
  • How STQRY helps their clients to use audio as a tool to enhance the experience for their customers
  • How much time it takes to curate the right stories, who should do the narration, and how to start the process of producing audio guides
  • Whether Thomas has seen the rise in popularity of podcasts impact the interest in audio guides
  • The online digital collection called Story Collect that STQRY is working on to expand their offering

Helping Destinations Tell Stories

STQRY’s tagline is ‘connecting people, places, and stories,’ and guest on the podcast Thomas Dunne explains why that resonated with him when he was building a company that makes audio guides. He shares why they spell the company’s name with a QR in the middle and how that links into their mission of providing destinations with a simple way for destinations to share their stories with visitors via whatever platform they choose.

Connecting with Visitors

Thomas explains how STQRY works as a digital storytelling platform using an app that destinations can share with visitors to enhance their experience with audio. The platform works for destinations of all sizes and supports the sharing of images and audio to create a wonderfully immersive experience that they can use to draw visitors into with their unique story.
Thomas also shares how some of their clients, from small museums to the Empire State Building, use the app to connect with their visitors.

Advice on Creating an Audio Guide

Thomas shares his advice with destinations who are interested in sharing their stories via audio guide. He describes why, although it’s helpful to have a script to keep you on track, it’s also a great idea to seek out the educator or docent who is so passionate that they make it their mission to share their destinations secrets and stories. If you record your audio in that meaningful way, it helps connect the visitor with the experience.

We also discuss how long an audio tour should be, how long you should talk during each stop on the route, and why it helps listeners if you break a story up into different, easily digestible chunks that form an overarching narrative.

Resources:

We value your thoughts and feedback and would love to hear from you. Leave us a review on your favorite streaming platform to let us know what you want to hear more of. Here is a quick tutorial on how to leave us a rating and review on iTunes!: https://breaktheicemedia.com/rating-review/

 
Aug 10, 2022

Jason Jordan joined Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance in February of 2022 with a diverse background in the areas of nonprofit organization management, journalism, public relations,, and public policy consulting.

In his new role, Jason leads the organization’s multi-channel approach to public relations, social media, and communications and facilitates marketing strategies. Former places of employment include Institute for Human Services, Inc., Gatehouse Media, and Giesta Racalto LLC. Jason is a Political Science/Political Philosophy alumnus of Syracuse University. He is a native of Hornell, NY and now lives with his wife and son in Bath, NY. The entire family is avid “Finger Lakes people.”

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Jason Jordan about the creative projects that the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance are involved in to promote their destination in New York State. We discuss how they are standing out in a crowded post-COVID travel market and encouraging visitors to spend time in the region. Jason also shares how the FLTA is using partner programs to build an engaged network of brand supporters.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How an unexpected health issue changed Jason’s career trajectory and how it subsequently brought him to tourism
  • Fresh and innovative ways that the FLTA are leveraging to stand out from the crowd and promote the uniqueness of their destination
  • The importance of building sustainable models of travel and tourism as we go forward and how the FLTA is using data to accomplish that
  • Why the designation of the National Heritage Area will mean so much to the Finger Lakes region and some of the specific things Jason is particularly excited about
  • Some of the wonderful collaborations that Jason and his team have been involved in, including their participation in the AAA and CAA information and brochure exchange program
  • Why Jason believes there has been a marked shift by destination marketing organizations in the post-pandemic world towards collaborative projects

How FLTA Stands Out From the Crowd

Jason highlights the FLTA’s enthusiasm for the concept of coopetition. He explains why having in many services and businesses promoting the Finger Lakes in several different ways all at the same time works fantastically to draw in visitors. One way the FLTA stands out in this crowded travel and tourism market is by drawing on their long history in travel and tourism.

The Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance has been around since 1919 which makes them one of America’s longest-running destination marketing organizations. They are an association of over 700 tourism-reliant and hospitality-based businesses, and span 14 counties in 9000 square miles. Jason shares why he has been digging through articles in the FLTA archive to inform how to communicate their point of differentiation through their social media campaigns.

The Importance of Data

Collecting data is a critical part of understanding the story of the visitor economy, particularly when there have been ups and downs as in recent years. Jason shares with us some of the key industrial indicators that FLTA are looking at to help guide them in how widely they can expand drive traffic right now.

Partnership Planning

Jason describes some of his lessons learned and gives his advice on how to make a partnership successful. His best practices in getting a getting a collaboration off the ground successfully hinge on keeping planning simple, keeping it regular, and making it engaging.

Everybody should know what the expectations are coming in, and it’s absolutely critical not to over promise. and underdeliver when it comes to building partnerships.

Resources:

We value your thoughts and feedback and would love to hear from you. Leave us a review on your favorite streaming platform to let us know what you want to hear more of. Here is a quick tutorial on how to leave us a rating and review on iTunes!: https://breaktheicemedia.com/rating-review/

Aug 3, 2022

Professor Joe Conto:

JoeConto is a Professor at Paul Smith’s College in the Northern Adirondacks of New York State. He has nearly 40 years of experience in the hospitality industry in all facets, from food & beverage and events to high-end lodging and country club management. After visiting the Frankenstein Wax Museum in Lake George, New York, he proclaimed that he wanted to live in a tourist town for the rest of his life. His hospitality industry career has allowed him to fulfill that dream with stops in Las Vegas, Martha’s Vineyard, Old Montreal, Jupiter Island, and now, Lake Placid. For the last 15 years, he has shared his knowledge of the industry with students and connected them with the broad range of career choices available to those interested in the world of hospitality and tourism through experiences both in and out of the classroom. Outside of his academic life, Professor Conto also teaches and performs improv comedy at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts and Montreal Improv Theatre.

Professor Eric Holmlund:

Ph.D. in Environmental Studies, Director of Graduate Studies, Instructor of Sustainable Nature Based Tourism

Dr. Eric Holmlund is a member of the Graduate Faculty and Department of Environment and Society at Paul Smith’s College. He holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from Antioch University New England, an M.S. in Teaching from SUNY Potsdam, an M.S. Ed. in Outdoor Recreation from Southern Illinois University, and a B.A. in English from Dartmouth College. From 2000 to 2019, Eric founded and directed the Adirondack Watershed Institute Stewardship Program, which is New York State’s largest aquatic invasive species spread prevention and education program dedicated to protecting the natural heritage of Adirondack rivers, ponds, and lakes. Since 2014, Eric has co-directed a collaboration between Paul Smith’s College and the Tosco-Emiliano Biosphere Reserve in northern Italy, focused on sustainable tourism and community identity. He has served as a wilderness recreation leadership instructor for Outward Bound and the Wilderness Education Association. He is a steering committee member of the Paul Smith’s College Global Center for Rural Communities and the Champlain Adirondack Biosphere Network (UNESCO Man and Biosphere Program).

Associate Professor Kelly Cerialo:

Dr. Kelly L. Cerialo is an Associate Professor and Program Coordinator in the Business and Hospitality Department at Paul Smith’s College and Program Coordinator for the new Master’s in Sustainable Tourism. She is the Co-chair of the UNESCO Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve (New York/Vermont), a steering committee member for the U.S. UNESCO Biosphere Network, and founder/focal point for the U.S. Biosphere Reserve Youth Network. She coordinates international student exchanges with a focus on sustainable tourism and community development in UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in Italy, Canada, South Africa, and the U.S. She is the co-founder of the Adirondack to Appeninno Sustainable Parks and Communities Project – an international sustainable tourism initiative between the Appennino Tosco-Emiliano Biosphere Reserve in Italy and the Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve. Kelly received the David H. Chamberlain Excellence in Teaching Award in 2019 and Faculty Member of the Year at Paul Smith’s College in 2018. Kelly has presented at United Nations and UNESCO conferences in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Africa. Kelly has a Ph.D. in Leadership and Change from Antioch University, a Master’s in Leadership and Change from Antioch University, a Master’s in Communication Management from the Annenberg School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Southern California, and a Bachelor’s in Public Relations/Mass Media Communication from The College of New Jersey. Research interests include the social impacts of tourism and sustainable tourism in UNESCO Biosphere Reserves.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with three college professors — Professor Joe Conto, Professor Eric Holmlund, and Associate Professor Kelly Cerialo. This week’s discussion focuses on sustainable tourism and how it links into the new Master’s program that Paul Smith’s College offers. My guests share the inspiration behind launching the new program and their vision for how it will support the long-term professional education of those in the travel and tourism space.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Why everyone is so excited about the new Master’s program in Sustainable Tourism Management
  • Why sustainability is a thread that’s woven through many of the courses at Paul Smith’s College
  • Who the program is for, including mid-career professionals and people newly out of their undergraduate education who want to gain an environmental credential
  • When you can apply to the new Master’s program
  • The importance of balancing out the social, economic, and environmental impacts of tourism
  • How the current Paul Smith’s College students are receiving the idea of this new program
  • What sparked the idea and gave the team their inspiration for the new program

Studying Sustainable Tourism Management

What’s unique about the model that Paul Smith’s College has built for their brand new Sustainable Tourism Management Master’s is that it is a low residency model which enables people from various backgrounds and industries to join. Professor Kelly describes the types of students that they are expecting to enroll in the new degree, from mid-career professionals interested in learning more about sustainability who may or may not currently work in the tourism sector, to entrepreneurs working in a tourist destination who are interested to learn more about sustainability, to recent graduates in the travel and tourism sector.

Sustainability is a Headline Theme

Sustainability is something that the current students at Paul Smith’s College have in mind all the time. Professor Kelly shares more about why the upcoming generation of travel and tourism professionals is drawn to sustainability as a headline theme.

Professor Paul shares his discussions with former students who are out in the workforce about their interest in returning to further study, focusing on sustainability because it is an area they see as the future but also personally important to them. One of the most significant shifts he has seen over the last 10-12 years is the genuine belief that sustainability is a necessity in every industry.

Inspiration for the New Program

Professor Eric discusses why Paul Smith College is launching the Sustainable Tourism Management Master’s and why they feel that now is the right moment to include the new program in the offering. All three guests share their pleasure that sustainability really is a leading issue in the consciousness, psyche, and future strategy of students graduating in the last ten years. They highlight that sustainability is more than a buzzword; it’s a strategy for both surviving and flourishing into the future.

Resources:

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Jul 27, 2022

This episode of Destination on the Left is coming from the 2022 eTourism Summit in Orlando, Florida, held from June 6-8. I was honored to have the chance to interview five notable attendees who are all experts in the field of digital marketing for travel and tourism. I asked each of my guests to give me one word to describe the conference, and awesome, inspiring, energizing, compelling, and the future are perfect descriptions of this unique event.

We discuss tearing up the page and starting afresh, the value of podcasts in promoting the story behind a destination, and the importance of remaining agile and ready to learn.

I’m so excited to share my guests’ insight into the world of digital marketing with you in this week’s special podcast episode. In this episode of Destination On The Left, I know you’ll find value in the words of these five talented digital marketing experts:

Staying Alert to Digital Marketing Trends

The eTourism Summit Roadshow focuses on giving everyone in the travel and tourism industry space to discuss the future of digital marketing and explore some of the creative strategies in use today. In today’s episode, we’re talking about how podcasts can help tell the unique story of your destination, how to boost your organic social media marketing success with sweepstakes and vacation giveaways, and how to leverage short-term, mid-term, and long-term digital marketing strategies.

Ana Reyna Arzate from Visit Florida

Ana Reyna describes how the eTourism Summit is helping her in her role as Marketing Coordinator for Visit Laredo. She shares how the resources she has been able to access as a summit attendee have helped her in her efforts to engage both the US and Mexican markets that are important to her destination. Ana Reyna also describes why the COVID-19 pandemic offered her destination the perfect opportunity to start a podcast that would tell the authentic story of what Florida offers guests.

James Flint from Visit Durango

James explores some of the most significant changes that Visit Durango has made recently in their digital strategy. Including a wildly impactful organic social media marketing strategy of running sweepstakes and competitions that they decided to use over paid social media advertising. He describes how to tie your digital marketing to a destination and experience, such as riding the historic train in Durango or skiing in Purgatory, and how marketers can pull from different pieces of their organization’s priorities and weave it into marketing campaigns to make them meaningful.

Melea Hames of Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourists Association

I discuss with Melea some of the biggest changes in their marketing strategy that are having an impact and leading to impressive results. She discusses Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourists Association’s amazing trails, including their waterfall trail, craft beer trail, and new agriculture adventures trail, and why they are aggressively promoting them in digital ads. Melea also shares more about her podcast and how they’re leveraging audio to get their message out there.

Patrick Harrison of Visit Tampa Bay

According to Patrick, almost every technology or service we were using five years ago is no longer relevant. He remarks on the speed of the transition to new digital marketing methods and highlights the need to be agile in our thinking about how we spread the word about our destinations. Patrick also talks about finding a harmonic convergence and fitting in seamlessly into potential visitors’ lives with something they may not have known they needed before we shared it.

Vivian Mur of AKI Technologies

Vivian explores why the eTourism Summit is a wonderful opportunity in an intimate setting, not only to learn from one another and talk and engage with other marketers to find out what’s new, what isn’t working, and what isn’t. She shares the values of connecting with others in the travel and tourism industry about recent trends and the value of getting an alternative perspective from destinations and suppliers of all sizes and scopes.

Creative Ways of Sharing a Unique Story

I hope you enjoyed this episode coming live from the eTourism Summit Roadshow; as all these talented marketers shared, a key thread woven through the travel and tourism destination marketing industry is that it is critical to be open to new ways of attracting visitors to enjoy what they have to offer. So many of these organizations are at the Summit to connect with others, share insights and learning, and open themselves up to all the possibilities digital marketing channels offer to share a destination’s authentic story and flavor.

We value your thoughts and feedback and would love to hear from you. Leave us a review on your favorite streaming platform to let us know what you want to hear more of. Here is a quick tutorial on how to leave us a rating and review on iTunes!: https://breaktheicemedia.com/rating-review/

Jul 20, 2022

Marlin is the quintessential Renaissance man and has led a life that reads like a novel—running away with the circus, seeing the world with his juggling act, living in a tree house in the jungle, writing and illustrating a book, dreaming up an illuminated show that would go on to play internationally, inventing a one-of-a-kind toy, and building a homestead where he lives in a solar-powered house.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Michael Marlin, known as Marlin, about his fascinating role as an astro tourism consultant, speaker, and author. I was so excited to discuss what dark skies tourism means for businesses and how destinations can begin to create a story that offers an amazing experience to their visitors. Marlin also shares some examples of where destination marketers can find creative examples of how businesses can leverage their proximity to a dark sky destination.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Marlin shares how he first became aware of dark skies and how that experience piqued his interest in astro tourism
  • How Haley’s Comet led to Marlin’s interest in performance artwork in the dark, which eventually led to his founding of theatrical a touring production called Luma
  • Marlin describes how people can find places with dark sky certifications and the impact of the certification on the local travel and tourism industry
  • Some of the places in the world where travelers can find dark skies to enjoy, including Norway, South Africa, and Hawaii
  • How social media is drawing people to dark sky experiences
  • Marlin gives his advice to communities in the path of the solar eclipse in North America in 2024 on how they can prepare to give their visitors and residents the best experience possible
  • How to create a positive and cohesive experience for people interested in Astro tourism, from music to folk stories, to help tourists understand what they are seeing in the night sky
  • Some travel industry trends coming to the fore right now, including sustainable tourism and eco-tourism, and how they feed into the theme of astro tourism
  • What a business or a destination can do to take advantage of their dark skies

How Dark Skies Impact Tourism Opportunites

Visitors interested in taking advantage of the experience of visiting a dark skies certified park have to stay overnight, which is a massive boost to the local economy. Marlin suggests how businesses, including hotels, restaurants, boutiques, and entertainment venues close to dark sky parks, can create content to enhance the experience they offer to astro tourists.

Destinations need to connect the dots for visitors and create an experience for when people come out to see the dark sky covering themes such as astronomy, music, and the culture and storytelling that connects us to space and the stars above us. Marlin shares the most important things destinations can do to enhance visitors’ view of the stars, including ditching white LEDs and going back to an amber-colored light in outside areas.

Dark Skies and Sustainability

On the podcast, Marlin discusses how dark skies connect to other key themes in the travel and tourism industry, such as sustainability and climate change. He shares why people who are interested in dark skies have an interest in protecting dark skies and are therefore more likely to be drawn to those causes.

Marlin explores how central Idaho dark sky reserve, Ketchum, Sun Valley, changed their lighting to achieve a dark sky certification and how that impacted on their contribution to slowing climate change. The International Dark-Sky Association works to protect dark skies and can also provide lots of resources on dark sky friendly lighting that destinations can seek out.

Communities Near Dark Sky Areas

Parts of North America are in the path of the upcoming solar eclipse in 2024, and on the show, Marlin shares advice and insights with communities in the path of totality. He discusses how they can prepare to give their visitors and residents the best experience possible by incorporating music and folk stories into the astro tourism offering to help people connect with what they see in the night sky.

Resources:

We value your thoughts and feedback and would love to hear from you. Leave us a review on your favorite streaming platform to let us know what you want to hear more of. Here is a quick tutorial on how to leave us a rating and review on iTunes!: https://breaktheicemedia.com/rating-review/

Jul 13, 2022

Introduced to the industry by a random internship application to Visit Baltimore, Andreas Weissenborn began an unexpected career that left him with a continued passion for tourism. He is currently the Vice President of Research and Advocacy for Destinations International, and he leads the research and advocacy efforts of the entire organization with an eye toward developing data-driven tools to help destinations around the world tell their story.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Andreas Weissenborn shares his philosophy that DMOS are caretakers of the data and information on the visitor economy. He also dives into why tourism has become a community shared value and explains why DMOs should view their role as serving the people of their communities as a central priority.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Andreas shares a little about himself and the story of how he became interested in destination marketing
  • Andreas’ early role in information technology and database management and how that has an impact on his current work at Destinations International
  • How DMOs can be the primary steward of data for their community
  • What it means to be a community shared value, what Andreas’ vision for Destinations International was, and how the pandemic accelerated the concept
  • The importance of lexicon in how we describe things, why we need to change how we talk about ourselves to reframe our thinking around the role of the DMO
  • Why leading with emotion rather than facts and figures is critical
  • Where Andreas sees our most significant opportunities as destination marketing organizations in the post-pandemic world

Making Data Meaningful

The fundamental definition of effective research and analytics is taking massive swathes of data and making it comprehensible, easily understood, and applicable. Andreas shares his experience of working at Visit Baltimore and why he feels it was the start of the golden era of data analytics for Destination Marketing Organizations. He dives into why it is so critical to have individuals in the travel and tourism space who can help diagnose, dissect, and explain what this data does.

That ability to translate bookings, data, or visitor spending into understandable information that is meaningful to stakeholders was where Andreas found his niche in the industry. And those skills still feed into the broader and greater mission of Destination Marketing Organisations.

DMOs are Vital to the Community

Destination Marketing Organizations are the stewards of the visitor economy, but they also serve their community. This is why it’s so important to change how DMOs talk about themselves and how they get involved.

Destination organizations are the most uniquely qualified entity for the next normal in representing a brand because the brand transcends the physical and virtual realm. DMOs are uniquely qualified because they’re the only entity that can sit at the table with civic, social, cultural, and historical entities and bring everyone together.

Next Steps for DMOs

According to Andreas, destinations can take some tangible next steps to be successful. DMOs are often the most influential voice of a brand because of the reach of their website and their social media channels.

They need a mission or a vision statement that reads in an emotional, storied way so visitors don’t have to question who and what you are. DMOs also need to teach, train and advocate not only their entire staff but their entire membership so that everyone understands the value proposition and the work they do and is clear on why tourism matters for the community.

Resources:

We value your thoughts and feedback and would love to hear from you. Leave us a review on your favorite streaming platform to let us know what you want to hear more of. Here is a quick tutorial on how to leave us a rating and review on iTunes!: https://breaktheicemedia.com/rating-review/

Jul 6, 2022

Big-picture and detail-oriented, Debbie is a marketing communications specialist who has worked in digital marketing, content development, and social media for over 15 years. A motivated digital marketer, she brings a unique perspective from her brand, agency, and consulting experience.

Debbie debuted Social Hospitality as a side project in 2011 before transitioning to the brand full-time in 2017. As founder and president of Social Hospitality, Debbie leads the operational side of the business while working directly with clients to build and execute marketing strategies. Social Hospitality is a boutique digital marketing agency that helps brands develop their online identities, create engaging content, and build their social media presence. The Social Hospitality blog is a leading industry resource, too.

Debbie has an English degree from UC Irvine and is HubSpot certified in social media and content marketing. She has been invited to speak at events like Social Tools Summit, PubCon, IABC, as well as various universities and other local organizations. She has been quoted in publications including USA Today, Inc., Forbes, Huffington Post, Social Media Today, Search Engine Journal, Todays Hotelier, Business2Community, SEMrush, and more.

Debbie is a lover of good eats and is always adventuring, traveling, learning, and spoiling her two dogs.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Debbie about how her boutique destination marketing business Social Hospitality helps clients stand out from the crowd online. She also shares strategies for finding where your customers are online and the importance of understanding and being ready to respond to the changing algorithms of different social media platforms.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How Debbie moved from being an English Major in college to running her own marketing agency
  • Why Debbie loves the collaborative nature of working in destination marketing
  • Current social media trends and some of the new strategies Debbie is recommending to her clients
  • Creativity in the face of adversity and how Debbie has found unusual solutions to recent challenges
  • Debbie shares the many benefits of coopetition and gives examples of coopetition she has experienced and the positive outcomes that came from that
  • Debbie shares her insights and advice for listeners planning a collaboration and explains what she does to set her up for success
  • Where you can connect with Debbie online

Standing Out Online

In terms of differentiating yourself as a business from the crowd knowing your audience is key. On the show, Debbie describes why you need to look at where your audience hangs out online, and if you’re not on a specific channel, but your competition is — you might need to make some changes.

Lean into the initial heavy lifting and research and figure out where your audience spends their time and where your competitors spend their time and make sure you’re there too. Then you can create those conversations and the stories around what makes you distinct from those competitors.

Finding Your Ideal Customer

As a hospitality business, or any type of organization in the travel, tourism, or hospitality space, we need to get really focused in on who we’re targeting. Because if we don’t know who our ideal customer is, we’re not going to be effective.

Marketers need to tailor strategies to their ideal audience, and one of the ways that you can maximize your chances of developing a great strategy is to do your homework. Debbie also describes how she uses carefully honed strategies to take advantage of current trends in social media, such as Instagram’s promotion of the Reels feature.

Strategies for Effective Collaboration

In the destination marketing space, there are plenty of opportunities for collaboration which are win-win situations. Debbie shares some of the partnerships she is currently involved in and how she has built a network that thrives on supporting one another. She discusses the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats and gives her advice on best practices for planning an effective and mutually beneficial collaboration.

Resources:

We value your thoughts and feedback and would love to hear from you. Leave us a review on your favorite streaming platform to let us know what you want to hear more of. Here is a quick tutorial on how to leave us a rating and review on iTunes!: https://breaktheicemedia.com/rating-review/

Jun 29, 2022

Penny Peters is a member of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation. She is the Manager at Akwesasne Travel. Penny has been an integral part of the establishment of Akwesasne Travel and furthering the development of the tourism industry in Akwesasne. Penny is currently working to promote Akwesasne Travel through marketing, partnerships, and awareness of indigenous culture. Penny has strong ties to the community, the environment, and traditional ways. Penny believes that indigenous tourism is not only a means of economic growth for communities but also crucial for cultural preservation.

In 2021 Penny was elected to the NYSTIA Board and was excited to represent NY Tourism and the North Country. She has also been advocating for Indigenous tourism, especially within NY State. She hopes to help support indigenous businesses to create mutually beneficial partnerships with non-native entities to grow and strengthen the industry.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Penny Peters about the process of developing tourism for her indigenous nation and the challenges they have faced along the journey. We discuss the tours that Akwesasne Travel has designed, their plans for marketing those programs, and the partnerships they’ve developed. Penny also shares the details of the tour planning process and why it was so important to ensure that her community approved every aspect.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • The unique nature of the Akwesasne nation and the areas their land encompasses in New York State and across into Canada.
  • How Penny and her colleagues are approaching tourism and the experience they hope to deliver
  • Their focus on community artisans and how they market those small-group tours
  • What Penny learned from other travel consultants and how she applied that knowledge to her indigenous community, taking into consideration their particular customs and needs
  • How Akwesasne Travel got creative about what they could offer and some of their current tours
  • Challenges that Penny and her colleagues faced in developing the tourism industry in their nation, particularly the issues around crossing the U.S / Canadian border during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Some of the partnerships they developed to circumnavigate problems and increase their offering
  • Collaborations that have worked well for Akwesasne Travel and that are that they are planning to develop in the future
  • The importance of recognizing that although you may have a plan or guideposts, sometimes you have to pivot to be successful and achieve your goals
  • Penny’s advice for others who may be starting down the path of tourism development.

Developing Tourism for an Indigenous Nation

There can be some unexpected challenges around developing a tourist offering as a native community, and one of those things is educating consultants and partners. There can be challenges in connecting with regional tourism offices because of the unique situation of the native people. On the podcast, Penny shares her firm belief that it is vital to keep an open mind and keep having conversations with potential partners. We also discuss the necessity of planning and preparing to develop as a tourist region and why it’s so important to be able to flex when the situation changes.

Akwesasne Travel’s Creative Offerings

Penny describes how they began to develop tours in their region, kicking off by getting out in the community, sharing their plans, and asking for feedback on where they wanted visitors to go and what they wanted to share about their culture.

She describes one of their first community initiatives set up at a powwow and where they invited local artisans to start collaborating to build a large traditionally woven basket, and how that gave Penny and her team an opening to talk about their plans to bring tourists to the area and share how it would help the local economy to grow.

Collaborations and Partnerships

Working with other organizations is central to how Akwesasne Travel works — they have recently participated in a reenactment event set in 1784 arranged by a local museum on the Canadian side of the nation to share what life looked like at that time. On the U.S. side, they have a longstanding collaboration in place with the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, which they are planning to expand even further. The Akwesasne nation also shares and collaborates with other indigenous nations to allow visitors an insight into their cultures.

Resources:

We value your thoughts and feedback and would love to hear from you. Leave us a review on your favorite streaming platform to let us know what you want to hear more of. Here is a quick tutorial on how to leave us a rating and review on iTunes!: https://breaktheicemedia.com/rating-review/

Jun 22, 2022

Brand Strategist & Business Growth Accelerator Karley Cunningham takes businesses from overcrowded, competitive spaces out into blue ocean territory where they can confidently stand out and thrive as brand leaders in their sector.

Companies that want to be distinct in their marketplace retain Karley to sharpen their positioning and differentiation strategies to cut through the noise. Karley’s international client-base benefits from accelerated growth, increased profit, and stability as her innovative Surefire Method™ provides them with a sure-fire strategy and toolkit that enables them to charge a premium, attract and retain ideal clients, develop a great company culture, and outpace their competitors.

Having built three successful businesses, Karley knows what it takes to start, develop and lead a company that delivers results. Her entrepreneurial success story is featured in the awarded book: The Widest Net by Pamela Slim. In addition, she’s a sought-after mentor and speaker for national and international business organizations and the host of The Made Possible Podcast.

Believing deeply in the practice of givers gain, she is well-known and networked and rarely goes a day without making a referral or connection. As a former pro athlete, Karley is performance-driven. An avid mountain athlete, she is a two-time finisher of the BC Bike Race, a seven-day, 325 km mountain bike stage race, and is always looking out for her next trail running adventure. When not focusing on the business or expanding her network, she can be found somewhere in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest with her wife and dog in their 4×4.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Karley Cunningham about how branding can help a destination, attraction, or business in the tourism industry stand out from the crowd. Karley breaks creating your brand down into three simple sections — uncovering our fundamental beliefs, understanding the markets we serve, and showcasing our differentiators.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • When Karly became interested in marketing and communications
  • The importance of resonating with your audience
  • How her background as a competitive athlete has impacted her career in branding
  • Why a tighter box often enhances creativity
  • The importance of inner reflection when drilling down into your brand story
  • Why a 3-5 year time period helps you set an achievable strategic plan and vision
  • What ‘the people become the place’ means for destination marketers
  • How your branding can help solve the retention and recruitment problem

Creativity in Branding

As creatives, we constantly push the boundaries, but when the boundaries shrink, we’re forced to think more creatively than ever about the challenges we face. When defining their brand destinations, services, and businesses need to reflect on their ‘why’ to pin down what makes them unique.

Karley joins us on the podcast to discuss how to peel back the layers to understand what’s different about your offering because amazing branding is about the nuances. She describes the process as going fishing — if you drop the line and then go deeper and deeper and deeper, you’ll eventually hook on to something special.

Authenticity in Your Brand Story

Karley explores why it’s essential to start from the inside out when developing your brand. She shares her insights on why it’s all about being authentic as people when you’re creating a company brand. Karley also discusses how she helps businesses who have moved away from their true purpose to pivot back to their axis and reinvigorate them. When your brand story comes from the inside out and is genuinely driven by your purpose, who you are, the things that resonate with you, and how you show up in the world, it creates an innate sense of alignment and power.

Recruitment and Retention in the Travel Industry

Recruiting and retaining employees is a huge struggle in the travel and tourism industry right now. Karley gives her perspective on whether the current staffing challenges relate to how valued and cared for people felt before the pandemic and how that relates to standing behind your brand values.

On the show, we discuss how to solve the problem of recruitment and retention, and Karley gives her advice on how branding can help businesses in that regard. She shares how your brand ties into your promise to your staff in terms of supporting them in their everyday roles and challenging situations. Karley outlines why the key question in reframing the retention issues is, are you willing to deliver your staff the quality that you deliver your guests or service users?

Resources:

We value your thoughts and feedback and would love to hear from you. Leave us a review on your favorite streaming platform to let us know what you want to hear more of. Here is a quick tutorial on how to leave us a rating and review on iTunes!: https://breaktheicemedia.com/rating-review/

Jun 15, 2022

Sophia Hyder Hock is the Chief Diversity Officer for Destinations International. In this role, Sophia provides thought leadership and strategic direction for designing and implementing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) resources, tools, and services for association members and the broader tourism industry.

Sophia has created sustainable social inclusion frameworks for over 20 years. Prior to joining Destinations International, she was the Founder and CEO of Papilia, an organization dedicated to developing tailored EDI strategies, training, and coaching services for the travel industry. She has extensive experience as an international development practitioner working around the world on economic development, gender empowerment, and workforce development projects.

Sophia is on the Board of the Center for Responsible Tourism (CREST). She is a yoga and meditation instructor and has written for numerous travel publications about diverse representation, family travel, and wellness. Her love for travel started at the age of 10 when she moved from California to Sri Lanka. Since then, Sophia has been to 40+ countries and plans to inspire her toddler to be a citizen of the world through mindful travel and learning about his Bengali-American heritage.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Sophia Hyder Park, Chief Diversity Officer for Destinations International. Sophia shares how her work in international development led to her current role in the travel and tourism industry, and her insights make Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion approachable, doable, and human. We discuss how organizations can get started with EDI, including taking the key step of understanding your foundation, being curious, and creating spaces of welcoming and belonging within our destinations.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Why Sophia is passionate about policy development, design, and creating connections
  • The concept of embedding departmental verticals, what Sophia has already started to do at Destinations International, and her tips for what listeners might do to embed DEI into the culture of their organizations
  • Key pieces of advice for listeners starting out on their diversity, equity, and inclusion journey
  • Why it’s so important to create spaces of welcoming and belonging in the travel industry
  • Addressing the challenges of balancing policy with successful delivery of DEI
  • Some things we can do to be sensitive to different cultures in the travel and tourism context
  • Destinations International’s new EDI assessment tool and how it can help travel and tourism professionals

Incorporating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Sophia discusses her vision of coming at DEI as being a three-part series. She shares why it is critical first to assess internal systems to ensure that a business is strong internally from an EDI perspective. The second part of the series is embedding DEI into the departmental verticals, and the third piece is fostering engagement from membership and partners.

Holding one another accountable is an important aspect of DEI, which is why Sophia is currently working with Destinations International’s members on first understanding, then collecting best practices and case studies. This initial work will provide her with the information she needs in order to create the resources and services their members are looking for.

Building a Strong Foundation

Sophia describes how she embeds thought leadership into her professional mindset and why in building a strong foundation, we have to both reflect on our own behavior and the behavior of our organization. Your ethos then inspires your audience.

As organizations in the travel and tourism industry, we should be trying to get a broader understanding of who’s missing and defining how we can be more inclusive. Sophia also notes the importance of building trust and acting with intentionality to authentically collaborate and engage.

Keeping an Open Mind

Awareness and curiosity are the keys to embracing the many different cultural nuances that exist, not only in the United States but internationally. To incorporate the principles of DEI, we need to do some homework to understand the cultural history of a place. Part of our responsibility is to listen and seek ways to connect with other humans.

Resources:

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Jun 8, 2022

Hannah DeMaio is the Vice President of Brand Strategy of Women Leading Travel & Hospitality, the sister community to Women in Retail Leadership Circle. Women Leading Travel & Hospitality is a unique, members-only networking group that offers executive women in the travel and hospitality industry a place to learn, connect, and grow through an unparalleled mix of events, content, and elite connections. The community is comprised of successful and motivated women across the entire travel and hospitality ecosystem who have a strong belief that investing in themselves and other women is good business. She is passionate about the travel and hospitality industry and uniting, inspiring, motivating, and empowering women to succeed personally and professionally.

In her free time, Hannah loves traveling, playing tennis, hiking, trying new restaurants, and spending time with her family and dog, Lulu!

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Hannah DeMaio all about the personal and professional development of women leaders in the travel, hospitality, and retail industries. She shared her findings that although women hold around 80% of the managerial roles in travel and hospitality businesses, they only make up 20% of the workforce at the director level, and that number drops even further when you get up to the C Suite. Hannah discusses why she is so inspired to champion all the incredible women in the travel and tourism space and empower them to get them to go as far as they want to in their careers.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • The details of the new organization Women Leading Travel and Hospitality
  • The synergies between the Women in Retail and the Women in Travel and Hospitality brands
  • How Hannah is hoping to lift women up and the early work she is doing to get more women into the C Suite in the travel and tourism business
  • The role that DEI has played in the programing of Women Leading Travel and Hospitality
  • What the organization has planned for this year, and how women in the industry can join the organization or attend events
  • Examples of collaboration that have been successful for Hannah including Women Leading Travel and Hospitality’s partnership with Southwest and the Ritz
  • How they are helping women attain personal growth as well as professional growth

Women’s Leadership and Growth

Hannah describes the organization’s initial pivot in the face of COVID-19 and why they decided to focus their efforts on supporting women to lead effectively through the crisis. Their programming included keeping your teams motivated, how to get through the furlough period, and crucially how to stay connected with your teams when working virtually.

Women Leading Travel and Hospitality initially launched virtual events and instigated weekly peer group calls to build a strong community. When the organization officially launched in January 2021, they continued with virtual and in-person events discussing some of the problems women in the travel and tourism industry are having, how to fix them, and how to grow.

DEI in the Travel and Tourism Industry

Women Leading Travel and Hospitality want to emphasize that they are a group for everyone. The travel and hospitality space often feels like a male-dominated space, and as part of their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, they work towards making both their speakers and their audience diverse.

There is a lot of work to be done in the travel and hospitality space in regard to DEI and Women Leading Travel and Hospitality have recently appointed a Head of Diversity onto their advisory board to ensure they continue moving in the right direction.

Personal and Professional Development

On a professional level having those hard conversations about how women can move from the managerial level to director level by having the help and support of mentors is incredibly useful. But Hannah and her organization are also bringing in the personal growth aspect too.

You have to be on top of both the personal and the professional to be a well-balanced leader. Hannah describes why their programming includes wellness advice in addition to career coaching and how bringing the two together impacts women’s work-life harmony.

Resources:

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Jun 1, 2022

In the final episode of the Travel Unity Summit, we ask seven leaders in the travel and tourism industry to share their thoughts on how the travel industry can make an impact on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the travel and tourism space. We’re hearing so many amazing and enlightening conversations going on around us from a wide range of travel professionals who are doing some deep dives on DEI and why it’s vital to our industry.

On this show, our guests share with Rhonda their thoughts on the importance of community engagement in DEI. They discuss how authentic DEI messaging runs through the art of a community and acts as a visual reminder that many individuals and cultures make up a community. Our guests also share their experiences of bridging gaps in diverse communities and why data plays such a critical role in DEI.

  • Melissa Cherry, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer for Miles Partnership
  • Renee Areng, Executive Director and CEO at Explore Brookhaven
  • Rich Kenah, CEO of Atlanta Track Club
  • Roni Weiss, Executive Director of Travel Unity
  • Sherilyn Fortson, Economic Development Director for the City of Brookhaven
  • Wes Espinosa, Director of Development and Partnerships for the Center for Responsible Travel
  • Zoe Moore, Hospitality Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Consultant for Moore Consulting Agency

Enlightening Conversations from the Travel Unity Roadshow

We welcome seven inspirational guests onto the podcast to dig into what steps their organization is taking to make an impact on diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Travel Unity Summit has brought together a diverse range of travel professionals who are all committed to acting to incorporate the principles into their businesses and communities.

Melissa Cherry, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer for Miles Partnership

We can make an impact on DEI in the travel industry when we’re dedicated to making a difference long term. Melissa describes why we should focus on moving forward through authentic community engagement as an industry. You have to truly evolve accessibility, fully commit to it, and live and breathe it operationally to get to a place where your destination or organization is truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive for residents and visitors alike.

Renee Areng, Executive Director and CEO at Explore Brookhaven

Renee explains why the Travel Unity Summit is an excellent place for individuals in the travel and tourism industry to learn what’s working in other destinations to put their own spin on DEI strategies and apply them in their own backyard. She shares why recognizing the historical impacts of all cultures and races in our destinations allows you to tell the authentic story of a destination. Renee also highlights the work Explore Brookhaven has been doing with local artists in their destination to showcase how the visual arts can help diversity messaging and engage visitors.

Rich Kenah, CEO of Atlanta Track Club

Rich Kenah explains why Atlanta Track Club looks at DEI from both internal and external perspectives. They are committed to impacting health and wellness through running and walking and believe that the only way they will achieve their vision is if they are universally accessible. He describes their recent internal DEI audit and subsequent six-month series of educational sessions on the topic of DEI for staff and how those team activities help them to deliver accessible community-facing activities.

Roni Weiss, Executive Director of Travel Unity

The travel industry can make an impact on DEI by being more thoughtful and deliberate about the work they do, according to Roni. He describes why we need to go beyond hope without action by doing the strategic planning that enables organizations to effect real change. Roni also explains why you have to make decisions based on your goals for change, pivot into a position where you’re aligning with those goals, and be specific about how you’re going to achieve them.

Sherilyn Fortson, Economic Development Director for the City of Brookhaven

Sherilyn describes what her team did when they recognized that they didn’t have sufficient synergy or collaboration with their highest minority demographic, the Hispanic community. She shares the steps they took to connect with local organizations, put forward partnership opportunities, and above all, listen so that they could bridge the gap between city government and minority communities.

Wes Espinosa, Director of Development and Partnerships for the Center for Responsible Travel

Wes shares the numerous steps the Center for Responsible Travel is taking to bring diversity, equity, and inclusion to their organization. He gives a brief overview of why they are hyper-focused on interdisciplinary applied research, which they make free and accessible to all. He also shares why they are currently diving deep into the concept of destination stewardship — managing rather than just marketing it — and how to make it a collective action that gives stakeholders from all sectors of society a seat at the table.

Zoe Moore, Hospitality Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Consultant for Moore Consulting Agency

From Zoe’s perspective, as an industry, our impact comes as being the thought leaders in DEI, not only because what we do is so visible, but because we are a microcosm of society in many ways. The travel industry should be leading by example and using all the available data to pin down who we’re serving as an organization so we can provide better service across all social identities.

Thank you so much for listening to the third episode of our special three-part series from the Travel Unity Summit. A key lesson that has come out of discussions is the need to build relationships and establish trust in communities so we can bridge the gaps in DEI.

We value your thoughts and feedback and would love to hear from you. Leave us a review on your favorite streaming platform to let us know what you want to hear more of. Here is a quick tutorial on how to leave us a rating and review on iTunes!: https://breaktheicemedia.com/rating-review/

May 25, 2022

In the second of our three-part series from the Travel Unity Roadshow, we ask our seven guests to share their thoughts on how the travel industry can make an impact via the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Rhonda’s conversations with all of these leaders in our industry were truly fascinating, and we’re excited to share them with you.

Highlights of this episode include why we should see tour guides for the storytellers they are and how their unique position allows them to be at the forefront of DEI education by expanding the viewpoints in the stories they tell about the destinations that they visit. Our guests also discuss the importance of emphasizing the principles of DEI to young people and college students and why they should be woven into every aspect of a destination.

The Travel Unity Roadshow Defined

The Travel Unity Summit highlights the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of the travel and tourism industry. The event allows destination marketers and other travel professionals to discuss how they can incorporate the principles of DEI into their everyday practice. Our seven guests also share their word of the summit — and the terms and concepts that appear are insightful.

David Naczycz, Owner of WeVenture

David shares why the travel industry has a significant role in promoting DEI. The scale of our industry is vast, as is the number of people we touch so we can impact our teams, our companies, and our visitors and model the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. David also emphasizes the need to take the concept of decolonization seriously, take some time to reflect, and make changes so that we’re not exploiting people, we’re spreading the wealth, and including everybody.

Dustin Woerhmann, President and Creative Director of Communify

Dustin outline the steps Communify are taking to bring DEI to their organization in terms of helping destinations to tell their authentic stories. Communify works to create advisory groups with a broad range of interests from a broad range of backgrounds to help put together inclusive marketing content for a destination. Dustin tells us why his word of the summit is inclusive and how the event is shining a light on what it means to be genuinely inclusive.

Elijah Washington, Youth and Collegiate Programs Director at Travel Unity

Elijah describes the topics most often discussed by students and young people around DEI and what they are primarily interested in. He shares how they are bringing the discussion to the youth in college and how they make the topic more accessible and applicable to students in the high school age range. Elijah also notes why it is so interesting to hear students’ views on DEI and how it relates to their community or culture.

Greg DeShields, Executive Director, Tourism Diversity Matters

Tourism Diversity Matters was founded on the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion. As such, it is their priority to work within the travel industry to address those gaps in DEI. They help business leaders with appropriate resources and valuable strategies for their DEI programs via their four-pillar approach. Greg outlines the four pillars of his organization — the apprenticeship program, workforce development, DEI training, and research and data — and explains how each helps in reducing social and economic inequality and building awareness.

Janette Roush, Executive Vice President of Marketing at NYC & Co

Janette explores why accessibility needs a place in the world of inclusion and how NYC and Co are making an impact as marketers via the stories they tell. She describes why they devoted a lot of time during the pandemic to finding a broad range of stories that touch various audiences and sharing them via content hubs on their site. Janette’s word of the summit is ‘warm’ because of the welcome she has received and the sense of enlightenment shared by so many passionate people at the summit.

Jennifer Grimmer, President and CEO of Gilmer Chamber of Commerce

Jennifer believes that the travel industry can make a significant impact by portraying everyone and being inclusive when it comes to travel. Our sector should convey a welcome to anyone visiting any destination and be attentive to people’s needs in marketing and discussing travel. It’s exciting for Jennifer that the Travel Unity Summit is so popular, and she is thrilled to see that so many people working for DMOs across the country are committed to DEI.

Karen Kuhl, Executive Director, Cayuga County CVB

Diversity, equity, and inclusion is woven into every part of the tourism industry. Karen shares how the Cayuga County CVB works with a variety of partnerships and ensures that each individual organization has the same opportunity to be elevated and celebrated. She discusses what it means to be an advocate and an authentic friend to organizations means understanding and listening to them, and how that creates an alignment with visitors.

I hope you enjoyed the second episode of our special three-part series from the Travel Unity Summitt. All of these inspirational leaders had so much to share on how their organizations continue to impact DEI in the travel and tourism industry. Next week we’ll hear from more remarkable travel and tourism experts, so I hope you’ll join the conversation!

We value your thoughts and feedback and would love to hear from you. Leave us a review on your favorite streaming platform to let us know what you want to hear more of. Here is a quick tutorial on how to leave us a rating and review on iTunes!: https://breaktheicemedia.com/rating-review/

May 18, 2022

In this series, we dive into the topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and hear the perspectives of leaders within the travel and tourism industry. My team has taken the show on the road without me for this episode, and I’m excited that they and you are benefitting from all the great information shared at The Travel Unity Summit. For this first episode in a special three-part series of Destination on the Left, Rhonda and Brittany visited the Travel Unity Summit to chat to attendees about their experiences working in the travel and tourism industry, and particularly their experience of DEI in their communities.

I’m excited to share all the discussions and experiences that came out of my team’s experience at the Travel Unity Roadshow in Brookhaven, Georgia, and the candid conversations they had with guests at the summit. In this first episode of a special three-part Destination On The Left series, you’ll hear from these five fantastic travel and tourism leaders:

Insights and Experiences from the Travel Unity Roadshow

The Travel Unity Summit is focused on allowing everyone in the travel and tourism industry to
come together to tackle how to move forward on the vital work of incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into strategic planning and implementation. Destination marketers and
members of the travel industry share ideas on applying the principles of DEI to ensure that their communities are welcoming to people of all backgrounds and abilities.

Amber Cameron from Travel Unity

Amber shares how she was able to incorporate DEI into every process every step of the way because she created the HR department from scratch at Travel Unity. She describes how by using the DEI standards that Travel Unity had created using a committee of external participants from around the travel industry, they were able to follow a pre-drawn roadmap to successfully refine their policies. Amber also shares her insights into building a fully engaged team to support the organization and the wider community in their DEI endeavors.

Aquan Robinson from Experience Montgomery

The travel industry is often the first touchpoint you have in many spaces. And whatever the attractions or destinations in the local community, it is vital to make sure that everyone has a fair and equitable experience. Aquan describes why we can make a business case for diversity, equity, and inclusion and why it’s essential for cities like Montgomery to be at the forefront of these conversations. The travel industry is so crucial to every community so it must lead the way in doing the right thing with regard to DEI.

Bethany Rogers from NewTown Loans

Bethany describes how NewTown Loans have been instrumental in increasing storefront occupancy in Macon, Georgia, by giving people opportunities to purchase that bigger banks have denied them. She shares what the Travel Unity Summit means to her and why for her, knowing that the whole travel and tourism community is moving in the same direction with diversity, equity, and inclusion is inspirational.

Billy Kolber from Hospitable ME

Billy explains how Hospitable ME provides inclusive hospitality strategy and education for tourism, retail, and healthcare organizations with particular expertise in LGBTQ+. He highlights the three steps they’re taking to bring DEI to their customers, including helping them understand who LGBTQ people are and how the LGBTQ plus market is relevant to their destination or organization. Billy also shares how his organization helps destinations build an LGBTQ+ network to engage with the community and offer queer-specific content that integrates queer people and LGBTQ+ topics and venues into their overall marketing campaigns.

Danny Guerrero from The Culturist Group

DEI is fundamental for Danny Guerrero, and he shares why he considers multicultural marketing and marketing resources and platforms in the travel and tourism industry to be an absolute must. The research shows that so many people are not feeling seen or welcome or represented in destination marketing — and often marketers want to be inclusive, but they often don’t know how to. Danny emphasizes that t’s not about selecting or segregating; it’s about reinforcing your brand strategy and approach to better understand the values and motivators of marginalized groups.

I hope you enjoyed this first episode of our special three-part series from the Travel Unity Summitt. Rhonda and Brittany and the leaders they spoke to have shared so many valuable insights into how destinations can move forward to embrace the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Next week we’ll hear from more remarkable travel and tourism experts, so I hope you’ll join the conversation!

We value your thoughts and feedback and would love to hear from you. Leave us a review on your favorite streaming platform to let us know what you want to hear more of. Here is a quick tutorial on how to leave us a rating and review on iTunes!: https://breaktheicemedia.com/rating-review/

 
May 11, 2022

Jill Ramiel was born in Flushing, Queens, New York, and attended the State University of New York at Binghamton. While pursuing her master’s degree at the University of Washington, she met Ken Alper, a fellow East Coast native and master’s degree recipient.

The couple moved to Juneau, Alaska, in 1997 and bought the historic Messerschmidt Building. Originally built in 1898 as a bakery, the Historic Messerschmidt building in downtown Juneau now houses the Silverbow Inn Hotel & Suites. Jill and Ken have been renovating and expanding it ever since.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Jill Ramiel about her role as a small business owner in the tourism industry and why she is adamant that collaboration is essential in creating a unique local experience that visitors also love. She shares how she delights and surprises her guests by seeking meaningful and authentic partnerships and describes her plans for the Silverbow Inn Hotel & Suites as we move into the post-pandemic travel and tourism era.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How small businesses can foster a sense of community and bring people together to share ideas
  • Jill’s creative collaborations with local partners, including a wonderful muralist, and why her guests appreciate her partnerships with the artisans of Juneau
  • Why being inexperienced in the travel and tourism sector allowed Jill to look at things from a different angle
  • How budget constraints make you more creative in your thinking
  • Jill reflects on the last two years and how her business moved forward during that time
  • How the Silverbow Inn Hotel & Suites is enhancing their customer experience with technology
  • The expansion of the inn and why Jill thinks visitors will love the refurbishments
  • Why unique local experiences start with the locals, not the tourists

Networking for Success

Putting the time into researching to solve problems creatively is essential when you’re on a tight budget. And even when you’re not, there are so many reasons why keeping an open mind and relishing the opportunity to make creative decisions is important. Jill Ramiel joins us on the podcast this week to share her journey from architecture student in New York to hotelier in Juneau, Alaska.

She describes why it’s such a pleasure to work with skilled, passionate people, grow her network, and be inspired by all the talented people around her. Small business owners are a significant part of the tourism ecosystem, and it’s fascinating how destinations can work with them to really display what is special and unique about an area.

Technological Advances

So many people and destinations have been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Jill shares how her boutique hotel, the Silver Bow Inn, has made pivotal, impactful positive changes over the last two years.

She reveals that her superpower is persistence and highlights how she and her team worked together to find the solution to keeping the business afloat and relevant when the situation was changing so rapidly. Jill and Nicole discuss some of the technical innovations that allowed the inn to operate in a ‘hands-off’ fashion, including the doorknobs that you could unlock using your cell phone number and self-check-in systems — and some of the glitches that Jill had to deal with!

Keeping Downtown Areas Alive

When people are all working hard individually, it can be easy for them to become siloed in their own businesses. But when your destination relies on all of the small businesses in the area it’s immensely valuable to step outside your own operations and collaborate with others. Jill notes that a good downtown is a curated downtown and that the onus was on the businesses in the downtown zone of Juneau to ensure it was an attractive place to visit — not only for tourists but for locals too. As she says, “if the locals love it, tourists will love it too.”

Visitors will be drawn to a unique local experience, and the most effective way to build that experience is to collaborate with others.

Resources:

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May 4, 2022

Bud Geissler is the Vice President of Business Development and Sales at Group Collect. As a brand ambassador for student travel and Travel Insurance, he recently celebrated 25 years in the group travel industry. Bud served as President of the Student Youth Travel Association from 2011-2012 and was the Chair of the SYTA Youth Foundation’s Board of Trustees. Bud was also the National Account Manager at Travel Insured International before moving to Group Collect.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Bud Geissler about his experience in student and youth group travel, and I was moved by his insights into the importance of the travel experience for young people. We also dive into how technology is making the tourist business not only more streamlined and efficient but overall more pleasant and enjoyable for everyone involved.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Bud’s experience as a student tour operator looking after groups traveling all over the USA
  • How the use of technology in the tour and travel market has evolved over the past two years
  • What technology can do to improve people’s experience of a destination
  • The app that Bud is currently working on to enhance the on-the-ground group travel experience by giving them space to create the memories and to enjoy what’s around them without worrying about the logistics of their trip
  • How having the mobile ability to access travel documents will streamline processes
  • How technology can facilitate a direct connection between the consumer and the group travel agent
  • How technology can provide a direct channel for future marketing and trip feedback
  • Why using a dedicated app can help by ensuring you have a consistent brand leaving your organization
  • Why the group travel segment buying cycle is so different than the retail buying experience
  • Challenges that Bud is seeing bubbling up right now in the group travel industry

How Technology Improves the Group Travel Experience

Technology — half the time, it frustrates the heck out of us, and half the time, it simplifies our lives. But the last two years have demonstrated just how significant a role technology can play in the planning and implementing of an excellent travel experience. Leveraging technology for group travel may not seem intuitive at first, but as this week’s guest Bud Geissler explains, once you jump on board, you’ll realize how valuable and user-friendly up-to-date technology can be in streamlining the travel experience.

Bud describes where he sees the future for making connections in the group travel industry that provide travelers with an enhanced experience and travel marketers with an opportunity for direct marketing.

Streamlining Processes

Bud describes how when pandemic restrictions lifted, tour operators went from zero sales to 100% sales in a three-month period and how his company was able to support tour operators to launch their products and access operations systems support from a technology standpoint.

Nicole and Bud discuss how the software being built by Group Collect not only gives access to a landing page for registration, but it also allows the traveler to register to sign documents, ask questions, and get important information such as where the local hospital is or how to get medication while they’re on the road. There is no longer a gatekeeper in charge of ensuring that the travel insurance products or information gets down downstream to every traveler in the group because the whole process is automated.

The Importance of Travel to Young People

Bud also shares his thoughts on why student travel is a way to change a young person’s life. He explains his philosophy that student travel connects curriculum to reality, practice to performance, and classrooms to careers. So when any young person has the opportunity to travel, they are gaining life-changing opportunities at a time when there’s so much struggle and challenge in our society it’s a gift.

Resources:

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Apr 27, 2022

Paulette Hicks is an energetic, passionate, and highly driven manager. She is noted for achieving results by executing solid and focused plans. Her 27 years of experience as a successful manager within the Saint John Business Community has been recognized by her peers in receiving the President’s Award by Tourism Saint John and nationally with the Hotel Association of Canada, HAC Humanitarian Award, and 2016 Women of Distinction YWCA.

She has successfully managed the Delta Saint John, which includes the largest 4-star convention hotel18,000 square feet of prime conference space in Saint John, New Brunswick. The complex is owned and operated by Slate REIT.

Paulette is highly experienced with exceptional strength in delivering financial results by revenue-generating strategies combined with well-managed margins and cost controls.

She is an engaged manager who leads her team in a direct and clear fashion. She strives to achieve an environment that consistently delivers a positive experience meaningful to guests with empowered employees. Ms. Hicks is committed to developing and mentoring employees and attracting top talent to the company.

As a high honors graduate of the Hospitality & Tourism program from Seneca College, she continues to enhance her education by working with the NB Community College and University of New Brunswick Saint John Hospitality Programs.

Ms. Hicks has invested in the growth of the destination with her commitment to implementing the Destination Marketing Fee, adding an additional $800,000 annually in marketing dollars for the Saint John region. Ms. Hicks is community-minded and sincerely invests her talents and time into many initiatives, particularly poverty reduction.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Paulette Hicks, CEO of Envision Saint John, about the amazing feat of successful inter-organizational collaboration she has pulled off in just a few short months. The regional growth agency she heads has embraced their new model of collaboration, and Paulette describes some of the creative promotions that they have already executed and seen successful results from and how they plan to build on those results in the future.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How Paulette moved from hotel management into destination marketing
  • Lessons learned from starting a new destination marketing agency in the middle of a pandemic
  • Why Envision Saint John wanted to go beyond the borders of the city and involve neighboring municipalities
  • Paulette’s advice for engaging multiple stakeholders in new and bold initiatives
  • How cultivating a growth mindset has helped move Envision Saint John forward and align the stakeholders
  • Some of the creative approaches Envision Saint John is taking in terms of messaging and programming including collaborating on a specially written song by local musicians
  • The fantastic response they have had to their community handbook project and how they personalized them for different visitor groups
  • Paulette’s plans for building on the incredible success of the past 15 months and how Envision Saint John see the future of tourism in their region

Aligning with Partners

Knitting the community together was an important theme for Paulette as she built Envision Saint John. In this episode, she discusses how she was able to go beyond the city’s borders and involve other municipalities in her organization’s mission to attract more people to the area.

The new agency brought in three legacy agencies in Saint John, which separated out property, business, and tourism under one umbrella, added a further five municipalities and created an agency that aligned around four central pillars of visitors, residents, business investment, and students. Paulette is committed to a full singular focus on growth for her entire region and has been doing a tremendous amount of work around strategy and collaboration to ensure that they’re driving revenue and defining their brand.

Growth and Abundance

Growth mindset and abundance mindset are the terms that defined Paulette’s vision of building on the impetus of Envision Saint John’s first year. Her team and partners took those philosophies to heart when considering their past performance and where they want to be in five, 10, 15, and 25 years, as well as how they could create a community legacy so the young people of the area could build a life locally.

Paulette took a deliberate and very thoughtful approach by listening to all the stakeholders in all the municipalities — including mayors, and town councils, to build a prospectus that they could present to tourism operators, businesses operators, entrepreneurs, and residents to ensure global buy-in for their plans. The overarching theme of being stronger together galvanized everyone to work hard for the future.

Creative Collaborations

Paulette also describes some of the “risky, bold, and different” collaborations that Envision Saint John set up, including an amazingly creative collaboration with high-profile local band Tomato/Tomato that highlighted all the things that local people loved about the area in a song which became the anthem of summer 2021.

She also shares how they created a series of community handbooks personalized for the visitor and how the collaborations and campaigns started in 2021 will carry the organization forward into 2022 and beyond.

Resources:

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Apr 20, 2022

Marc Garcia has been at the helm of Visit Mesa, the City of Mesa’s award-winning destination marketing organization, since 2012. He earned the DMO numerous visitor industry accolades and marketing campaign awards during this time. He was the catalyst for helping Mesa earn the first-ever Autism Certified City distinction in late 2019.

Marc leads a team of 12 full-time employees focused on selling and marketing Mesa, Arizona, as a must-experience destination in Arizona.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Marc Garcia about the importance of genuinely understanding the need for Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI) in every part of the travel industry and the impetus behind Mesa, Arizona, becoming the first autism-certified city in the United States. He also shares some of the creative collaborations the city is building with other organizations and the local community, including the advent of professional surfing in the desert and an amazing farm to fork trail.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How Marc’s love of family and his native city led him to a starter job at the Phoenix CVB and how his career in destination marketing has progressed over the last 25 years
  • Initiatives that Marc has been involved in that have helped Mesa stand out from the crowd.
  • Why Marc was so keen to move away from Mesa CVB as a name and how they rebranded as Visit Mesa
  • The Visit Mesa Partnership Programme — why it’s so unique and how it delivers an awesome ROI for its members
  • How Mesa’s role in Arizona’s Fresh Foodie Trail® encourages visitors to the region to enjoy the farm to fork experience
  • Creative ways that Visit Mesa is approaching Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI) and how they are using the principles to make their destination an even more attractive place to visit
  • How Visit Mesa encouraged their partners, including the Chamber of Commerce, the city’s Parks Department, and three of the largest hotels in the area, to undertake the Certified Autism Travel Professional course
  • What Marc and his team are doing to celebrate National Autism Awareness Month in April, including a collaboration with local micro-breweries
  • Marc’s words of wisdom for getting community partners involved and engaged

Spearheading Collaborative Efforts

Marc and I had a fascinating discussion on the podcast about the collaborative efforts of Visit Mesa, the Chamber of Commerce, the Parks Department, and various neighborhood associations that have proved to be the bedrock of the destination’s marketing success. He shared some of the best practices for spearheading a similar community collaboration, including going into discussions with an open mind and open heart.

When you’re building partnerships, all the stakeholders will have different ideas about how the relationship might look and how it might evolve over time. Marc shares why it’s essential to acknowledge that and be deliberate about your plan at the outset, with clear presentation materials so people understand your overarching purpose.

Partnership Based Program

Many organizations run membership-style programs, while others prefer a partnership-based approach. Marc explains why Visit Mesa has chosen an agency-style partnership program with a pay-to-play model and a multi-tiered structure. Being a member allows businesses in the area to have greater access to the client base and a better ROI.

We also discuss some of the creative collaborations that Visit Mesa is involved with, including the Fresh Foodie Trail®, which is a large part of the destination’s brand and a strong differentiator, and the upcoming partnership with two microbreweries in downtown Mesa that celebrates National Autism Awareness Month this April.

An Autism-Friendly Destination

Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI) is coming to the forefront of everyone in the travel and tourism industry’s mind, and Marc speaks to his personal passion for making Mesa a fun place to visit for all travelers. He shares why almost 5000 people in all parts of the industry have undertaken the Certified Autism Travel Professionals course and how the Mesa Regional Foundation for Accessibility, Diversity, and Inclusion is introducing high school students from Title One schools to career opportunities in the hospitality business.

Marc shared so much inspiration from his journey to making Mesa an autism-certified city, and listeners who are interested in starting a similar initiative in their own area are sure to find his candid advice helpful.

Resources:

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Apr 13, 2022

Alex Michaels has lived in eight states and spent more than two decades in the leisure and hospitality business, punctuated by a four-year stint in the Navy that began Sept. 11, 2001.

When he learned Michael Stershic, Discover Lehigh Valley’s president was retiring after 14 years, the former Navy hospital corpsman jumped at the chance to apply. After a nationwide search, Michaels, 49, was named president of Discover Lehigh Valley, whose mission is to promote tourism and market the region.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Alex Michaels about why he is so intentional about fostering a culture of collaboration in his organization and why he believes that educating stakeholders about their role in building partnerships has helped bolster post-pandemic success. We also discuss the positive influences on his leadership style, his commitment to constant education and reflection, and why he believes that Discover Lehigh Valley is stronger today than ever before.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How Alex got his start in the hospitality industry at Disney World and why it was such a tremendous formative experience in the business
  • How Alex’s leadership style has been influenced by his time in the Navy
  • Why Alex has always been motivated to embrace technology in destination marketing
  • Why Alex decided to move from a traditional office to a more collaborative meeting and working space
  • Ways that Alex and his team decided to cut spending and how it has helped them move forward co-operatively with other local DMOs
  • Discover Lehigh Valley’s current focus on talent supply and how they hope to tap into graduates of the region’s colleges and universities each year
  • How moving to a storytelling method of marketing has helped Alex’s area work together to brand several destinations or services as one

Leadership Lessons from Recent Challenges

Alex describes why he is committed to creating an environment where the team at Discover Lehigh Valley has ownership of what they do at the DMO. He shares how their culture of collaboration with the Economic Development Agency, their Chamber, and their local partners has become a vital factor in their post-pandemic success.

On the show, we discussed the extent to which DMOs have become part of the economic development puzzle for their areas. Alex outlines why it’s so essential for travel and tourism leaders to emphasize the importance of educating all of the stakeholders on the investment they make into the community and to share what they have with the visitors, which are often instrumental in helping drive the local economy.

Encouragement and Support

Our focus on the podcast is how collaboration and co-opetition can move you forward as a destination, so I was fascinated to hear Alex’s take on why he sees collaboration as vital to the future of the travel and tourism industry. He shares some of the creative approaches to collaboration that have helped the Lehigh Valley team move through the challenges of the last few years.

We also discussed in detail some of the projects that Discover Lehigh Valley worked on during the pandemic, including working towards a Destination Management accreditation program and a Certified Tourism Ambassador program, and why they were ready to make the pivot and leverage new opportunities as soon as shutdowns were announced.

Time for Reflection

Digging deep into the operation side of the organization, from going through the accreditation process to understanding the importance of streamlining the budget helped Alex and Discover Lehigh Valley put themselves in the best position to take advantage of the renewed appetite for travel.

Alex describes how his organization has built valuable partnerships in the local area that allow them to engage potential visitors in the authentic story of the region via their marketing channels. He also highlights why the enforced pause in day-to-day activities gave the Lehigh team time to take stock and evaluate which activities were most likely to provide a return on investment and benefit the community the most.

Resources:

We value your thoughts and feedback and would love to hear from you. Leave us a review on your favorite streaming platform to let us know what you want to hear more of. Here is a quick tutorial on how to leave us a rating and review on iTunes!: https://breaktheicemedia.com/rating-review/

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