Cassandra Harrington has served as the director of Destination Marketing Corporation for Otsego County for over a year. Prior to that, she was the director of the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail and she started her marketing career as the membership development manager at the Seneca County Chamber of Commerce.
In her own words she is “learning the inner workings of the group travel industry as well as the intricacies of New York state matching funds, and who’s who in the igloo of the county, regional, and state tourism efforts.”
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Cassandra Harrington of the Otsego County Tourism board about sharing the tourism love beyond America’s pastime at Cooperstown. How is the role of DMOs changing? How best can you help visitors and locals alike embrace those changes and reap the benefits of visiting or living in a given region? That’s the conversation we’re having, join in!
Cassandra is part of a growing trend of people who are coming into Destination Marketing Organizations from the attraction side of the travel industry. These newcomers have noticed the trend themselves and jokingly refer to the hashtag #NextGenDMO as they collaborate and experience their new roles together.
It’s safe to say the passion and sense of innovation they bring to their roles is welcome. As technology and the ways visitors experience a region change – for instance, not necessarily from a hotel room removed from town, but right in town, in your neighbor’s short term rental property – DMOs are challenged with drawing in these visitors and finding ways to extend their stay and make it as memorable as possible.
Another trend we’re seeing is how DMOs are more and more filling the role, not just of attracting visitors, but getting locals excited about the economic opportunity and vitality that tourism brings to their home region.
This is happening in Otsego County, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame and many more hidden gems that visitors have come to love and locals have treasured for years. The rise in popularity of short term rentals means that visitors are living side-by-side with locals during their stay. Highlighting the long-term benefits in infrastructure improvements and other ways occupancy taxes of those visitors help the local economy has become part of the DMOs job description.
Richard Arnold is the Director of Fun at Atlantic Travel and Tours. He is a graduate of Acadia University and has been with Atlantic since 1987. He is also a member of the board of Travel Alliance Partners, where he serves as treasurer.
After working as an employee for many years, Richard took the plunge and purchased Atlantic Travel and Tours. He is a busy man- but he’ll be the first to tell you his first love is hosting the trips and being a tour director. Though his title is now Director of Fun, he still gets out in the field and leads trips from time to time. He says, “I want to be judged on the job, not on the fact that I am president of the company. At the end of the day, if I’m not doing my job, I need to hear it like any other tour manager.”
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Richard Arnold about his longtime experience in running tours in an around Nova Scotia and outbound tourism to the far reaches of the world. How has group travel changed? How can you stay competitive? How can you continue to make a profit and make promises like a guaranteed departure trip? We discuss answers to these questions and many more.
In the early 2000s, many thought the era of group touring was over. People want to follow their own path, conventional wisdom said. Richard thought something else was happening and developed what he calls “the illusion of choice.”
Part of this is about giving people a sense of having freedom of choice. When you offer options, Richard has found that most people default to joining the larger group anyhow. But you’ve empowered them with a choice, which is what travel consumers want these days.
Richard has uncovered a gem of wisdom in his 33 years in the industry- often the thing that caused a touring client to open their wallets in the first place is different from what they find most memorable about a tour. Be sure to pay attention to those “wow” factors that may not be the reason people initially book a trip, but what they get out of it in the end.
What “wows” one person might not “wow” another. The greater the customization you can offer (even in group tour offerings), the bigger the “wow”. Richard shows us how you can find ways to make any size tour for any length of time work, through strategic partnerships or just creative thinking and attention to your bottom line.
Dr. Kirsten Ellenbogen brings more than 25 years of experience to her role as the third president of Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Kirsten’s energetic leadership during the last two decades has advanced informal STEM education. Her leadership activities at Great Lakes Science Center have included the launch of a new strategic initiative, Cleveland Creates, developed in collaboration with regional workforce development leaders to change the community’s manufacturing narrative through STEM education for middle school youth and families. Kirsten has worked at five museums during the past two decades and consulted for more than 30.
She is a founding leader of the Northeast Ohio STEM Ecosystem Collaborative and has been appointed to serve on the mayor’s steering committee on sustainability as well as the planning and Urban Design Committee of the Group Plan Commission. She holds a Ph.D. in science education from Vanderbilt University and a BA from the University of Chicago.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Dr. Kirsten Ellenbogen about science, city-wide collaboration, and national partnerships in museum tourism. Kirsten also breaks down the vast difference it makes when other institutions speak with each other and work together, instead of being adversarial.
Organizations get reputations. When you have a reputation for saying no, opportunities start to dry up, and you get stuck in a rut of doing the same things year after year. Saying yes can also have its challenges, like when your city is hosting a national political convention.
Kirsten talks about how to bring stakeholders together to think through the best ways to face the challenges and opportunities when you invite the nation into your town.
We also revisit a concept from another episode – Cathedral Thinking – as we explore what it means to be a cultural institution with a long view, and a view to contribute and participate fully in the community where you are situated.
Planning isn’t just about the next year or two, but about laying a foundation for generations to build on. That may sound grandiose, but when you are a cultural institution in a community rich with art, sports, music, and science attractions, taking the long view together is just good stewardship.
What foundations are you laying down for future generations?
Tiffany Gallagher is eastern USA branch manager for Civitas, where she helps clients form and manage Tourism Improvement Districts. Throughout her career, she has shown a strong commitment to the tourism and business communities. Most recently she served as the President of the Greater Syracuse Hospitality and Tourism Association and currently serves on the New York State Hospitality and Tourism Board of Directors. Relevant experience also includes; serving on the Board of Directors of Destination Marketing Organizations, Strategic Planning Councils, and Business Improvement Districts.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Tiffany about how Tourism Improvement Districts (TIDs) can create a public/private partnership that brings huge benefits to a travel region. These can be formed around hotel accommodations, wineries, breweries or ski resorts. TIDs create a stable funding stream and puts decision-making in the hands of industry leaders in the region.
TIDs are an exciting concept that has been a big factor on the west coast of the US and are slowly growing in popularity across the eastern US.
What makes a TID such an attractive idea? The power, Tiffany tells us, is that this funding mechanism is championed by the industry. It is also managed and spent by the industry. TIDs are a stable form of marketing funding that hotels or other travel categories in a region can use until it doesn’t make sense anymore. If the payers are not benefitting, they can disband the TID.
A Tourism Improvement District is a legal entity. Tiffany has formed organizations as small as one hotel and as large as all the hotels in a mid-sized city. Relationships are key, as this is essentially a public/private partnership between local governments and the industry players in a given region.