Robb Wells, President and CEO of the Greater Beaufort-Port Royal CVB, has been a Destination Marketing Professional for more than 15 years. Starting his career as Executive Director for Duplin County Tourism in North Carolina before moving to become Sr. Director of Marketing at the Knoxville Tourism & Sports Corporation and then became Vice President of the Tourism Division for the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce before taking on his current role as President and CEO of the CVB.
Robb is successful at establishing the vision and strategies necessary to ensure a destination’s continued success. He excels at creating relationships, networks, and business connections while partnering with all core tourism constituents to significantly increase the area’s visitor experience and overall economic impact.
In this episode of Destination on the Left, we are joined by Robb Wells, the President and CEO of the Greater Beaufort-Port Royal Conventions and Visitors Bureau in South Carolina. During this conversation, Robb discusses his journey in the travel and tourism industry, and he shares invaluable lessons about responding to adversity and uncertainty. Learn how Robb’s organization is using creativity and collaboration to cut through the noise and make a positive impact on the Beaufort community.
Robb Wells is the President & CEO at Greater Beaufort-Port Royal CVB in South Carolina. Robb started his journey in travel and tourism with a DMO in a small rural community that was still under economic development. The lessons and experience Robb picked up in that role set the stage for his career and prepared him to lead the operation with the Greater Beaufort-Port Royal CVB. In this episode of Destination on the Left, Robb shares invaluable insights about responding to adversity. Robb’s community has to prepare itself for hurricane season every year and the lessons he has learned from dealing with that uncertainty are widely applicable to other scenarios as well.
Robb’s first day on the job was a governor’s conference. As a twenty-four-year-old who got thrown into the deep end, Robb had to learn on the fly and work outside of his comfort zone constantly. It is something most of us do now and then, but to this day, Robb is educating himself regularly to serve his community the best he can. Whether you find tourism or tourism finds you, it is important to stay ahead of the changing landscape by leveraging all of the resources you can find. Travel and tourism is a highly competitive space that requires creativity and collaboration to thrive in, and it is woven into the fabric of our communities’ economies.
When Robb first got into the travel and tourism industry, everything in his community’s tourism strategy was siloed. Robb put a lot of energy into facilitating interdepartmental connectivity and collaboration. He maintains that emphasis to this day because it shapes the way communities view DMOs. People might not understand the tourism industry, but they understand the role of a DMO in their community because of the prevalence of partnerships. Robb is working with his partners on things like content creation and festival production, contributing to an even greater presence of the CVB in Beaufort. Whether it is aggressive public relations campaigns or new attractions, Robb’s organization is focused on a much bigger picture than tourism alone. They are making an impact on the Beaufort community with everything they do.
Jillian Blackbeard’s passion lies in Africa Tourism and Conservation. She has been leading the industry for over 10 years specifically marketing, first for a Southern African hotel and resort chain, followed by five years as director for marketing and product development at Botswana Tourism Organisation, followed by Director for Africa for The World Travel and Tourism Association.
She is now the CEO of The Victoria Falls Regional Tourism Association, the first purely private sector driven organization representing the entire KAZA region (Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe) which is undertaking an ambition destination marketing strategy and campaign at all levels of the tourism supply chain. Jillian’s passions extend to conversation, managing the Tlhokomela Endangered Wildlife Trust for five years and continues to support projects that link tourism with conservation.
Over the past years she has spoken at international conferences and events on the importance of Intra-African Travel and opportunities and challenges for the sector across the African continent.
On our podcast, we are joined by Jillian Blackbeard, CEO of The Victoria Falls Regional Tourism Association, the first private sector-driven organization representing Africa’s KAZA region (Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe). During our discussion, Jillian shares how her association is creating a powerful, collaborative network to promote the many travel destinations worth visiting throughout the region.
Jillian Blackbeard, CEO of The Victoria Falls Regional Tourism Association, the first purely private sector-driven organization representing the entirety of Africa’s KAZA region (Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) and the region’s many enticing travel destinations. During our discussion, Jillian shares how her association is creating a powerful, collaborative network to promote the many travel destinations worth visiting throughout the region.
As Jillian explains during our conversation, one of the integral elements of her association that sets it apart from others like it is its focus on promoting the entire African region rather than one or two specific destinations. The association works to involve businesses at all levels of the supply chain to help cross-promote them and to help them share and repurpose their content and limited resources. By working together, each business is able to amplify its reach and minimize its marketing costs, while still reaping profound benefits and helping to elevate the entire region and its many destinations.
A theme that Jillian comes back to time and again during our discussion is the power of collaborative and mentor-mentee relationships. As she explains, women in the travel trade often face challenges different from male counterparts, especially in developing regions. Working together and forming a network of partnerships and mentorships can benefit everyone involved, as Jillian illustrates when she shares the profound impact other women mentors within the industry have had on her own career and opportunities. So too, forming a strong network of collaborators has helped The Victoria Falls Regional Tourism Association and its individual members pool resources to develop a unified message highlighting the region’s many attractive qualities.
Julia Feuell grew up in Auckland, New Zealand and settled in the UK in the 1980s. She set up New Frontiers in 1993, recruiting staff all over the travel industry. In 2008, Julia had an idea to create a training academy for call center workers to learn about products and destinations online. This idea transformed into another business called OTT – a global product marketing and communications business accessed by more than 180,000 travel professionals in 17 languages and in 22 countries.
Julia has actively participated in committees – AWTE (as Chair 06-08), Recruitment & Training committee for ABTA, City and Guilds National Advisory Committee (as Chair 2012) and People 1st training committee. She has been interviewed twice by the BBC for NEWS24.
Julia was also a finalist for “Outstanding Services to the Travel Industry” by the Guild of Travel & Tourism and won “Woman Entrepreneur of the Year” at the 2008 Shine Awards.
She enjoys Tai Chi, yoga, eating out in good company, and riding on the back of fast motorbikes!
On our podcast, we are joined by Julia Feuell, Founder and Managing Director of OTT (Online Travel Training), a global product training and marketing platform for the travel trade. During our discussion, Julia shares how her organization is working to train travel professionals and prepare them for lasting post-pandemic changes in the industry, while also developing new partnerships and new technologies to help with industry recovery efforts.
Julia Feuell is the Founder and Managing Director of OTT (Online Travel Training, a global product training and marketing platform for industry professionals across all aspects of the travel trade. During our discussion, Julia shares how her organization is working to train travel professionals and prepare them for lasting post-pandemic changes in the industry, while also developing new partnerships and new technologies to help with industry recovery efforts.
Julia’s organization, OTT, is unique in that it has a broad global reach across 23 different nations and numerous and varied markets. OTT’s clients are able to expand their message while also saving money on B2C advertising costs. Additionally, OTT hosts a vast learning library catering to travel professionals, with more than 200 courses on offer in the industry’s largest e-learning platform. During this unique time of crisis, OTT has shifted its focus to helping industry professionals learn to adapt to the changing landscape of the travel trade as the global pandemic has dramatically (and in many cases, permanently) altered how the travel trade will work.
One of OTT’s core functions during this crisis is to help members cut through the confusing and often conflicting messages to better understand what is happening in the industry during this pandemic. Julia mentioned that domestic travel is likely to be an increasingly important share of the industry as people’s travel habits and expectations change. In fact, during our conversation, one of the points Julia mentioned is that OTT is going to begin researching and collecting information from the global recovery effort to help members better understand what is and isn’t working and to make more informed choices regarding capacity and where to focus their efforts. This information will prove invaluable as the travel trade begins moving forward again.
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A seasoned tourism executive with more than 35 years of experience in the industry, Don Welsh serves as the President and CEO of Destinations International. Since joining the association in March 2016, Welsh has implemented a strategic realignment for the association through a renewed commitment to focus on member needs to deliver the resources members have determined to be essential to the success of their organizations.
Prior to joining Destinations International, Welsh served as the President and CEO of Choose Chicago. Welsh also held the CEO position at the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and the Seattle Convention & Visitors Bureau. Prior to joining the destination marketing industry, Welsh served as senior vice president for Westin Hotels at its corporate headquarters, and has also held senior leadership positions in sales and marketing for Westin Hotels and Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas. A seasoned tourism executive with more than 35 years of experience in the industry, Don Welsh serves as the President and CEO of Destinations International. Since joining the association in March 2016, Welsh has implemented a strategic realignment for the association through a renewed commitment to focus on member needs to deliver the resources members have determined to be essential to the success of their organizations.
On our podcast, we are joined by Don Welsh, the President and CEO of Destinations International. In our discussion, Don shares his perspective on the impact the pandemic is having on the tourism industry. He explains the current and future role of DMOs, the funding challenges they are facing, and how the pandemic has equalized the tourism industry.
Don Welsh is a veteran of travel and tourism, and he currently serves as the President and CEO of Destinations International. Throughout his career, he has accrued more than thirty-five years of experience in our industry, holding several senior leadership positions with international brands like Westin Hotels and Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, and the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino. On our podcast, Don shares his perspective on the impact the pandemic is having on the tourism industry. He discusses the current and future role of DMOs, the funding challenges DMOs are facing amidst the global pandemic, and he also talks about how the pandemic has equalized the tourism industry.
Don’s organization represents more than six hundred CVBs and DMOs in over thirteen countries. So the good news is, he has a pretty strong grasp on what’s happening in travel and tourism around the world. Unlike localized natural disasters and other disruptive events that are unique to each DMO, this pandemic has been an equalizer. It has been a universal flattening of our industry, and from South America to Europe, we are all experiencing a similar struggle. It has been a time of transformation, where historic highs for airlines, restaurants, and hotels were tanked almost overnight. We quickly learned what it’s like to not have that, and DMOs are adapting as a result.
For a long time, DMOs have made up an invisible industry. They operate quietly in the background doing significant work that often goes unacknowledged. But the relevance of tourism organizations in our communities has been exposed by the global pandemic. The concept of community shared-value ensures there is an alignment with tourism organizations and their local communities. To achieve sustainable tourism down the road, we need to promote the same level of understanding and awareness for DMOs as we do for other organizations in the community. A significant evolution must take place to respond to changes presented by the pandemic, and with the oversight of organizations like Destinations International, the process is already underway.