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 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/
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:
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/
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.
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.
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!
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.
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/
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sarah Imes is an experienced Tourism professional with a demonstrated history of working in the event, hospitality, and tourism industry. Her current role is Tour & Travel Manager with Visit Ithaca.
Arriving in Ithaca for school and graduating (twice!) from Ithaca College, Sarah Imes fell in love with the area and began her career in radio sales before discovering hospitality. Two hotel sales jobs and a catering director gig later, she’s spent the last 6 + years with Visit Ithaca, sharing with travelers what makes Ithaca and the Finger Lakes Region magical.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Sarah Imes about why travel and tourism professionals need to prioritize building relationships, partnerships, and collaborations to move forward. We also dive into why listening is such an essential skill and how understanding how to build trust has helped her collaborate with others to build an experience that visitors love.
As we move forward into a recovery phase for the travel and tourism industry, it’s critical to change your perspective and seek out complementary experiences. DMOs need to genuinely consider the point of view of the tour operator — listen to what the tour operator needs, how their business works, and what their customer is looking for from their trip.
When you understand your clients’ needs and put them at the forefront of your mind, it broadens your expertise in other areas. Sarah discusses how she embraces creativity and collaboration to bring visitors to her region and how she makes Ithaca stand out from the crowd now that travelers are eager to start exploring the world again. She describes some of the experiences and partnerships that she builds into the itineraries for tour operators.
On the podcast, Sarah Imes shares her love of building relationships and describes her experience with Travel Alliance Partners (TAP). She explains how attending the TAP Dance event over the years has enabled her to be part of a supportive New York State pod that allows all of the member destinations to create wonderful itineraries stringing together all the different destinations through New York State.
Working together and organizing assets that paired well together into exceptional itineraries that tour operators could use for extended tours has created fantastic opportunities for both groups and individual travelers.
Knowing your audience is, first and foremost, in being able to create an experience that they will love. The more you listen, the more you understand a tour operator’s business, the more you can tailor programs and become the go-to expert. You deepen relationships by really understanding who they’re marketing to, how they’re marketing, what their needs are, and responding to those needs.
Being able to tailor your elevator pitch, to speak, to the needs of the operator shows that you’re listening, that you know the resources you have around you, and who you can partner with to provide a unique experience is a crucial advantage of putting work into building genuine, long-standing relationships.
With a talent for creating special events that blossomed while working for her dad’s car stereo shop, Nicole Mahoney got her start in marketing at Frontier Field in Rochester, and began serving as the executive director of the internationally known Lilac Festival. Later on, she headed the Canandaigua, New York Business Improvement District while also performing projects for the tourism promotion agency Visit Rochester.
In 2009, Nicole founded Break the Ice Media, with more than 20 years of experience in tourism marketing. She now hosts “Destination on the Left,” a highly successful tourism marketing podcast.
As a business owner, Nicole knows what it takes to be successful. She founded BTI to help businesses tell their brand story through public relations, digital and traditional channels. Nicole has the ability to uncover unique marketing opportunities and develop marketing and public relations initiatives that help clients build long-term success.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I host a question and answer session about Break the Ice Media’s acquisition of Travel Alliance Partners (TAP). This is such an exciting opportunity, and I’m thrilled that we can continue to bring together tour operators, suppliers, destinations, and travel buyers to collaborate on creating and promoting travel products. I also want to highlight TAP Dance, which we’re excited to be convening in person in Branson, MO, this May, as a crucial step toward reinvigorating the tour market.
Serge Talbot founded travel Alliance Partners (TAP) in 2001 to bring together a partnership of travel professionals with similar business ethics and product quality. TAP partners leverage joint marketing opportunities and use one another’s products and services in the spirit of mutual trust and respect. During the past 20 years, TAP has become known for its innovative ideas — they were the first to introduce the concept of guaranteed departures, pioneered the TAP Dance conference to allow industry professions to collaborate, and were the first in 2020 to announce a virtual event.
TAP was recently acquired by Break the Ice Media, and it went from a tour operator-owned company to a management marketing company-owned organization, but what TAP does and what it provides won’t change going forward.
Break the Ice Media is excited to have acquired TAP and is committed to continuing the spirit of collaboration that is key to building a successful business. In 2020 Break the Ice Media did a research study to determine how collaboration impacts the travel and tourism industry. And through that study, learned that 90% of the respondents are confident that relationship building is the future of helping the travel and tourism industry survive and thrive.
TAP’s mission is to build a partnership of travel professionals with high standards of business ethics and product quality with the intent to buy and sell products from each other and benefit from collective buying power and develop joint marketing opportunities in an environment of mutual trust and respect.
There are several ways to collaborate with TAP. They have 14 legacy partners who form the organization’s solid foundation and have developed two new partner levels, Growth and Collaborative, that people can now join without the equity buy-in to receive a variety of valuable benefits. They also have Preferred Professional Travel Providers (PPTP), who gain increased exposure to TAP’s partners and enjoy collaborative marketing benefits. TAP supports travel buyers with weekly webinars where our partners host a call and discuss specific travel itineraries, so they dig into the details.
Break the Ice Media and TAP continue to be the place where a wide variety of audiences and members can come to find business growth.
With a talent for creating special events that blossomed while working for my dad’s car stereo shop, Nicole got her start in marketing at Frontier Field in Rochester and began serving as the executive director of the internationally known Lilac Festival. Later on, she headed the Canandaigua, New York Business Improvement District while also performing projects for the tourism promotion agency Visit Rochester.
In 2009, Nicole founded Break the Ice Media, with more than 20 years of experience in tourism marketing. She now hosts “Destination on the Left,” a highly successful tourism marketing podcast.
As a business owner, Nicole knows what it takes to be successful. She founded BTI to help businesses tell their brand story through public relations digital and traditional channels. She has the ability to uncover unique marketing opportunities and develop marketing and public relations initiatives that help clients build long-term success.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, Nicole Mahoney highlights the importance of collaboration. In this ever-changing world, it’s essential to find ways to collaborate in order to survive and thrive. We need to step outside our self-imposed silos and actively seek out opportunities to create partnerships with others that move the whole travel industry forward.
Nicole shares her personal experience of building a community collaboration from the ground up when she was involved in the Rochester Frontier Field project. She describes how her experience of town-wide cooperation led to her subsequent passion for finding ways to build successful partnerships in the travel and tourism industry.
Bringing a community together to make something happen is magical — and it’s what sets the groundwork for success during challenging times. Nicole and her partner Susan Baier teamed to conduct a study on the effects of coopetition. This term refers to those times when perceived competitors come together to accomplish something more significant than they could achieve alone.
As travel and tourism industry professionals, we need to harness the power of collaboration with other organizations — even with our competitors. Recognizing and understanding the positive impacts of inter-organizational collaborations on business success is key in effectively leveraging our available tools. As Nicole says, collaboration is the exponential multiplier that makes one plus one greater than two. When we commit to working in partnership with others, we can move forward faster and more effectively.
There are often challenges on the path to achieving successful collaboration, and Nicole describes why she grouped these challenges under three broad headings. The three C’s framework comprises communication, commonality, and commitment; while some specific challenges may be encountered more often than others, Nicole explores why it is clear from her research that overcoming challenges in all three areas is critical for collaborations to be successful.
This framework is critical in identifying opportunities in the face of adversity, and professionals and organizations that are able to navigate these three areas can thrive under any circumstances.
Gary Murphy is Co-Owner and Senior Vice President of Sales at Ama Waterways, and his experience in the travel industry spans more than 30 years. After completing his Business Degree at California State University, Northridge, Gary’s early business experience involved positions with IBM, Group Voyagers in Europe, and Brendan Vacations, before becoming Vice President of Marketing and Sales for the rapidly expanding Miami Air International.
From there, Gary returned to one of the country’s leading tour operators, Brendan Vacations, where he served as Vice President of Marketing and Sales and, in 2000, took over the role of President. In 2009, Murphy left Brendan to become Vice President of National Accounts for AmaWaterways; in 2013, he was appointed Vice President of Sales and became Senior Vice President of Sales in 2019.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, Gary Murphy shares his philosophy on standing out as a business by creating immersive experiences for travelers and why he believes that working with Travel Counselors is a solid business strategy. We discuss the benefits of river cruising, and Gary dives into some of the collaborations he has been involved in throughout his career that have helped the company innovate and improve their offering.
As travelers, often our most valuable commodity is time — Gary guides us through how Ama Waterways plan and create their river cruise itineraries to allow guests to make the most of their vacation by enabling them to wake up each morning in a beautiful new town. He shares how they have designed their trips to take advantage of the most beautiful parts of a country while cruising during the day, and details some of the ways the company has innovated to provide the best experience possible to their guests.
We also discuss creative ways that Ama Waterways has encouraged travelers to make the most of each new destination on the cruise and their philosophy that you need to spend less time on the ship — no matter how beautiful and luxurious it is —and more time enjoying each new town or city.
Gary shares how Ama Waterways do things that they feel are the best use of their clients’ time, that give them the best value and deliver a superb travel experience. He describes how the company’s founders are, at heart, adventurers with a fortitude that moves them forward through challenges. Ama understands the best way to travel, and they follow that philosophy to deliver exceptional experiences. Gary and I discuss the difference between a poor quality all-inclusive experience and a premium experience that encourages guests to experience the gastronomy of the country they’re visiting.
We touch on what makes Ama Waterways stand out in a crowded market and why they prefer to march to the beat of their own drum and curate an experience that enhances their guest’s vacation than follow the crowd.
Gary discusses some of the upcoming collaborations with competitors, including The American Society of Travel Agents conference in Budapest next month. River cruise lines have come together and coordinated their ships’ timetables so that travel advisors can see the different ships firsthand.
Collaboration with guests is also a fantastic way to discover opportunities. Gary shares some of the partnerships Ama Waterways has built with other businesses after being guided by what clients are looking for to make the river cruise experience even better.
Carrie Simmons is a leader, strategist, and creative problem-solver with expertise in values-driven, integrated brand and marketing approaches. She is the Executive Director of the Stowe Area Association, outwardly known as Go Stowe, serving approximately 250 business members by promoting the Stowe brand through effective public relations, social media strategies, as well as and operating a visitor information center and central reservations service for hotels and inns.
Prior to Go Stowe, Carrie was the owner and creative director of New Ground Creative, a creative firm that built brands through engaging design, dynamic campaigns, and authentic messaging. Carrie finds inspiration in travel, singing, reading, and time spent outdoors with her family. She is currently a board member of Stowe Vibrancy and Executive Board Member of the Vermont Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.
Rachel is Chief Hospitality Experience Officer at the Sun and Ski Inn in Stowe, Vermont. She is passionate about hospitality, tourism, and marketing, and she serves on the Board of Trustees of her local destination marketing organization, Go Stowe. In December 2018, Rachel completed a certificate in Hospitality Management from eCornell. In 2020 Rachel founded her coaching practice, Peak, and she is currently working towards her International Coaching Federation certification. Rachel is an avid reader, community leader, proud wife, and mother of three and loves to mountain bike and nordic ski in the woods of Vermont.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Rachel and Carrie, two extraordinary leaders in the travel industry from Stowe, Vermont. We discuss how facing challenges forces you to accelerate plans and how the pandemic led to a collaboration between three communities and the creation of a new brand. Rachel also gives her perspective on what’s going on in the travel and tourism industry right now, and why she made the decision to niche down in her marketing.
It’s always worth paying attention to what’s going on in the market and planning for upcoming trends. The last two years have shown that constant change and evolution are the only things you can bank on in this industry.
Rachel describes her philosophy of taking risks in her hospitality business and why she constantly keeps one eye on the future as she makes decisions in her business. Thinking about how you plan to evolve as a destination prepares you for whatever is around the corner and allows you to pivot quickly with demand.
Carrie describes how the Stowe Area Association has found opportunities to collaborate with perceived competitors to create something bigger together than they could create alone. She shares examples of some amazing coopetition partnerships and why it’s essential to come together to weather storms successfully.
There are myriad opportunities to bring visitors into your area if you creatively collaborate with others in the travel and tourism industries. Carrie discusses the DMO perspective on seeking ways to connect with others to bring people to Vermont as a whole. We need to find ways to think outside of the box and realize that it’s not always necessarily the traditional collaborations that are the most effective.
Everyone you collaborate with in your town, in the different segments, and whether for economic development or recreation, builds a beautiful network of people. Rachel and Carrie emphasize that their community is what makes Stowe so special, in addition, of course, to the extraordinary landscape, historic buildings, shops, restaurants, and places to stay. It’s really the people that make the soul of the community. And that’s a big piece that stands out.
A rising tide raises all ships, after all, so leveraging the unique mix of businesses and supporting each other as a destination helps Stowe move forward.
From a marketing standpoint, it can be hard to make a choice about who you’re hoping to appeal to with your destination. Many people hope by targeting as broad an audience as possible; they will be more successful in their business. Rachel describes why she decided to focus in tight on promoting her hotel and attractions to active couples and families and how that changed the business for the better.
Carrie ends our inspiring conversation by emphasizing the need to embrace the idea that the travel and tourism industry isn’t necessarily the end goal. The visitor economy is the pipeline to providing opportunities to the community and interconnecting them with other organizations. Having a holistic approach to the industry is the key as we’re moving forward into 2022.
Melinda Huntley is the Executive Director of the Ohio Travel Association, the only statewide trade association representing all tourism industry sectors. Representing Ohio’s $43 billion tourism industry, the Ohio Travel Association makes Ohio’s tourism businesses stronger, better prepared, and more profitable through unifying the voice of the industry for legislative advocacy, providing professional development opportunities and training, and connecting buyers and sellers with events such as the Heartland Travel Showcase.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Melinda Huntley about the four elements that she believes make for a successful collaboration and how to apply them in real situations. Melinda also shares details of the innovative Epic Destinations program that the Ohio Travel Association is developing and dives into the ever-changing travel and tourism industry landscape.
On this show, we’re all about building partnerships with others that benefit everyone. My discussion with Melinda was so valuable, and she shared so many golden nuggets in our conversation. She describes the four elements that are absolutely critical to achieving a successful collaboration. We discuss why you need to invite others to the table, why you shouldn’t be afraid to give credit elsewhere, how to understand the vital role that perception plays, and the importance of seeking out the root cause of making a change. We discuss in detail how to apply each of these elements, and Melinda provides specific examples of how she has used them in her organization.
We dive deep into the importance of focusing on your ‘why’ as a travel and tourism organization and seeing the end goal as the key achievement. Melinda steps us through her recent Birding project — how it got off the ground and why inviting others to the table really helped the Ohio Travel Organization get it off the ground.
Pivoting and evolving are skills we have all had to embrace recently, and as a community, professionals in the travel and tourism have had to do it more than most. Melinda describes how asking your stakeholders what they need is an oft-missed step in a project and shares why when you seek guidance, you can really make a difference.
Focusing on your stakeholders and your customers wise is essential when you’re trying to draw focus to our destination, but often we are tripped up by not making our value clear. Melinda shares an example of when she had to take a pause when organizing a virtual conference and go back to the bones of what attendees really wanted from the event.
Melinda shares why she’s so excited about the group tour market and the possibility of leveraging the trend towards transformative travel and developing group experiences that are unique. The demand for curated travel in someone has accelerated because of the events of the last few years, so there is a real opportunity for destinations to set themselves up for success.
We discuss the importance of innovating in the space and move on from how group travel looked 20 years ago. Melinda shares the Epic Group Experiences — a training and recognition program for group travel, and how her team developed a designation program to share standards and best practices. Planning for the future is exciting and organizations like Melinda’s really are at the forefront of building collaborative networks that move the travel industry forward.
Marilee Sonneman Kostadimas delivers 20+ years’ experience and acumen in corporate events, incentive travel, and destination management.
An alumna of San Francisco State University, Marilee pursued graduate and undergraduate studies in Classics and Classical Archaeology. She holds credentials as a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) and Destination Management Certified Professional (DMCP).
Speaker, author, byline contributor to the hospitality industry bible, the Convention Industry Council Manual 9th Edition: A Working Guide for Effective Meetings and Conventions, industry leader: As President 2016-2017 of Meeting Professionals International Northern California Chapter (MPINCC), the world’s largest chapter of the world’s largest hospitality-industry association, Marilee led MPINCC to a historic year of records and first, including global achievement as a two-time MPI RISE 2017 Award winner.
She also served two terms as President of the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence Northern California Chapter (SITENCC) and four years on the Certification and Accreditation Board of Directors of the Association of Destination Management Executives International (ADMEI).
On this episode of Destination on the Left, Marilee discusses her expertise in storytelling as a crucial aspect of successfully sharing your destination with others. She chats about her framework for creating an end-to-end storyline, which includes the unique, the exclusive, the wow, the hidden gems, and the quiet in between, and how you can shift your perspective to better understand what your guests are looking for.
Perspective changes everything — wise words from my guest on the podcast this week led to a fascinating conversation on how she set up a travel business to showcase real travels and authentic experiences creatively. Marilee Kostadimas of Spotlight Sojourns joined me to share how the COVID-19 pandemic cutting short her world travel plans in 2020 actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The enforced pause gave her and her husband and business partner Paul the opportunity to figure out their fledgling business on the front end instead of the back end.
Marilee describes how she built her career on the power of professional storytelling through shared experiences. She also highlights the importance of understanding what travel really means to people and how to take guests on a journey that inspires them holistically.
We discuss how Spotlight Sojourns creates an experience that wows travelers and inspires them to explore and engage with a destination fully. Travel is something that many people are eager to make part of their lives again, and you can make your destination stand out with a story that shines. Marilee steps us through her five-pillar framework of the unique, the exclusive, the wow, the hidden gems, and the quiet in between and how they create an inspiring experience that travelers couldn’t do alone.
As travel and tourism professionals, we should be creating a cohesive end-to-end storyline. DMOs can use stories to give another perspective on their destination that isn’t falling back on the tried, true, proven, and popular. We need to figure out how to stop talking about meeting space capacity, hotel rooms, and facilities and really tell a compelling story that encompasses the five touchstones of a great travel experience.
We need to bring it back to engagement, connections, and relationships — Marilee explains how she does that for destinations like the New York State Canal Corporation. As a DMO, we’ve always got to keep in mind what the client is really looking for when hosting travel experiences so you can put a storyline together that fulfills the need to motivate and inspire.
Marilee gives her actionable tips on how DMOs and others in the travel and tourism industry can apply her framework to their own destination. We discuss how to get people thinking differently so that they begin to see their area through a different lens. Ask yourself why your destination is special, why you’d recommend visiting your beach, your lake, your hotel, as opposed to the beach, the lake, the hotel down the road — because it’s that differentiation that is going to help you tell your authentic story.
DMOs need to formulate a plan for the future and design ways that they can draw people in to visit their area and attractions. We represent our communities, so it’s important to reach new visitors and build relationships so that those visitors return again and again. Think about how you can leverage a connected storyline that ignites emotion in potential visitors — because when people are invested in your story, it becomes part of their legacy.
Coming down from Cincinnati, Marketing Manager of Ghost Coast Distillery, Kelcie Beausir, has extensive experience working in the beverage industry, including a recent stop at a winery in Asheville.
She is so happy to now be living in warmer weather in Chattanooga, TN, as a part of the Ghost Coast team. Kelcie is a former trapeze instructor who enjoys adventuring with her dog, Charlie, and husband, Cameron.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Kelcie about her experience as marketing manager for a startup distillery of expanding into new markets during a global pandemic. We discussed the importance of embracing creativity as part of your organizational culture and how collaboration has driven Ghost Coast distillery forward into a period of growth.
Putting creative partnerships together and forming long-term relationships is a great way to push forward through adversity. Kelcie and Ghost Coast have been working hard on building mutually beneficial relationships, and she joins me today to share her advice on finding brands that your travel and tourism organization could work with.
Laying the right groundwork for a successful collaboration is all about promoting your brand and demonstrating how you can help others. Companies in the travel niche are busy, so you need to stand out as an organization with new, different, and special ideas. Kelcie describes the importance of figuring out your creative idea before you approach other brands to let them know how you can benefit them as part of the collaboration.
We also dive into why we need to nourish relationships once we’ve partnered with different brands and why there’s nothing worse than just letting the momentum die. Figuring out how to keep working together and building on those collaborations and relationships is so much more helpful and supportive than just one-off events.
Ghost Coast Distillery was founded in 2016 and since then has been committed to hiring great minds, bouncing ideas off of each other, and really learning how they wanted the company culture to look. Kelcie describes the evolution of the organizational culture and how it has developed over the years to an open-minded, playful environment where everyone’s ideas and suggestions are welcomed.
We also talk about how the small team has been able to put together fun events that differentiate themselves from others in their industry, such as puppy yoga and comedy shows, and why that freewheeling spirit has helped them grow and build a reputation in the artisanal spirits space.
Kelcie shares how COVID-19 showed Ghost Coat they had opportunities to deal with the challenges they were facing creatively, personally, and as a company. She describes how they were able to pivot as a small organization and pursue new opportunities that formed the golden lining of their challenges.
One of Kelcie’s favorite creative solutions was collaborating with others to put on an initiative to safely bring live music back to the company’s hometown of Savannah, GA. Ghost Coast partnered with outdoor venues that sold their spirits to create a space where people could safely enjoy live music after the shutdown by enjoying a cocktail picnic style in the park.
We also discussed Ghost Coasts’s plans for the future — slowly and effectively growing footprint style across the nation, adding members to the team while keeping one foot planted in tradition, one foot pushing boundaries.
Sarah attended Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and worked at a 5-star-5-diamond resort in Colorado, a 4,000+ all-suite hotel in Las Vegas, and an international restaurant company in New York City, all before graduating. At age 22, she was the Director of Sales and Marketing for a private resort in Florida. During a brief career in Boston, she managed a 220-seat jazz club in Harvard Square.
She then moved back to Vermont and started working with her mom and uncle as the fifth generation of her family to manage Basin Harbor Club. As the Director of Sales, she now describes her role as helping people enjoy all that Basin Harbor has to offer, whether that’s a family reunion, a wedding, a group retreat, or a day spent on the Lake. Sarah was also chosen as one of VBM’s Rising Stars in Vermont.
In her free time, Sarah is a lover of the great outdoors, a gastronome, and a world traveler, and she is also certified as a Wilderness First Responder.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Sarah Morris, who is passionate about keeping pace with evolving customer expectations while staying true to her 136yr old Vermont resort’s brand. She shares her insights on gearing up for each new summer season and why a spirit of collaboration with resorts with opposite seasons helps when successfully hiring new staff.
What guests are looking for changes as much from year to year as generationally. So in a resort that has been operating for over 100 years, there have been changes over time. Sarah describes the themes that the Basin Harbor Club has carried forward over the years, including being actively involved in the tourism community, as well as the general business community in Vermont, and how that has helped them maintain their family-centered ethos.
We discuss the personality of a truly rural campus resort and how the Basin Harbor Club has stayed true to a product that they want to deliver upon experientially for their guests. Of course, it’s also important for tourist destinations to keep up with modern sensibilities, so Sarah describes how she has married online accessibility with an atmosphere of allowing people to disconnect from their home life, their work-life, and be very present during their vacation time.
When times are tough, as they have been in our industry over the last two years, we have to find creative solutions to help you overcome challenges. Sarah and I dig into some of the ways that she has leveraged the resort’s history to understand how to grow through adversity. We also discuss the importance of fostering a sense of ‘coopetition,’ where perceived competitors come together to do something bigger together than they can do on their own.
At Basin Harbor Club, they want to provide an experience that their guests love, and that includes recommending other resorts that might be more suitable for their needs. Sarah dives into what she loves about the willingness to share in the industry and why they love to work with local artisans and food and beverage producers, so they can highlight the region’s growers and producers and incorporate that Vermont flavor into their products too.
We also take the conversation in the direction of managing a seasonal property and the challenges of scaling from 20 employees in the winter to north of 150 employees in the summer months. Sarah lends her expertise on hiring seasonal staff strategies for scaling up and how she recruits new employees in collaboration with resorts and their current staff.
The joy of being a seasonal destination is that you can seek out opportunities to connect with properties that are in opposite seasons and make sure that you are keeping good staff in well-supported roles. Recruiting staff is such a critical part of creating an amazing guest experience, especially in a resort that prides itself on its family feel and counts guests and staff as part of that extended family.
This episode of Destination on the Left is a little different from the norm, and that’s because today I’m talking with Tom Ritter, Product Development Lead for the Niche Podcast Network. Tom shares why he is so passionate about podcasting as a marketing tool and why your podcast can help you build an exceptional professional network. We explore the importance of finding your niche, building an engaged audience, and how to offer value to your audience with your unique perspective. Tom also gives his insight into creating an exceptional guest experience so that you get the most out of the conversation.
Podcasting is a quicker path to trust-building when you can really niche down and be that subject matter expert.
My guest on the show this week is Tom Ritter, who owns and operates Niche Podcast Network, and I’m excited to share out conversation. The show this week is a little different as we’re discussing how to set up and host a successful podcast, and Tom’s advice on gaining digital equity with your show is so valuable.
We dive deep into the idea of niching down with your podcast and moving from serving a broad audience to a much narrower yet more engaged one. Tom shares how to identify and build authority in a niche and why focusing on a particular topic within your umbrella helps you earn trust and become a legitimate subject matter expert quicker. We also discuss how a podcast can act as a signpost back to your brand when you focus your show on a consistent and frequent message that builds listeners’ trust.
In terms of having a productive conversation with your guest, comfort is key. As a podcaster, you have the ability to set the scene for a great interview, but you also have to have processes in place. Let your guest know what to expect ahead of time and give them an idea of the show’s format and outline what you want to talk about. Having enough information to be comfortable goes a long way in creating an environment where an authentic conversation that genuinely serves your customers can flourish.
You might envision your podcast as a candid chat as if you were having an off-air coffee, but the reality is that a great podcast takes preparation. Having an outline helps the host, guest, and audience stay focused during the show itself. Guests often feel calmer and more prepared when they can make notes before they get on the show. But, if you have an outline or questions you want to ask, give yourself the flexibility to deviate from the plan, should the guest take you in a different direction. Relaxed spontaneity often offers up great opportunities to dig deep into the juicy subjects.
Your podcast delivers value to your listeners as you delve into some of those fascinating subjects, but how does it offer value for your guests? Appearing on a podcast as a subject matter expert gives people excellent visibility in their field.
The more focus you put on your guest, the more value your guest perceives, and the more value you receive as a host because you’re going to be found for your name and your brand. Create social media artwork, send snippets of the show for their LinkedIn profile, and link to guests’ social media channels so your listeners can find out more. Because what you’re also doing when you grow visibility for your guest is growing it for your show and your business.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Todd Stallbaumer. He shares his experience working to promote tourism in Oklahoma as the Consumer and Trade Marketing Director for the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. We discuss the importance of finding your claims and how determining them can help you stand out. Todd also discusses the importance of culture and diversity and how recognizing and respecting that can open travelers up to a new and unique experience. Lastly, we cover the importance of finding commonality and how that can lead to meaningful connections and lasting partnerships.
Have you ever traveled somewhere and expected one thing based on what you’d seen on TV or heard about the place and experienced something completely different? So many travelers have preconceived notions about destinations and what they expect to see when they get there.
This week, my guest on the Destination on the Left podcast is Todd Stallbaumer, Consumer and Trade Marketing Director for the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. Todd learned very quickly that many people had stereotypes for what they expected Oklahoma to look like. In the episode, we dive into how he tries to reimagine those stereotypes to create an entirely different experience for travelers.
We dive into how Todd found Oklahoma’s claim. In other words, he explains how he came to find what sets Oklahoma apart from other places. What you’ll be interested to know is that it’s the state’s diversity and culture that make it a unique place to visit. Todd explains how he is utilizing the state’s culture to drive new and exciting tourism opportunities for visitors to dive into the various communities found in Oklahoma.
Toward the end of the podcast, we dive into Todd’s ability to find commonality with a really unique set of people. While this group of people lives all across America in very different states, they have found very specific criteria that put them in the same circle. It was so interesting to hear from Todd how they came to form this group and how he was able to find these very niche commonalities that have led to such a resourceful and helpful partnership.
Todd and I dive into the details of his dynamic group and how they use their commonalities to help each other. From sharing connections, resources, problems, and sales pitches, this team has helped each other’s states and cities find new ways to draw tourism. And, through these commonalities, they are able to refer travelers to each other and make connections with other similar travel destinations as they grow.
Rhonda Carges is VP Operations & Senior Consultant at Break the Ice Media. Rhonda brings more than 25 years of sales, new business development, and travel trade experience to the table. This translates into great partnership strategies and creative thinking for our clients. Rhonda is a master at creating relationships, and her deep understanding of the industry helps her create win-win opportunities for her clients. Rhonda and her team often act as a much-needed sales and marketing arm for Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs), providing travel trade marketing, program management, partnership development, tracking, and reporting to the mix. She’s a forward-thinker who always knows where the market is headed – and how best to capitalize on those trends in the moment.
Adena Miller is a Consultant for Break the Ice Media. Adena brings the art of storytelling to her role as Consultant at Break the Ice Media. As a young child, her parents’ art gallery often set the scene for her creative writing, and she later went on to develop her craft as a college newspaper reporter. Weber Shandwick Chicago allowed her to hone her public relations skills across several national food and beverage accounts, and she has the windy city to thank for being transformed into a self-proclaimed foodie. A grant recipient to pursue a travel, food, and wine writing seminar in Saint-Émilion, France, further ignited her passion for wine and travel. She brings more than 15 years of public relations expertise to Break the Ice Media, where she develops media, blog, newsletter, and social content and executes event planning.
Lisa Doerner is a Senior Consultant for Break the Ice Media and the Executive Director of Travel Alliance Partners. Lisa’s background is in marketing and operations, but her path into the travel and tourism industry is an unusual one. She started her career working for a large corporation in product marketing and then working as the Executive Director for a technology association. These roles set the groundwork for her current position as Executive Director for Travel Alliance Partners (TAP), a corporation focused on connecting tour operators, travel buyers, and suppliers.
Lisa leads the TAP management team in developing operational and marketing strategies to help Travel Alliance Partners strengthen their partnerships, increase their businesses and expand their company tour portfolios. The past couple of years have found Lisa and her team reimagining how they can deliver a quality travel industry conference and marketing initiatives to TAP’s audiences despite the challenges facing the travel industry.
On this episode of Destination on the Left this week, I have a slightly different show format for you. I have been reflecting on how much the travel and tourism industry has been through in the last two years. Different destinations and industry segments have had markedly different challenges; for some, 2021 was a bumper year but for others. 2021 was another year of struggle and record low numbers. The changing state of the pandemic is felt quickly in our industry, and 2021 has seen unprecedented highs and lows. So, today, I decided to invite three team members from the Break the Ice Media team onto the show to share their perspectives and experiences as we enter into the subsequent recovery phase. I’m so excited to be joined on the show by Adena Miller, Lisa Doerner, and Rhonda Carges as we ponder both what the future holds and how we can take lessons learned during difficult times forward to serve and support the travel and tourism industry.
On speaking to the team, both during this discussion and more widely over the past few months, the importance of staying connected with people has been highlighted again and again. Talking with Adena Miller, a Consultant for Break the Ice Media, reminded me why it is essential to foster a deeper connection, even when we can’t meet in person by sharing pictures or stories.
Within the Break the Ice Media team and with our clients and partners, we found that the willingness to be open, vulnerable, and honest made a huge difference in staying positive and looking to the future.
In 2021 we saw some amazing and successful out-of-the-box thinking; Rhonda Carges, VP Operations & Senior Consultant at Break the Ice Media, joined me on the podcast this week to share her experience of embracing new ideas over the last few months. We discuss how travel and tour operators pivoted to provide online events and conferences that allowed people to ‘meet’ and make connections in a new way. The past two years’ uncertainty and adversity have embedded the mindset of growing when times are tough and seeing opportunity in difficulty.
Lisa Doerner, a Senior Consultant at Break the Ice Media and the Executive Director of Travel Alliance Partners, also joined me this week on the show. We really dug into the role of a leader in the travel sector and why all of us have learned and developed more than we ever imagined possible. Lisa describes how one of the things that stood out to her was that negativity and discouragement could spread across an organization quickly and why the leadership must stay positive, despite uncertainty about the future.
Our industry is resilient, and people will continue to travel, but going forward, we will have to embrace change with open arms to be successful. Rhonda describes why suppliers need to be flexible and communicative and look for opportunities to collaborate as we move into recovery in 2022. It’s all about thinking about how we can work together; rather than working in silos, seek out the competition because your neighbor can end up being your biggest asset.
People are so ready to get back out there in 2022, and wherever we fit in the travel and tourism industry we can be a continued source of inspiration for our clients and get creative with the types of trips and experiences that travelers are craving.
Cheryl Kilday, President & CEO, Destination North Myrtle Beach, CDME, has contributed to the communities where she has lived through destination development, tourism promotion, and economic development initiatives. And she has an extensive background working with not-for-profit membership-based organizations that affect a positive impact on the local economy and quality of life.
Cheryl joined the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau in October 2018. She previously led Visit Spokane from 2010 until October 2018 after living in the Washington DC region in Northern Virginia for several years. She launched Visit Loudoun in 1996 and was the President and CEO for nearly 15 years. She began her tourism adventure in the Willamette Valley in Oregon after graduating from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.
Cheryl also earned the prestigious Certified Destination Marketing Executive (CDME) designation through Destinations International in 2011 and has achieved Destination Management Accreditation in both Spokane, Washington, Loudoun, Virginia, and North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Cheryl is a Trustee for Destinations International Travel Foundation and serves on committees for Destinations International Foundation and Association boards.
Her career honors include recognition for leadership in the meetings industry by Smart Meetings Magazine, and awards for marketing and public relations programs from US Travel, HSMAI, and an Emmy®.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Cheryl Kilday, who shares why she believes that working for a tourism office that is part of a Chamber of Commerce gives her office a considerable advantage. We discuss how Cheryl sees the future of tourism evolving and why the curation of destinations’ stories is likely to focus more on creating a connection between places and their visitors by positioning them where potential guests are searching. Cheryl also dives into what she loves about working in the travel industry and why a huge part of the joy she finds in her job lies in the connections she builds with the local community.
Over the last couple of years, times have been challenging in the travel and tourism industry, and DMOs have had to get clever and creative. COVID-19 has required them to try new approaches and behave differently while we figured out how our world would evolve.
This week, my guest on the Destination on the Left podcast is Cheryl Kilday, President & CEO of Destination North Myrtle Beach. She joins me to share what she and her team did to let their residents and visitors know how they were going to keep them safe. We discuss the creative ways that North Mrytle Beach developed media campaigns that kept them accountable and transparent with their community to demonstrate that they were being sensitive to the needs of both the workforce and the visitors.
We dive into the fun ways that Cheryl and her team brought North Myrtle Beach to their visitors when the visitors couldn’t come to them — including putting together a Spotify radio channel of beach music, sending videos of dance lessons to learn how to do the South Carolina shag dance, and setting up cooking classes. They also developed a road trip toolkit so that people would have a fun way to connect with them on their way to North Myrtle Beach when they were ready to return.
We dig into Cheryl’s experience of North Myrtle Beach’s collaboration with the regional DMO and how the spirit of partnership helped them move forward. I often talk about ‘coopetition,’ the idea of competitors coming together to cooperate and create bigger wins together than they can achieve independently. Cheryl shares some examples of how her small community works to differentiate itself from its larger neighbor to the south — including setting up a co-op. The co-op is a voluntary organization that contributes money to help guide the destination marketing that differentiates its brand positioning. They also have a collaborative program called Momentum that helps them raise funds for specific projects or initiatives that go beyond what the co-op dues would support.
Cheryl and I also dive into the details of her destination master plan, when the destination plans to launch it and how they have been able to fund the project through creative coopetition. She describes the ultimate goals of North Myrtle Beach to brand itself as somewhere that partners with residents to go through an inclusive community-based planning process on how they want their destination to be in the long term.
I loved Cheryl’s take on how opportunities for cooperation advance the common good by allowing everyone to buy into a common goal and work together to achieve spectacular results.
With a talent for creating special events that blossomed while working for my dad’s car stereo shop, I got my start in marketing at Frontier Field in Rochester and began serving as the executive director of the internationally known Lilac Festival. Later on, I headed the Canandaigua, New York Business Improvement District while also performing projects for the tourism promotion agency Visit Rochester.
In 2009, I founded Break the Ice Media, with more than 20 years of experience in tourism marketing. I now host “Destination on the Left,” a highly successful tourism marketing podcast.
As a business owner, I know what it takes to be successful. I founded BTI to help businesses tell their brand story through public relations, digital and traditional channels. I have the ability to uncover unique marketing opportunities and develop marketing and public relations initiatives that help clients build long-term success.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I discuss why I’m starting 2022 with a sense of reflection, renewal, and anticipation for what is ahead. Since 2020 I have been on a journey to understand the world in a broader sense, which has led to a search for greater meaning and a focus on intentionality in my actions. This week I want to share what I have done to understand differences, identify opportunities for personal growth, and take action to help make my world more equitable, diverse, and inclusive.
Over the last two years, my small company has been grappling with how we fit within the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion conversation, and we have really committed to educating ourselves around the topic.
I was very candid in Solocast 16 about the team’s journey to live out the ‘equitable’ core value within our company, and we have recently reflected on our most recent client work to see how it is significantly impacting our collective worldview. When examining how we aligned with our values, we found that we needed to work on developing more diverse partner, freelance, and subcontractor relationships to ensure we represent a wide range of viewpoints.
Big things will happen when you set your intentions and start to take action. You may feel as if you are taking baby steps at first, but time will pass, and you will realize that all those incremental moves have led to a monumental shift and change in your organization. I’m grateful that we took this journey and for the lessons we learned along the way, particularly the importance of humility and vulnerability when addressing biases and issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.