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Destination On The Left

Destination On The Left is a podcast focused on the travel and tourism industry that explores successful collaborations, creative marketing ideas and best practices. Interviews are a mix of Destination Marketers, Industry Leaders, Consultants and businesses in the industry. We explore consumer marketing programs and travel trade marketing programs. This podcast provides an opportunity for professionals in the travel & tourism industry to share what they have learned and successes that they have achieved.
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Now displaying: April, 2022
Apr 27, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

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

Aligning with Partners

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

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

Growth and Abundance

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

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

Creative Collaborations

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

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

Resources:

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Apr 20, 2022

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

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

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

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

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

Spearheading Collaborative Efforts

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

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

Partnership Based Program

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

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

An Autism-Friendly Destination

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

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

Resources:

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/

Apr 13, 2022

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

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

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

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

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

Leadership Lessons from Recent Challenges

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

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

Encouragement and Support

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

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

Time for Reflection

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

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

Resources:

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

Apr 6, 2022

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.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How Sarah approaches sales and what she has learned during her career that impacts how she does her job today
  • Best practices that have helped Sarah build and cement relationships with neighboring counties
  • How Sarah makes Visit Ithaca stand out from the crowd amongst all the great destinations in her part of the world
  • Sarah shares her creative approach to packaging her destination for the tour and travel market
  • Examples of collaboration and coopetition in the wider New York area, including a truly innovative wine cruise partnership
  • How the Travel Alliance Partnership (TAP) regional pod has helped Sarah make connections with other destinations
  • The purpose of the Wine, Water, and Wonders program and how it enables international travelers to experience New York State
  • Steps Sarah takes to set her up for success when going into a new collaboration
  • How relationships with in-market stakeholders have changed and evolved as we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Sarah’s exciting future plans for Visit Ithaca

Make Your Destination Stand Out

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.

Building Creative Itineraries

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.

Valuable Relationships

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.

Resources:

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