Susan Namulindwa is the founding Director of Girls Run Period, an organization focused on Advocacy for ending Period poverty and women’s rights. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Maama Watali and Africa Trade Desk and the Vice President Canada with the Canada-Africa Chamber of Business. Susan has long standing expertise in policy, partnerships, strategy, outreach, and communications, as well as an experienced fundraiser, presenter, and trainer. She is an advocate for the use of inclusive trade to lift communities out of poverty.
Susan is very involved in her community in Canada and Africa and the broader International African Diaspora through various community development initiatives on gender equality, environment, connectivity, food security, diversity, and inclusion. She is passionate about women and girls’ leadership, well-being, and development.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, Susan Namulindwa dives into her passion for creating trade and business opportunities for Africa and why aid without a relationship is ineffective. She shares why and how she started Girls Run Period, which is focused on ending period poverty in Africa, and how that led her to build world-changing collaborations.
Susan shares her passion for creating trade and business opportunities for Africa and discusses how Girls Run Period aims to end period poverty through running events. She talks more about how she came up with the idea for creating an event that would get women excited about participating in a marathon in the Rift Valley and how her own enthusiasm for running led her to link the cause of empowering girls and women in Africa with funding local businesses to provide sanitary wear so girls don’t miss out on crucial years of education.
Susan shares why collaboration lies at the heart of Girls Run Period’s success. Through partnerships with running clubs, athletic organizations, schools, and health professionals, the program is able to create a network of support that extends beyond running.
This collaborative approach ensures that girls receive not only the necessary supplies but also mentorship, health services, and educational opportunities. By working together, Girls Run Period is able to maximize its impact and create lasting change in the communities it serves.
Girls Run Period combines two powerful forces – running and tourism – to create a positive impact. Participants not only get to run in iconic destinations like Kenya’s Rift Valley but also support the cause by paying fees and donations. This unique approach promotes sustainable tourism and helps generate funds for the initiative’s important work.
Susan discusses trade over aid, and why she is a strong advocate for trade partnerships that benefit both Africa and its global partners. By supporting local entrepreneurs who produce reusable sanitary pads, Girls Run Period empowers girls and women while contributing to environmental sustainability. This approach aligns with the sustainable development goals and showcases the trade and business opportunities available in Africa.
I have exciting news! I’m publishing my first book, Stronger Together: Building World-Changing Collaborations that Succeed. I’d love for you to join my very first book launch team to help me reach my goal of 50 Amazon reviews in the month of September. Go here to join: https://nicolemahoney.com/#join!
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/
This week is the second in our two-part series coming to you from the Destinations International annual convention in Dallas, Texas. I have seven inspirational guests with me to share more about what has helped them be successful in the destination marketing industry and what advice they have for future tourism industry leaders. I also asked each of them to describe the convention in just one word — I think you’ll be fascinated by their answers.
My inspirational guests share their thoughts on why connecting with others in the travel and tourism industry is an invaluable part of their professional development. They also share what the word partnership means to them and dive into the importance of collaboration in destination marketing.
Joe shares how he would describe the travel and tourism industry to a future tourism professional as a versatile option. He highlights some of the roles you can do, some of the routes your career can take you, and how you can do the job anywhere you want in whatever capacity in smaller towns, in New York City, or even internationally.
We discuss how Destinations International has helped Julie move forward in her career with a community-shared values focus. Julie explains how the annual convention allows travel and tourism professionals to come together to discuss what’s happening in the industry, what’s trending, best practices, and how to better communicate with your community, stakeholders, and municipalities.
Kalene dives into what the word partnership means to her — particularly how DMOs can act as leaders in our communities and work with others to become experts in a wide range of niches. Our partnerships are how we work together as a group, how we work with other travel and tourism professionals to extend our knowledge base, and the ways we serve our community.
We dig into why Leonard chose collaboration as his Destinations International event keyword. Travel and tourism professionals collaborate on ideas and strategies to address issues and make new relationships that go well beyond business-to-business relationships. He shares some of the lifelong friendships he’s made through the conference and how they have provided value to his professional and personal life.
Paige shares more about her vast rural destination and elaborates on how events like Destinations International helps her be a better travel marketer by allowing her to build authentic connections with others in the industry. She also shares what partnership means in the context of the Chickasaw Nation and why the success of the communities is the success of the tribe and the destination.
Partnership, to Paul, goes deeper than a transaction, and he shares why it needs to be founded on some principles of understanding the core objectives that you each have and discovering the potential synergy to build a solid foundation for a long-term partnership. He highlights the importance of taking the time upfront, doing your due diligence, being thoughtful, and not rushing into partnerships but ensuring that the collaboration is mutually beneficial.
Ron and I dive into the importance of building a shared vision, as well as shared values, with the community and its leaders in your destinations. He shares how he communicates with stakeholders in his location to ensure the DMO can collaborate effectively to serve both visitors and locals. He discusses how travel and tourism professionals can fulfill their role as community architects and work collaboratively to find that common ground to move a project forward.
I just loved diving deep into the details of how events like the Destinations International Conference can move the needle on careers and professional development within the tourism industry. Our guests, all leaders in the tourism sector, shared invaluable insights on honing their skills, the essence of partnership, the significance of collaboration, and the family-like support of the Travel and Tourism community.
I have exciting news! I’m publishing my first book, Stronger Together: Building World-Changing Collaborations that Succeed. I’d love for you to join my very first book launch team to help me reach my goal of 50 Amazon reviews in the month of September. Go here to join: https://nicolemahoney.com/#join!
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/
This week on the show, we’re enjoying another travel conference edition. Join us at Destinations International (DI) as we talk to a panel of distinguished guests from the tourism industry. With decades of combined experience, they delve into the world of careers and professional development in tourism. From the resilience of hospitality professionals to the importance of collaboration and partnerships, we want to share insights gained at DI.
Each guest answered five questions about the value of events like Destinations International and why coming together with others in the travel and tourism industry makes you a better tourism professional. They share what the word partnership means to them and share the importance of collaboration in their roles.
On the show, Butch discusses his 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry and highlights the resilience and hardworking nature of those in the travel and tourism niche. He also emphasizes the importance of creating bonds and friendships in one’s career and establishing a network. Butch also shares why he believes that experiences we enjoy during travel can be more valuable than material possessions.
Catherine shares that attending the conference has made her a better professional by providing opportunities to learn from industry experts and peers. She emphasizes the importance of collaboration and partnerships in her success and how the travel and tourism communities provide support for her work. Overall, Catherine describes the DI conference as inspiring and exciting and a place that makes her feel ready to rejoin her colleagues in Kent County and start making plans for the future.
We welcome Cheryl back to the show to share her thoughts on Destination International as a place to access data about the travel and tourism industry, talk to the people who developed it, and interact with that information to get a deeper, better understanding than just reading it off of an online article. Cheryl also emphasizes the importance of peer-to-peer connection and why building a network and developing relationships at the conference is so helpful.
Darien dives into why partnership is critical to what we do in destination marketing. He talks about the value of working with peer organizations in your destination and elaborates on why it is key to our success to build as many partnerships as we can. Darien also shares that his words for Destinations International in 2023 are beneficial and important.
We’re always looking to give newcomers to the travel and tourism industry a helping hand, and Darryl shared the advice he would offer. He highlights the importance of the bonds and friendships you create over your career and why establishing your network is so important. Darryl explains why he describes his experience at Destinations International as engaging and why he loves catching up with colleagues on the conference floor.
Gary and I discuss the power of partnership. He describes how talking to and learning from his counterparts in the travel and tourism community with a shared understanding is therapeutic. As Gary shares his enthusiasm in creating a positive experience for travelers, his deep understanding of the travel and tourism industry is inspiring. Gary explains why his words for Destinations International in 2023 are friendship and validation.
From the importance of networking and collaboration to the resilience and adaptability required in the face of challenges like the pandemic, these professionals share their insights and experiences. As they highlight the value of strong partnerships, continuous learning, and making a difference in their communities, it becomes clear that the tourism industry is not just about travel and hospitality—it’s about forging connections, creating memorable experiences, and shaping the future of destinations.
Stay tuned for the second part of our series, where we will continue to hear insights from travel experts at Destinations International.
I have exciting news! I’m publishing my first book, Stronger Together: Building World-Changing Collaborations that Succeed. I’d love for you to join my very first book launch team to help me reach my goal of 50 Amazon reviews in the month of September. Go here to join: https://nicolemahoney.com/#join
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/
Rachel Brown is the Executive Director of Visit Durango. In her role, she leads the team of tourism marketing and sustainability experts at the award-winning Destination Management & Marketing Organization (DMMO) for southwest Colorado’s most visited region. Rachel has over ten years of experience in tourism marketing and has held director positions at Visit Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, and Visit Oakland. She has earned a Global Sustainable Tourism Council Certification, sits on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Tourism Office, and is the Chair of the Marketing Committee for the Colorado Tourism Office. Rachel has always had a passion for travel and tourism and has visited over 40 countries on six continents.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Rachel Brown about sustainable tourism and the ways that Visit Durango is supporting sustainability throughout the community. She shares why they created a new organizational structure and moved from being a Destination Marketing Organization to a Destination Marketing and Management Organization.
Rachel shares how the shift to sustainable destination management has brought so many benefits to Durango. It has helped alleviate the negative impact of over-tourism, ensured the preservation of natural resources, and enhanced the local community’s quality of life. By prioritizing sustainability, Durango has become a more desirable destination for socially and environmentally conscious travelers, attracting visitors who appreciate and support responsible tourism practices.
Visit Durango also recognized the need to adopt a triple-bottom-line approach to sustainability, encompassing environmental, social, and economic factors. While DMOs have traditionally focused on the profit aspect, Visit Durango is committed to prioritizing environmental conservation, supporting local communities, and creating a balance between the three aspects.
Rachel shares more about why Visit Durango launched the Care for Durango stewardship campaign to embrace sustainable destination management. This initiative aims to educate visitors and residents about responsible tourism practices and encourage them to actively participate in preserving Durango’s natural beauty and cultural heritage.
We also discuss how Visit Durango came to be included in the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop. Although they initially met with resistance, Visit Durango worked tirelessly to join the group of popular destinations, and their inclusion, along with other local hot springs, has resulted in increased collaboration and marketing opportunities for all. The inclusion in the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop showcases the stunning natural landscapes and the healing power of hot springs and highlights Durango as a must-visit destination in Southwest Colorado.
Liza Ochsendorf is the Director of Workforce Development for Warren County, NY. She oversees the county operations of WIOA Title programs in the Warren County Career Center and works closely with local and regional partners to address barriers to employment, such as child care, housing, transportation, skill deficits, etc. Her work addressing local industry needs has led to stronger private-public sector partnerships to problem-solve collaboratively for short and long-term solutions to workforce challenges.
Her passion for workforce development and economic development is rooted in community collaboration, effective communication, and clear goals and desired outcomes for all stakeholders. Liza has 14 years of experience working in education in Washington, DC, where she oversaw Life Skills programs and was instrumental in implementing restorative practices to build community and improve student outcomes.
Liza is a graduate of Syracuse University and resides in Glens Falls, where she serves on the Board of Directors for the Tri-County United Way, the Executive Board for the Saratoga-North Country Continuum of Care, the Park Theater Foundation Board of Directors, and is a member of Greater Capital Region Women United.
On this Destination on the Left episode, I talk with Liza Ochsendorf, who shares her insights into managing the current workforce shortage. She highlights some of the creative ways that she is helping her community address workforce shortages and the ways she is helping hospitality businesses reach the youth population, improve retention, and help with training to feed the workforce pipeline in the hospitality industry.
Liza highlights the long-term challenge of workforce shortages, which are not only a result of the pandemic but also due to factors such as the younger generation having fewer children than currently retiring baby boomers. Liza emphasizes that the common narrative suggesting people don’t want to work isn’t true, as the data shows that the labor participation rate has actually recovered and is currently at its highest point since January 2007.
She explains that the pandemic has caused a shift in people’s work preferences, with a greater desire for flexibility and hybrid work schedules. As a result, there has been a decrease in people working in public-facing industries and an increase in individuals starting their own businesses.
In response to the workforce shortages in the hospitality and tourism industry, Liza shares various creative strategies implemented by Warren County. These strategies include hosting engaging high school job fairs and providing a hospitality training program. The program, known as PUSH, or “Pathways Up for Success and Hospitality,” guarantees participants an interview with a local hospitality business. The county also puts time and resources into retention strategies, encouraging businesses to be great employers and providing opportunities for growth and advancement.
Liza also shares valuable insights on harnessing AI and automation to enhance workforce efficiency and highlights that while AI is not expected to replace jobs requiring human interaction, it can significantly contribute to filling roles where human contact is not essential.
This opens up opportunities for streamlining tasks and improving efficiency across various industries. As businesses adapt to these new technologies, Liza encourages employers, particularly in the travel and tourism niche, to explore creative ways to leverage AI for increased productivity.
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Tammy Blount-Canavan’s career has spanned 30+ years and two countries, including executive leadership at Tourism Vancouver, CEO of the Tacoma Regional CVB, architect and inaugural Chair of the Washington Tourism Alliance, President and CEO of the Monterey County CVB, and now President and CEO of Visit Seattle.
Tammy is a Past Chair of Destinations International. Tammy has been recognized as CEO of the Year, one of the 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry, twice as one of the top 25 Most Influential Women in the Industry, Leadership Supplier of the Year in the Meetings Industry, Top 100 Most Inspirational Women in the Meetings Industry, CSUMBs School of Business 2018 Community Leader of the Year, won the Global Leadership Award from Destinations International and IMEX and in 2023 is being inducted into the Smart Women in Meetings Hall of Fame.
In this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Tammy Blount-Canavan about some of Visit Seattle’s ingenious campaigns, such as rain booths in Arizona and coffee shop takeovers, which embody the unique character of Seattle. She describes how the community built a city-wide selling strategy to expand the conventions market. Tammy also shares some of the community and wider partnerships they’re involved in and how they help make the tourism industry successful.
We spotlight the innovative approach to destination marketing taken by Visit Seattle this week. Rather than solely relying on traditional tactics like purchasing ads and attending trade shows, they put a unique spin on destination marketing by creating fun and memorable experiences at events that underscore their core values.
Visit Seattle has a knack for adding creative twists to their campaigns; last summer, they introduced a ‘rain booth’ in California and Arizona. This structure sprinkled light rain, allowing people to experience Seattle’s famous ‘cozy season’ amidst the summer heat. Participants could even create their own movie posters as though they were in Seattle, sparking conversations about the city’s unique charm.
In addition to these fresh marketing strategies, Visit Seattle capitalizes on the wealth of local celebrities and athletes who take pride in sharing the story of their city. Their ongoing “I Know a Place” campaign features local residents expressing their love for Seattle and its hidden gems. This not only highlights iconic locations but also unveils lesser-known aspects of the city.
We also discuss how Visit Seattle shares how their core values—innovation, creativity, and inclusivity— not only shape their city but also their marketing strategies. Inclusivity, for instance, is manifested through partnerships with Seattle Bank and Interventionalist, supporting traditionally underrepresented BIPOC-owned businesses.
Sponsorships enable people to experience these businesses firsthand, with Visit Seattle highlighting them in their campaigns. This demonstrates a proactive approach to diversity, actively working with these businesses to tell their stories instead of merely stating the presence of diversity.
Creativity is another cornerstone of Visit Seattle’s approach. The city boasts the title of the glassblowing capital of the world, second only to Italy, and hosts an annual festival named Refract, a month-long celebration of local and renowned glass artists. Along with Refract, they organize Cloudbreak, focused on music, and Museum Month, both of which showcase Seattle’s vibrant arts scene.
Their third core value, innovation, is encapsulated in Seattle’s identity as the birthplace of global tech giants like Microsoft and Amazon, retail powerhouse Costco, and numerous other innovative ventures. This value traces back to the World’s Fair six decades ago that birthed the iconic Space Needle, highlighting the city’s longstanding history of groundbreaking ideas. Their commitment to these values is exemplified in events like the recent Pride Parade, reinforcing that inclusivity in Seattle goes beyond words—it is deeply rooted in the population’s values. Through these unique approaches, Visit Seattle is not just selling a destination but narrating an authentic story of a community that thrives on innovation, creativity, and inclusivity.
Kurt Krause currently serves as the President and CEO of Visit Norfolk, joining in 2019. He is responsible for directing the effort to improve the quality of life for all residents through the economic and community benefits of tourism. His history in the hotel industry spans over 37 years, including 21 years with Marriott International, eight years with Aramark, and four years with Gold Key PHR. Arriving in Norfolk in 2014, he led the pre-opening efforts of Hilton Norfolk – The Main, followed by re-opening the historic Cavalier Hotel and Cavalier Beach Club in Virginia Beach.
As well as his career in the hotel industry, Kurt served our Country initially as a Loaned Executive for the Transportation Security Administration. As a founding member of the largest start-up of any private or public organization, he was specifically responsible for many of the consumer-oriented deliverables. For his effort in the participation of founding the agency, in addition to the consumer element, he was recognized with the Department of Transportation Distinguished Service Medal by Secretary Norman Minetta in 2002. Kurt then joined his alma mater, Virginia Tech, as Vice President of Business Affairs; responsibilities included Facilities, Personnel, VT Police Department, Department of Environmental Health and Safety Services, Office of the University Architect, and Real Estate Management.
On the personal side, after enjoying 20 years of playing amateur baseball (2003-2023), winning two national championships, Kurt found enjoyment on stage, participating in the Hampton Roads Dancing with the Stars, performing with the Virginia Opera, and with Hurrah Players in Annie (2018) and Dames at Sea (2019).
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Kurt Krause about how Visit Norfolk is revisiting a successful collaborative campaign from 2020 to see how they can apply those learnings to new need areas. He shares more about the “City with Bite” and how it has led to engagement with the local community in addition to visitors. Kurt also highlights current plans to tell the authentic history of Norfolk through a program called Pathways to Freedom, which tells the story of the Underground Railroad, recognizes the harrowing experiences of those who sought freedom, the individuals and institutions that aided them, and the historical locations that played a part in their journey.
Kurt discusses the often overlooked but crucial role residents play in destination marketing. It’s not solely about attracting out-of-town visitors but also engaging the locals in the activities and experiences the city offers. He shares more about the “City with Bite” initiative, a restaurant series now in its third season, which was invented to motivate residents to patronize local eateries again.
The “City with Bite” series has rejuvenated the local culinary scene and enhanced residents’ understanding and appreciation of the visitor economy. One distinctive feature of the “City with Bite” series is the inclusion of restaurant customers in their episodes. They are invited to share their experiences, reminiscences, and thoughts about the highlighted restaurants, fostering a deeper connection between the local community and the city’s gastronomic landscape.
Kurt also shares some of the upcoming projects Visit Norfolk is undertaking that he’s particularly proud of. For the last two years, the team has been working on a project based on “Pathways to Freedom,” a book by Dr. Cassandra Newby Alexander that narrates the tale of the underground railroad in Norfolk. This venture aims to tell the untold stories of those who braved the perilous journey to freedom, a narrative often eclipsed by more popular accounts like those of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith.
Through this project, Visit Norfolk aims to shed light on the harrowing experiences of those who sought freedom, the individuals and institutions that aided them, and the historical locations that played a part in this journey.
One of the most fascinating things about this initiative is the use of augmented reality (AR) to bring these historical narratives to life. For example, the technology can help recreate the imagery of the tunnels under St. Mary’s Basilica, where the enslaved were known to escape. It can also show places such as the slave jail or warehouses that no longer exist. The goal here is to foster an understanding of the city’s history and how it has progressed, not perfectly but significantly, towards becoming a diverse and inclusive community.
This week the show is at Tap Dance, organized by the Travel Alliance Partners, where the focus is on the power of collaboration, connections, and partnerships in the travel and tourism industry.
Through conversations surrounding the Tap Dance 2023 travel conference and real-life experiences, my guests share a deep appreciation for the importance of working together, building strong relationships, and leveraging partnerships to create impactful travel experiences. From creating joint itineraries to forming pod partnerships, this episode explores how collaboration and teamwork can elevate the industry and provide operators with valuable pre and post-trip experiences. Get ready for an inspiring and informative discussion that highlights the transformative power of collaboration in the travel trade segment.
We hear from five amazing travel and tourism leaders, including Todd Reed, Tim Cave, Stacey Warren, Micheal Collins, and Marlene Smith, who provide insights on the Tap Dance show and partnerships in the industry.
“Collaboration is the key,” according to Todd. He discusses the importance of collaboration and partnerships in the industry and shares his experience of how trust and communication are crucial in building successful relationships with partners. Todd also emphasizes the value of attending travel conferences, such as Tap Dance, to network, exchange ideas, and learn from other professionals in the field.
Timothy shares his own experience working with various partners and tour operators in Nebraska, emphasizing the need to go where the operators are and get to know people. He also talks about the benefits of attending shows and networking with others in the same line of work. Timothy believes leveraging partnerships and learning from others is crucial for success in the tour operator industry.
Stacey talks about what partnership means to her, and why it’s the number one thing you need in this industry. She dives into a partnership she and neighboring DMOs have set up that enables visitors to learn more about Maine and the surrounding region. Stacey also highlights the significance of networking at events like Tap Dance, where industry professionals can learn from each other and exchange ideas.
I loved hearing more about the collaboration between Nebraska and Wyoming and how they built an itinerary based on the Western heritage of cowboys and Native Americans. He also discusses why his word for Tap Dance is ‘wonderful’ because of its family feel and commitment to helping travel industry professionals build significant, long-lasting relationships.
Marlene describes why for her, partnerships are very much a two-way street, which sometimes might benefit one person more at one time, but which always even out in the end. She highlights the importance of respecting one another as fellow knowledgeable professionals. Marlene also talks more about Circle Michigan, a partnership that has lasted 40 years because everyone involved understands that they’re better together.
I hope you enjoyed the second episode of our special two-part series from Tap Dance, where we dive into the world of this unique travel conference, where collaboration, partnership, and connection are at its core. From intimate conversations and learning from colleagues in the tourism industry to exploring new trends and expanding networks, Tap Dance provides invaluable experiences and professional growth opportunities. I loved that our guests shared their insights on the importance of working together, forming strong relationships, and leveraging partnerships to create successful events and promote destinations.
This week I’m at Tap Dance, the annual travel conference hosted and produced by Travel Alliance Partners. Tap Dance is an intimate show that gives a select group of tour operator partners a chance to build genuine relationships with Preferred Professional Travel Providers.
I’m privileged to be able to talk to five experienced leaders in the travel and tourism sector and ask them about how shows like Tap Dance help empower them to do their job better. We also dive into what the word partnership means to them, and my guests offer an example of a partnership that works well for them. I can’t wait to share my guests’ words with you.
I am excited to showcase the Tap Dance travel conference in this roadshow series because Travel Alliance Partners, one of my own businesses, is built to support collaboration and connection in the travel trade community.
Lori shares more about a collaborative program her organization is part of called Beyond the Big Apple, where they’re encouraging travelers to explore the area beyond New York City. She discusses the collaborative effort between the Catskills, central New York, and Hudson Valley and how putting together a two-week itinerary that showcases the best of the region helps domestic and international travelers explore the region.
We dive into what partnership means to Libby and how she loves to work as a team to better achieve their goals. Her organization is a big fan of the phrase rising tide lifts all ships! She also shares more about how the Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial are building a locale with the Independent Seaport Museum to make it easier for groups who visit both destinations.
Jim tells us how shows like Tap Dance help him be a better travel and tourism professional. He describes how working together and listening to how other people sell their destinations helps you learn and grow professionally. Jim also shares more about the Visit Cheyenne open-air rodeos, their new partners, and how they’re attracting a fantastic international audience.
I loved how Jill describes partnership as teamwork, listening, and an aligned vision for all of us to be together for the benefit of everyone. She also shares why her word of the show is ‘reverence’ and how as a first time Tap Dancer, she can feel the synergy with colleagues from all parts of the industry.
We talk about why networking is beneficial from a business and professional standpoint and why she’s enjoying making so many connections with her peers. We also dive into an example of a partnership that’s working for Old Sturbridge Village in their collaboration with the Table Three restaurant group that allows their guests to experience fine dining in a historical setting.
I hope you enjoyed this first episode of our special two-part series from Tap Dance. We delved into the world of this unique travel conference, where collaboration, partnership, and connection are at its core. From intimate conversations and learning from colleagues in the tourism industry to exploring new trends and expanding networks, Tap Dance provides invaluable experiences and professional growth opportunities. I loved that our guests shared their insights on the importance of working together, forming strong relationships, and leveraging partnerships to create successful events and promote destinations.
Stay tuned for the second part of our series, where we will continue to explore the magic of Tap Dance.
Santiago C. Corrada is an accomplished, recognized leader with over twenty-five years of public service experience, with proven success in effectively and efficiently transforming the professional culture of many diverse institutions. His outstanding relationship-building skills result in the resolution of highly complex issues through consensus. Corrada has the demonstrated ability to soundly and fiscally manage a convention center resulting in record surplus revenues. He has consistently elevated organizations to higher levels of productivity by empowering team members and stakeholders. Corrada is an intelligent, articulate, dedicated, loyal individual driven to serve and deliver the highest quality services.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Santiago Corrada about his leadership philosophy which includes fostering relationships, building a great team, and being a role model. We also discuss the importance of welcoming diverse audiences, and Santiago shares in detail how Visit Tampa Bay welcomes people of all abilities.
Santiago Carrera discusses leadership philosophy and why he enjoys being a mentor and leading by example at Visit Tampa Bay. He shares how his unusual journey into destination marketing has helped him understand the importance of engaging his own team and the wider community in their visitor attraction initiatives.
Santiago also shines a little light on the need for effective marketing and leadership in making a location stand out. Focusing on what they’re doing at Visit Tampa Bay, he mentions how his team’s efforts led to recognition from Time Magazine, money.com, and Forbes and how they helped put Tampa on the map as one of the best places in Florida to live and visit. Santiago believes that Visit Tampa Bay’s unique branding and collaborative approach differentiates their destination from other typical Florida destinations.
In our talk on all things creativity and leadership in destination marketing, Santiago expanded on his viewpoint, explaining that the goal isn’t just about making Tampa or Tampa Bay stand out amongst competitors; it’s all about shaping the narrative your own way. He also gives a few examples of some of the innovative and creative approaches in marketing and sharing the uniqueness of their location with the world.
Santiago’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is a cornerstone of his leadership strategy. As one of the few Latino leaders of a DMO in the country, he has always prioritized diversifying his team, board of directors, and the portrayal of diverse, multicultural groups in their marketing imagery. It was, therefore, important to Santiago and his team to include imagery in their campaigns representing individuals with travel impediments.
Visit Tampa incorporated ambassadors and influencers who have travel impediments into their video creation and campaigns. This inclusive initiative has added another layer to their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, enriching their marketing strategy and further differentiating their destination.
Since 2001, Debra Ross has been publisher of KidsOutAndAbout.com, America’s online resource for families who want to know about all of the opportunities for kids in their local area, and (since 2016) of BeyondTheNest.com, for grownups who want to know about arts, culture, and recreation where they live. This web network has regional sites in 45 cities in the US and Canada, with (as of Feb 2023) 15 million visitors per year (85% parents, 15% grandparents, 82% women) and 750,000 recipients of a free weekly e-newsletter telling recipients what’s happening locally for kids, teens, and families.
Debra’s expertise is in community visibility and cheerleading, data analytics, and information resource management. She is Co-Chair of the American Astronomical Society’s Solar Eclipse Task Force for the 2023 annular and 2024 solar eclipses and Chair of the Rochester Eclipse Task Force 2024.
Named after the iconic Angela Davis, Angela Speck likes bright colors, is a nerd at heart, and has wanted to be an astronaut since she was five years old. Originally from Yorkshire (England), she went to college in London, where she was able to pursue her childhood dreams by majoring in astrophysics. After a brief stint as an r&d technician in a Lancashire company run by crazy new-age hippies, she returned to London and completed a Ph.D. in astronomy. After a postdoc at the University of Illinois and 17 years on the faculty at the University of Missouri, she is now the Chair of the Physics & Astronomy Department at UT San Antonio. She has also been the co-chair of a national task force on solar eclipses since 2014. Throughout her career, she has pursued research and teaching of astrophysics and continues to share her passion for all things extra-terrestrial.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Angela Speck and Debra Ross about how they are preparing for the 2024 solar eclipse. We discuss how destination marketers can share information about eclipse events locally and nationally, and we cover lessons learned from the 2017 eclipse visitor data.
During her interview on the Destination on the Left podcast, Debra Ross shared a powerful anecdote about the town of Kingswood and their approach to the solar eclipse. With a strong sense of community, the town sent teenagers on bicycles to distribute eclipse glasses to residents and visitors, ensuring everyone could safely experience the event. This initiative showcased their commitment to inclusivity and creating a shared experience.
This highlighted how communities can demonstrate their true essence and foster a stronger sense of unity through how they present themselves to visitors. Debra is looking to convey a similar sense of unity and connection within her own community and has since been involved in helping other communities make their messaging fun, clever, and authentic in preparation for the 2024 eclipse.
On the podcast, Angela emphasizes the importance of targeted outreach and educating people about the significance of the eclipse path. So many people missed out on being within the path of the 2017 eclipse, and the upcoming 2024 eclipse is already a hot topic of conversation amongst the general population, not just the scientific community.
To help engage as many people as possible, DMOs should build upon pre-existing stories and experiences. By reinforcing the message that they are not starting from scratch, marketers can more effectively communicate the importance of being within the eclipse path and ensure that people understand the value of participating in the 2024 eclipse.
President and CEO Danny Liedka is in his sixth year at the helm of Visit Syracuse, Onondaga County’s official tourism promotion agency. Visit Syracuse plays a critical role in the county’s economic development strategy through its focus to grow the area’s business of leisure tourism, meetings & conventions, sporting & special events, and film/television production.
Through his work, Danny has strengthened the organization’s ties with elected officials and community leaders to ensure resource development, overall strategic direction, and quality programming to the region. While under his leadership, the organization has successfully restructured to handle the effects of COVID-19 on the hospitality and tourism industry, moved into a new downtown office space, and brought in and expanded the Visit Syracuse Film Office. Liedka also has seen convention sales increase by nearly 85% during his tenure.
During Danny’s tenure, the Visit Syracuse organization has seen several major conventions return to the area and has undergone several marketing initiatives to better promote the region and partners, including a completely redesigned website, an increase in video production promotion, and a newly designed Visitors Guide.
Danny has several years of experience in a variety of tourism and hospitality roles, including Senior Sales Executive at Marriott International and Sales Manager at the Double Tree Hotel Syracuse. He holds several awards recognizing him for sports, sales, and marketing efforts.
Before joining Visit Syracuse, Danny was a former Onondaga County Legislator District 7 (2012-2017), having served as Chairman of the Health Committee, Budget Task Force, and Vehicle Use Review Board. In addition, he was the former mayor of the Village of East Syracuse (2007 – 2013). Danny has written award-winning legislation that addressed the quality of life in his Village. Danny is on the East Syracuse-Minoa School District Wall of Distinction for his contribution and achievements in the community. The Visit Syracuse president was also an on-air television commentator at Time Warner Cable Sports Channel, Big East Network, YES Network, and ESPNU, as well as a game radio host for Syracuse University Basketball on Clear Channel Radio. Danny is a recipient of the ACE Award, which is the cable television equivalent of an Emmy for excellence in sports broadcasting. Danny is also an ABCA Certified Professional Baseball Coach, Coaches at Sports Zone Baseball Academy, and is the current president of ESM Little League. He and his wife, Kim, and three children, Luke, Jack, and Hannah, and k9 partner Milla reside in East Syracuse.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Danny Liedka about the importance of showing the authentic experience of the destination through storytelling done by real people and how Visit Syracuse does that via their photo and video library. We also dive into how to forge tighter relationships with stakeholders and some transformational projects coming to Danny’s community right now.
Creating a solid team and fostering a positive work atmosphere has been a priority for Danny as a leader. While he recognizes that Visit Syracuse may not always be able to compete with private sector jobs in terms of financial compensation, he believes that by going the extra mile for his employees, they can minimize the importance of money in their overall job satisfaction.
One way Visit Syracuse achieves this is by offering special perks and benefits, such as the ability to work from home. Danny explains why even before the COVID-19 pandemic, they had already implemented a remote work policy, which proved valuable when the crisis happened and allowed them to hit the ground running.
People crave genuine experiences and prefer seeing real individuals rather than staged content. When Danny and his team realized this, they decided to invest in various initiatives, such as professional photography and partnering with an agency that could help them source a vast collection of authentic images. By showcasing real-life experiences in Syracuse, they aimed to establish an emotional connection between their audience and their brand.
Recognizing the power of video as a storytelling medium, Danny made it a priority to excel in this area. If you explore Visit Syracuse’s recently launched website, you’ll notice a strong emphasis on video content, immersive experiences, and captivating narratives. This approach has allowed them to build a dedicated following and stay ahead of the curve, ensuring they are proactive rather than playing catch up with industry trends.
When seeking the right partners, making everything about them and creating a likable connection is important. Show them a problem they may be unaware of and position yourself as the solution. Understanding their communication styles and needs, and adapting your approach accordingly, is crucial.
Effective communication and listening skills play a significant role in establishing successful partnerships. By embracing these principles and focusing on the partner’s needs, you can build strong relationships and achieve mutual success.
Lolita Jackmon is a highly accomplished professional who began her career in the hospitality industry, working for renowned hotels and airlines. With a deep-rooted passion for travel and a commitment to creating unforgettable experiences, she quickly established herself as an asset in the industry.
Driven by a desire to make a difference, Lolita transitioned into grant writing, focusing her efforts on increasing diversity in STEM majors through partnerships. Through her expertise in crafting winning programs and proposals, she successfully secured grants to promote inclusivity and empower underrepresented individuals to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
With a keen eye for detail and a talent for evaluating grant proposals, Lolita expanded her career by collaborating with grant funding organizations. Her meticulous evaluation of proposals ensured that resources were directed towards impactful initiatives, fostering innovation and societal change.
Lolita’s journey led her into a flourishing project management career, where she excelled in strategic planning, budgeting, and stakeholder engagement. Her ability to lead cross-functional teams and deliver projects successfully while maintaining a focus on quality and client satisfaction earned her widespread acclaim.
Motivated by her unwavering love for travel and her desire to help others experience the wonders of the world, Lolita embarked on the entrepreneurial path, founding her own travel business. Drawing from her expertise in the travel industry, grant writing, and project management, she is committed to curating exceptional travel experiences that leave a lasting impact while promoting sustainability and inclusivity.
As a multifaceted professional with extensive experience in hospitality, grant writing, and project management, Lolita brings a unique perspective to the travel industry. Through her writing, she strives to empower travel businesses with valuable insights, resources, and opportunities, enabling them to navigate challenges, embrace innovation, and contribute to the industry’s recovery and growth.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Lolita Jackman, who shares her passion for travel and where she looks for travel inspiration that enables her to help her clients with their dream vacations. We also do a deep dive into the topic of grant writing as Lolita walks us through the research initiation and planning phases of grant writing, shares some of her favorite tools, and warns of the pitfalls to watch out for when approaching grants.
In this episode of Destination on the Left, Lolita shares her experiences and insights into the travel industry and grant writing, offering valuable tips and advice for those who are interested in pursuing either (or both!).
One of the key takeaways from this episode is the importance of collaboration. Lolita emphasizes the value of having partners in achieving your goals, whether in grant writing or consulting with clients. She also shares how her company Global Gypsy Travel allows for a wide range of options for clients.
Collaboration is essential when it comes to grant applications — Lolita stresses the importance of finding potential partners and building a network when seeking grants. Not only does this help demonstrate a wide range of support for your project, but it can also open up opportunities for further collaboration and growth beyond the initial grant.
Another valuable insight shared by Lolita is the importance of thorough planning and budgeting. She discusses how it can be tempting for applicants to assume that their chosen subject “should” be funded without properly explaining the issue and demonstrating why there is a need for it.
In order to build a successful case study and stand a chance at securing significant grants, proper planning and budgeting are essential. This includes identifying partners and creating a memorandum of understanding before submitting an application, and having a clear and thorough explanation of each item in the budget and how it will be used.
Dana Le is a healthcare innovation expert and Founder at Wander Health. She was previously on the Founding Team and Head of Operations at KidsX, one of the worlds leading digital health ecosystems focused on accelerating pediatric innovation. She built, designed, and managed the programming for the nation’s most prominent healthcare entrepreneurial programs. Prior to this role, she strategized innovative payment models at ECG Management Consultants and cofounded a community ventures program at Dell Medical School.
Dana received her Master’s of Health Administration from Columbia University and Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Finance from The University of Texas at Austin. Dana was recently selected as a Forbes 30 Under 30 in Healthcare and a TEDx speaker.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Dana Le about how she came up with the idea for Wander Health and why talking to your customers is the best strategy for remaining relevant. We also discuss the intersection of healthcare and travel and the importance of having access to the right medical care when traveling.
In the latest episode of the #DOTL podcast, guest Dana Le sheds light on an issue that can be a huge concern for many travelers: the limitations of travel medical insurance. She shares her personal experiences, highlighting how she encountered this ongoing issue every time she went abroad.
One of the key insights Dana discovered was the alarming statistic that 40% of people fall ill or sustain injuries while traveling. Considering that approximately 81 million Americans traveled abroad last year, a staggering 33 million individuals face health challenges during their trips. This disruption is significant, regardless of whether people are traveling for business or leisure, as it dampens the overall experience.
Dana shares the three essential solutions Wander Health offers to address the limitations of travel medical insurance. Their booking service enables travelers to schedule urgent care appointments while abroad. The upcoming chat feature connects users with local doctors via text or WhatsApp, providing guidance on healthcare issues and medication queries.
Wander Health also allows travelers to search for and purchase over-the-counter medication equivalents, even offering delivery services. These comprehensive offerings ensure real-time care and support for individuals navigating healthcare needs while traveling.
To foster innovation, it’s essential to listen to customers and understand their needs. Stagnation can be seen in industries like travel and healthcare, where customer experiences often fall short. However, companies that prioritize the customer and adapt to their needs, like certain airlines, can create exceptional experiences and build strong reputations. By actively seeking to improve and innovate, travel healthcare providers can make a significant impact on patients’ lives, even with small changes.
Passionate about custom travel and creating unique travel experiences for his clients, Tom Casey is a longtime expert on travel to Ireland and the British Isles and, more recently, has explored many regions of Scandinavia—including Norway, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands. Tom runs Old Sod Travel along with helping manage Scandinavian Travel.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Tom Casey about the business strategies that have made his travel companies successful, including focusing on your niche, hiring and nurturing a good team, and building reliable partnerships overseas. We also discuss how his business weathered the challenges of the pandemic to make 2023 their best year yet.
One of the key strategies that has fueled the growth of Tom Casey’s business is finding and honing in on a specific niche. Tom emphasizes the importance of fine-tuning what you want to do and excelling at it. This approach has allowed his company to focus more on delivering exceptional client experiences.
Old Sod Travel and Scandinavian Travel prioritize providing high-quality vacations, and because of this, they often invest in sending employees to business meetings and conferences in Ireland, Scotland, and Scandinavia, enabling them to gain firsthand experience and build confidence in selling their offerings to potential travelers. The positive feedback in the form of five-star reviews further reinforces the company’s commitment to delivering outstanding vacations and fuels their passion to continue excelling in their niche.
Tom Casey’s business model includes a unique approach to his team, which has evolved over time. Initially, he hired stay-at-home mothers due to budget constraints, and one of them eventually became his business partner. They recruited friends with similar backgrounds, creating a social and enjoyable work environment. The workforce genuinely cares about clients and understands the travel style they sell, which aligns with their own experiences. This inherent understanding makes it easier for them to recommend luxury accommodations and convince clients that the extra expense is worth it for a truly satisfying experience.
The flexibility granted to employees, such as working a few hours in the morning to communicate and collaborate, allows for customization and personalized trip planning. Unlike other companies that claim customization but offer limited options, Tom’s team goes the extra mile, traveling with clients and making themselves available whenever needed. Their commitment to building relationships and providing comfort to nervous first-time travelers sets them apart from the competition.
Tristen Norman is the Head of Creative Insights, Americas at iStock and Getty Images. She operates as one-part visual anthropologist and two-parts data scientist working across disciplines to understand what motivates visual selection, identify trends within visual language, and use this data to help shape the development of Gettys creative content globally. Leveraging consumer research and social and cultural listening and pairing it with proprietary data, Tristen hones in on the valuable insights that feed the development of Getty Images’ own creative collections.
A passionate advocate for elevating marginalized voices within creative spaces, Tristen also plays a critical role in supporting and advancing initiatives and partnerships to champion diverse visual narratives at Getty Images and beyond.
Tristen’s experience stems from over nine years in creative design, market research, and brand strategy. Before joining Getty Images, Tristen was most recently a Senior Experience Strategist at Wunderman, where she was responsible for developing creative, data-driven omnichannel creative brand strategies for clients across various industries. Tristen earned her Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing from Temple.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Tristen Norman about how the era of ‘no normal’ has impacted content creators and what destination marketers can do to ensure they’re telling multilayered stories. We also discuss the importance of interrogating our content choices to improve our marketing and stress that it is the little choices that make the most significant impact.
In today’s travel marketing landscape, authenticity has become paramount, and it’s essential for brands to share authentic images and narratives. Tristen explores the challenge of maintaining authenticity while telling layered stories and emphasizes the importance of investing time, resources, and energy in the process of authenticity.
Through image testing and surveys, Tristen’s team discovered that consumers respond most to images that represent slices of real life. These visuals should reflect diversity, different cultures, communities, and lived experiences.
DMOs and brands need to analyze their existing content and identify how they can best fill any gaps, such as concentrating on little-known attractions of their destination. Incremental changes can lead to a profound shift in the audience’s relationship with a destination. Rather than attempting to solve all the world’s problems at once, brands should take a step-by-step approach, assessing what’s available, what can be swapped in, and what resources might be needed. Starting with small, manageable changes is the key to building an authentic brand narrative that resonates with audiences.
When it comes to tools and resources for content creators and marketers in the travel industry, Tristen mentions several options available through Getty Images. She also shares how to stay updated with industry insights, trends, and conversations via their VisualGPS Insights tool, which provides data and insights on global visual content trends, helping marketers make informed choices.
Wes Rhea is the CEO of Visit Stockton and has led destination marketing in Stockton, California, since 2005. A strong advocate of small destination marketing organizations, Wes is a past President of the Destination Marketing Association of the West. He has also served on the board of the California Travel Association, the Destination Marketing Association of the West Education and Research Foundation, and the Central Valley Tourism Association. Wes currently serves on US Travels Destinations Council, the Advocacy and Professional Development Committees at Destination International, and is the Rural Committee Chair at Visit California. Wes is best known for being an early adopter of new tourism tech and a big fan of data.
A Stockton native, Wes is committed to giving back to his community and currently serves on the board of the Stockton Maritime Museum, the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce, and the Airport Advisory Commission. Wes is married to Kristi, has two sons, and served ten years in the US Army.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, Wes Rhea shares his leadership philosophy and how it has empowered his team to adapt and thrive in any situation. We delve into the advantages of embracing technology and how incorporating video and graphic design services in-house has revolutionized their operations. Wes also provides insights on managing a destination with a negative perception, both internally and externally. He discusses the creative strategies his team employs to shift this perception, including leveraging Stockton’s status as the most diverse city in the nation.
Wes believes that his experience in the Army has dramatically influenced his leadership style and ability to lead his team effectively. He highlights two key aspects that he attributes to his military background: team development and the ability to work under pressure and adapt. This mindset has translated into his approach as a CEO, where he values and appreciates every individual’s contribution to the team.
Inspired by Stockton’s distinction as the most diverse city in the nation, Stockton Flavorfest was designed to celebrate the community’s diversity through food, arts, and cultural activities. The festival prioritized curated vendors, sustainable practices, and a cohesive visual identity. With the seed funding,
Visit Stockton was able to realize their vision, providing engaging entertainment such as Ballet Folklorico and Tahitian dancers, cooking demos, and free arts and crafts for children. The inaugural two-day event in 2022 surpassed expectations, attracting 12,000 attendees and earning Visit Stockton the prestigious Best New Festival award from the International Festival and Events Association.
Visit Stockton faces the ongoing challenge of combating the negative perception surrounding the city. Despite being the 11th largest city in California, Stockton is plagued by higher violent crime rates, leading to discouraging comments from residents. However, the team at Visit Stockton remains determined to change the narrative.
They organize fun projects and initiatives, such as a campaign highlighting Stockton as the birthplace of the Fantastic Four. Although these efforts may not directly change people’s opinions or attract tourists, they create a sense of pride among residents and offer a feel-good factor for the team. Despite the daily battle against negativity, Visit Stockton embraces a proactive approach, thinking outside the box and working as cheerleaders for the city, showcasing its hidden gems and fostering positive experiences for visitors and locals alike.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Claire Koenig about her role as Co-Chair of the Destinations International PR and Communications Committee. We discuss in detail the creation of the Public Relations Measurement Guidelines Handbook. Claire also shares the upcoming priorities of the Committee, including an update to the Crisis Handbook, work on reputational issues facing destinations, and how the Committee plans to help raise the comms profession up for destinations worldwide.
In this episode of Destination on the Left, our guest Claire Koenig sheds light on PR for destinations and the need to move away from traditional metrics like Add Equivalency Value (AVE) and impressions. AVE measures the cost of buying an ad equivalent to the earned media coverage, but it fails to capture the true value and impact of earned media.
We discuss why the value of being featured in prestigious publications like The New York Times or National Geographic Travel and Leisure goes beyond a monetary value, as it validates a destination and can have far-reaching benefits, such as attracting conventions and visitors.
Claire also dives into the Barcelona Principles and how they offer a scoring system that allows destinations to tailor their measurement practices while creating uniformity across the industry. The Barcelona Principles encourage destinations to evaluate their earned media efforts using a scoring system. This involves breaking down the evaluation into different buckets and assessing factors such as the targeted markets reached, key messages conveyed the nature of the media placement, and the prominence of the destination within the coverage.
By calculating scores for these various elements, destinations can derive an overall vertical score demonstrating how their reputation is elevated through earned media generated by their tourism bureau. While measuring the impact of earned media on reputation is challenging due to its wide-ranging effects, the scoring system provides tangible numbers and enhances transparency in the PR and media relations process.
One significant benefit of adopting a scoring system, such as the one outlined in the Destination International Public Relations Measurement Guidelines Handbook. is that it allows PR professionals and DMOs to illustrate the value they bring.
Claire also highlights the importance of standardizing job descriptions and advocating for salary transparency in the field of travel and hospitality PR. By organizing job descriptions based on the budget size and creating standardized templates, managers and directors can effectively hire the right talent for their teams.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with two amazing guests, Mayor Carlos Duffey of Jackson, Georgia, and Ike English of the Dauset Trails Nature Center, both of whom played a pivotal role in the Creeks Trail System and Butts County’s recent recognition with the Trailblazers Award from the Georgia CVB Association. We focus on their collaborative efforts, its positive impact on the city of Jackson, and the significance of having the right individuals involved in creating such transformative projects.
Mayor Carlos describes how he envisioned connecting every part of Jackson back to the town square to bring visitors and residents alike to sample the town’s restaurants, cafes, and boutiques. He shares how they can benefit from the economic impact of the trail and why the city is working with local transportation services to add new roundabouts and bike lanes that will provide safe access to the Trailhead.
Ike shares more about some of the roadblocks they hit and challenges they encountered when they first started building the trails, including convincing local landowners and residents who were less than enthusiastic about the project.
The pair share more details about their four trailheads, what kind of people are using the trails, and why their unique project won the 2022 Trailblazer Award. Mayor Carlos and Ike also dive into how they track numbers of trail users and why it’s essential for them to understand how they are being used so they can make plans for how to expand the network.
Jackson is considered the outdoor capital of Georgia, thanks to its two state parks and the Dauset Trail. The city takes great pride in this title and wants to make the most of it by encouraging people to walk or bike rather than drive.
My guests share why the trails have been vital in promoting this vision, and the city is excited to see the enthusiasm around it. The younger generation is a particular focus, and the city hopes to introduce more children to the trails to develop their love for nature. The Dauset Trail already does an excellent job of engaging students, but the city wants to expand the outreach and make it a part of its future.
Bonnie Hayes is the Director for Tourism Development for the City of Thomasville, a position she has held for seven years and thoroughly enjoys. Before working for the City, Bonnie was teaching Video Broadcast in the Thomasville School System as well as being the on-air host of Thomasville Today, a local event-focused TV program. Many people recognize her from the TV program or remember her holding puppies and other animals in her pet store, Pet Stop, which she opened when she arrived in Thomasville. A graduate of Florida State University, Bonnie is originally from the Florida panhandle but has called Thomasville home for over 25 years. When she has time, she works in her yard, takes care of her many pets, or travels with her husband and college-age twins.
Debra Smith is a retired teacher who taught in the Thomasville School System for 30 years. She retired at age 51, and after growing bored sitting at home, she knew she needed to do something. Debra decided to investigate food tours, and she went to Food Tour Pros in Chicago to learn how to do food tours. Her first tour was on March 24, 2013. As of today, Debra has hosted 1469 tours and 11800+ guests. Her company was named Small Business of the Year in 2018 and GA CVCB Travel Trail Blazers in 2022. Debra gives credit to her wonderful guides, who she couldn’t do this business without, and she notes that she has the best team!
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Bonnie Hayes and Debra Smith about the power of collaboration between a tourism office and a local tour operator. We discuss the partnership between their two organizations, how they support each other, and how this collaboration led to an elevated visitor experience.
In the world of tourism, personal connections, collaborations, and partnerships are key to success. This is especially true for the tour industry, where visitors are looking for a unique and memorable experience. Debra, who has been running her Taste of Thomasville tour for ten years, understands this better than anyone. Bonnie Hayes, Director for Tourism Development for the City of Thomasville, also shares more about how her organization created a collaboration with Debra and how their partnership has evolved over the years.
Debra and Bonnie have continued to shape the restaurant tour into a tourism product that appeals to a range of visitors. This meant creating not only a daytime tour on weekends but also an evening tour where guests could have drinks in a range of fun establishments. But their creativity didn’t stop there. When large groups come into town for events like the Victorian Christmas festival, Debra also curates specific experiences to entertain visitors during the day.
For her outstanding contributions to the tourism industry, Debra won the Trailblazer Award, which celebrates individuals who have significantly impacted the travel industry and helped shape how we experience new places. Debra’s dedication and creativity have undoubtedly earned her this recognition.
As the popularity of the food tour in Thomasville continues to grow, there are always new ideas and possibilities for expanding the experience. One such idea that has been on the mind of Debra and Bonnie is to incorporate more of the town’s art district, also known as the “bottom,” into the tour. This area has some great restaurants currently not included in the tour’s walking path, so the hope is to eventually create a third tour called “Breakfast on the Bottom,” which would showcase these establishments.
In addition to expanding the tour for adults, there are plans to continue offering tours geared toward children and high school students. The children’s tour has become particularly popular, with many elementary and middle schools taking field trips to participate. Meanwhile, the culinary tour for high school students allows them to learn from the owners and managers of local restaurants and get a behind-the-scenes look at the culinary industry.
Josiah Brown’s mission in life is to “Inspire people forward.” After traveling 750,000+ miles promoting New York State as a travel destination and the industry that supports it, the New York Sherpa has a few stories to tell…
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Josiah Brown about the trends and challenges facing the tourism industry in a post-COVID visitor economy. Josiah shares his philosophy on effective destination marketing, building quality of place, and the importance of the visitor economy in economic development. We also highlight the importance of metrics, staying relevant in the digital space, and tourism’s value as a catalyst for economic growth.
On the podcast with Josiah, we explore the state of the visitor economy and how it has been affected by recent events. We discuss the challenges faced by rural communities who struggle with viewing tourism as an asset, the need for strategic communication around the visitor economy, and how the industry may fare in the coming years.
One key challenge highlighted is the negative perception some rural communities have of tourism. Many residents view visitors as a threat to their way of life and don’t understand the benefits that tourism can bring, such as fresh capital, investment, jobs, and increased quality of place. Josiah also discusses the importance of educating locals on the positive effects of tourism and demonstrating how visitors can help the community in many ways.
Another key theme is the need for strategic communication around the visitor economy. Josiah notes that so many people, particularly in rural communities, do not understand the workforce challenges of the future, the sustainability of their communities, or the success of a post-agricultural or post-industrial community, all of which rely on the visitor economy.
Josiah advocates for the seven pillars of destination management to promote the importance of tourism in economic development, which include strategies such as branding, marketing, sales, education, and a community calendar.
Finally, we explore the potential of the tourism industry in the coming years. While many industries may suffer from a recession, Josiah predicts that the tourism industry may not fare as badly because people are eager to travel again. He notes that there has been a wave of pent-up consumerism in the industry, with people valuing travel experiences more than before — which is why it’s so important to stay in the marketplace and bolster your brand’s visibility to ensure success in a post-COVID visitor economy.
A marketing strategist for over 30 years, Susan Baier founded Audience Audit in 2009 to help organizations understand their best audiences based on attitudes and needs rather than just demographics or purchase behavior. She develops custom segmentation research for marketers and agencies around the world, supporting their efforts to create marketing initiatives that are more relevant, more efficient, and more impactful.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Susan Baier, my research partner in our latest research study on my favorite subject of collaboration. We share the insights uncovered about how to operationalize collaboration and why we were keen to understand all the ways that tourism, hospitality businesses, and DMOs are creating successful partnerships.
Destination marketers understand the importance of collaboration as a strategy to achieve their goals. In our recent survey on attitudes towards building collaboration into internal systems, three distinct segments emerged.
The first group, prudent planners, believe in a formalized collaboration process that includes clearly defined goals, financial objectives, and communication channels. They emphasize the need for a contingency plan to address unforeseen circumstances and advocate for a designated person to manage collaborations. For prudent planners, collaboration is a process-oriented activity that requires a well-structured framework.
The second group of destination marketers is called enterprisers, and they are characterized by their love for collaboration. They are open-minded about the collaboration process and believe in allowing adjustments to happen organically. Enterprisers view collaborations as a competitive advantage and do not limit themselves to collaborating within the travel and tourism industry only but also with organizations outside the industry.
The third group, the selective spectators, are less proactive when it comes to collaborations. They only collaborate with organizations they have some connection with, and they take a reactive approach, waiting for others to offer collaboration opportunities. Selective spectators are less confident about their collaboration process and do not see the need for collaborators to share the same values.
Understanding these distinct segments is crucial for destination marketers to tailor their collaboration strategies for the best results.
The survey found that most respondents plan to increase the number of collaborations they’re involved in. The study identified communication, open-mindedness, flexibility, active listening, and being a team player as factors that contribute to a collaborative mindset. Our study encourages destination marketers to think more intentionally about collaboration and identify the pieces of their process they follow when collaborating.
Travel writer and historian Rick Antonson has traveled on trains through twenty-eight
American states, across nine Canadian provinces, and in more than thirty-five countries. He is co-author of a book of railway stories, Whistle Posts West: Railway Tales From British Columbia, Alberta, and Yukon.
He and his two sons, Brent and Sean, circumnavigated the Northern Hemisphere by train over the course of five trips, traveling through countries as varied as Belarus, Mongolia, and North Korea. Rick and his wife, Janice, became engaged on a train in Alabama en route to New Orleans. Rick is the former president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver (now Destination Vancouver). He served as chair of the board for Destinations International, based in Bangkok, Thailand. He was vice president of Rocky Mountaineer during its start-up years in the early 1990s. Train Beyond the Mountains is his fifth travel narrative.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, Rick Antonson shares why he wrote his latest book, Train Beyond the Mountains, and the fresh perspective traveling with his 10-year-old grandson gave him. We also talk about intergenerational or legacy travel and why this market segment may be an overlooked opportunity for destination marketing organizations.
Rick Antonson shares the story behind his new book, Train Beyond the Mountains, which documents his two-week trip with his grandson in the Canadian Rockies. The pair traveled on the Rocky Mountaineer train, and Rick shares why being on the train with his grandson sparked a lot of reflection. He realized that traveling with a child allows you to see the world through a different lens.
Rick talks about the importance of travel writing in motivating and inspiring people to actually go and visit destinations. He shares some experiences from his travels, including a touching moment with his grandson on a train journey and a missed opportunity to learn the story of a fellow traveler.
He reflects on the Buddhist idea that we often assume we have more time than we do, and how COVID-19 has taught us never to take travel for granted. As a destination marketer, he encourages inviting people to experience new places and meet people who are different from themselves.
On the show, Rick also talks about the market opportunity of legacy travel. As each generation ages, there is a ticking legacy clock in the back of their mind, and leaving memories behind for their family becomes important. We dive into how destinations can better identify and market to legacy travelers, accommodate their needs, and ensure that activities are enjoyable and informative for all ages.
Passionate about the interconnection between food, agriculture, tourism, arts, and culture, Rebecca has been instrumental in developing tourism products, including Prince Edward County’s award-winning Taste Trail & Arts Trail and the Culinary Tourism Alliance’s Feast On® certification program.
In her role at the Culinary Tourism Alliance (CTA), Rebecca manages highly participatory and asset-based community development projects at the local, regional, provincial, and national levels. She oversees programming, partnership development and develops comprehensive marketing partnerships to increase awareness of Canada’s food tourism experiences.
Rebecca contributes her expertise to a variety of industry boards, including the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) and the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) Sustainable Development Goals Working Group. She has written the curriculum for Centennial Colleges Food Tourism Post Graduate Program, contributed chapters to the 2nd UNWTO Global Report on Gastronomic Tourism, and produced a chapter on Transforming the Terroir into a Tourist Destination to the Routledge Handbook of Gastronomic Tourism (release date of fall 2019). Rebecca completed a Master of Arts in Global Leadership at Royal Roads University in 2021 with a specific interest in sustainable tourism. She is a part-time professor at George Brown College in their Food Tourism Entrepreneurship program.
Born and raised in Toronto, Rebecca spent her summers in rural Prince Edward County. In her grade 12 year, she sailed with West Island Colleges Class Afloat on a 156-foot-tall ship to 20 countries in Europe and Africa – an experience that rooted her passion for travel, adventure, and taste of place! Rebecca continues to split her time between Toronto (week) and Prince Edward County (weekends), sharing her adventures with her husband, two teenage sons, and silver labrador Blueberry.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Rebecca Mackenzie, the President and CEO of Culinary Tourism Alliance. In this enlightening conversation, Rebecca provides insightful definitions for culinary tourism and agri-tourism and shares her expertise on building partnerships and programs that are sustainable and beneficial for all involved.
In this episode, Rebecca Mackenzie, the President and CEO of Culinary Tourism Alliance, dives deep into the world of culinary and agri-tourism. Mackenzie shares her insights on how destinations can truly stand out by defining their unique selling proposition and sharing the stories of the people who grow, raise and craft their tastes of place. As Mackenzie explains, the reality is that no two ingredients are quite the same, and the way they are processed or celebrated reflects the culture of that place.
Successful culinary and agri-tourism programs are grassroots-driven, and business operators must fully understand and own their unique taste of place to collaborate and showcase it to visitors. By executing excellent multi-sensory experiences, destinations can leave lifelong impressions with visitors, ultimately keeping them competitive in a rapidly growing industry. So tune in to learn more about how to make your culinary and agri-tourism program outstanding in your field.
Rebecca explains that culinary tourism includes any travel experience where a person can learn about and consume food and drink that reflects a place’s history, heritage, and culture. While agritourism is primarily focused on the production side of food and beverage, culinary tourism goes a step further by providing visitors with an opportunity to taste the products grown and raised in the area.
This immersive experience allows visitors to understand the nuances of grape growing, production processes, and the people involved in the destination. From visiting farmers’ markets and specialty food retailers to attending cooking schools and festivals, there are numerous ways to experience the taste of the place.
We also discuss the development of the Maple in the County event over 20 years ago in Prince Edward County, Canada. The event brought together five maple syrup producers under one brand, encouraging local businesses to create maple-themed products and experiences. The first year saw almost 100 businesses participate, leading to increased tourism and visitors spending longer in the area.
Break the Ice Media team members Rhonda Cardenas and Brittany Lynn attended the Georgia CVB annual conference and discovered a wealth of inspirational stories and ideas that the state has to offer. With a positive momentum coming off of a strong 2022, there is a lot of optimism for a bright future in Georgia tourism.
The state’s beautiful outdoors continues to attract visitors, with state parks seeing large numbers of visitors and new apps featuring outdoor experiences like canoe and kayak trails. The conference attendees described the event as exciting, innovative, collaborative, and like a family, making it clear that Georgia’s tourism industry is evolving and staying relevant in a changing world.
In this episode, you’ll hear from seven Georgia tourism leaders:
Collaboration and Learning
The Annual Conference organized by GACVB offers an excellent chance for professionals in the tourism industry to upgrade their knowledge of destination marketing and management. At this conference, industry suppliers, travel and hospitality affiliates, and tourism professionals come together to discuss successes and explore solutions related to the travel and tourism industry. It is a fun and informative event that offers ample opportunities for collaboration and learning with like-minded professionals across the state.
Joe Marinelli – President, Visit Savannah
Joe shares one of the many successful partnerships that his organization has fostered in Savannah. He explains how they work closely with the leadership of the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport and formed an Air Service Task Force made up of representatives from the airport, Visit Savannah, and Hilton Head to attract new air service to the region. By working together, they have brought in new airlines and expanded the number of destinations the airport serves.
Kat Hoyt – Visitor Center President, Discover Darien
Kat shares why it’s about more than just visiting attractions, but getting outside and enjoying Georgia’s beautiful natural spaces. Whether it’s hiking through the mountains or paddling down a river, visitors are increasingly interested in connecting with nature and exploring the outdoors.
Kat also describes the potential she sees in the use of technology to enhance the visitor experience. For example, the riverkeepers are developing apps that offer information about canoe and kayak trails in the state. This kind of technology can help visitors plan their trips more effectively and make the most of the available destinations.
Sam McDuffie – Director of Tourism for Discover Dahlonega
Sam shares his successful collaboration and partnership experience in using Over-the-Top (OTT) Television for their destination’s tourism promotions. He emphasizes the importance of adapting to new technologies to cater to the ever-changing preferences of their target audience. With more people now using streaming devices for their TV viewing, his DMO has been trying to reach its target market by promoting its commercials and brand in streaming services through OTT TV.
Sandy White – President & CEO Alliance for Dade, Chamber of Commerce & Welcome Center
Sandy shares her excitement for tourism in Georgia in 2023 and notes that the trend of outdoor activities continues to gain momentum, with state parks seeing large numbers of visitors. She believes people are rediscovering the joys of road trips and staying close to home due to lingering concerns about air travel. As a result, small communities and outdoor destinations in Georgia are poised to benefit greatly. She also observes that the market is shifting towards more family-oriented weekend trips that involve outdoor activities.
Stephanie Stuckey – CEO of Stuckey’s Corporation
Stephanie believes their brand is all about the freedom and independence of exploring America, which is at the core of tourism. Stuckey is excited to see a revival of the road trip in the country, as people are enjoying the joy of getting in their cars and exploring. In terms of changes in the market, Stuckey has noticed an increasing interest in small-town America. The sense of belonging and connection to a place is becoming more important to travelers, which makes Stephanie optimistic about the future of tourism in America.
Steven Schumacher – President, Cartersville Bartow CVB
According to Steven Schumacher, one trend that’s new to the market and booming right now is the popularity of platforms like Airbnb for renting homes and cabins. In the past, hotels were always the main focus for CVBs to earn occupancy taxes. However, in recent years, with Airbnb’s contributions to CVB funding, it has expanded their reach to those who may not want a traditional hotel stay. By partnering with both hotels and home-sharing platforms, CVBs can attract a broader range of travelers. Steven believes this trend enhances their ability to appeal to people who are interested in experiencing destinations in a more home-like setting rather than a traditional hotel.
Tyler Bryant – President & CEO, Visit Hawkinsville
According to Tyler, the word that best describes the GACVB annual conference is “collaboration.” This conference is all about sharing and learning new ideas from each other and working together towards success. The attendees collaborate with one another to grow and prosper in the industry. He shares why the conference offers a great opportunity for professionals to network, exchange knowledge, and find ways to work together toward a common goal.
Forward Momentum for Georgia Destinations
Our attendance at the Georgia CVBS conference has revealed some exciting insights into the state’s tourism industry. Georgia is experiencing positive momentum after a successful 2022 with a promising outlook for 2023. Visitors are drawn to the state’s natural beauty, with outdoor experiences remaining a top priority for many. Furthermore, the revival of road trips and interest in small-town America is playing into Georgia’s strengths, making it a compelling destination for visitors. The state’s tourism industry is continuously evolving to remain relevant in a changing world, and we’re excited to see what the future holds for Georgia.