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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Feb 20, 2019

Richard Arnold is the Director of Fun at Atlantic Travel and Tours. He is a graduate of Acadia University and has been with Atlantic since 1987.  He is also a member of the board of Travel Alliance Partners, where he serves as treasurer.

After working as an employee for many years, Richard took the plunge and purchased Atlantic Travel and Tours. He is a busy man- but he’ll be the first to tell you his first love is hosting the trips and being a tour director. Though his title is now Director of Fun, he still gets out in the field and leads trips from time to time. He says, “I want to be judged on the job, not on the fact that I am president of the company. At the end of the day, if I’m not doing my job, I need to hear it like any other tour manager.”

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Richard Arnold about his longtime experience in running tours in an around Nova Scotia and outbound tourism to the far reaches of the world. How has group travel changed? How can you stay competitive? How can you continue to make a profit and make promises like a guaranteed departure trip? We discuss answers to these questions and many more.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How to balance the people side of the business with the numbers side
  • How to make a guaranteed departure policy work, even with a low headcount
  • Partnering with “competitors” to run a larger, more profitable tour
  • The difference between what is most memorable and what makes people open their wallets in the first place
  • How to build greater tourism awareness in your destination community

Evolution of Group Touring

In the early 2000s, many thought the era of group touring was over. People want to follow their own path, conventional wisdom said. Richard thought something else was happening and developed what he calls “the illusion of choice.”

Part of this is about giving people a sense of having freedom of choice. When you offer options, Richard has found that most people default to joining the larger group anyhow. But you’ve empowered them with a choice, which is what travel consumers want these days.

Paying Attention to the “Wow”

Richard has uncovered a gem of wisdom in his 33 years in the industry- often the thing that caused a touring client to open their wallets in the first place is different from what they find most memorable about a tour. Be sure to pay attention to those “wow” factors that may not be the reason people initially book a trip, but what they get out of it in the end.

What “wows” one person might not “wow” another. The greater the customization you can offer (even in group tour offerings), the bigger the “wow”. Richard shows us how you can find ways to make any size tour for any length of time work, through strategic partnerships or just creative thinking and attention to your bottom line.


Feb 13, 2019

Dr. Kirsten Ellenbogen brings more than 25 years of experience to her role as the third president of Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Kirsten’s energetic leadership during the last two decades has advanced informal STEM education. Her leadership activities at Great Lakes Science Center have included the launch of a new strategic initiative, Cleveland Creates, developed in collaboration with regional workforce development leaders to change the community’s manufacturing narrative through STEM education for middle school youth and families. Kirsten has worked at five museums during the past two decades and consulted for more than 30.

She is a founding leader of the Northeast Ohio STEM Ecosystem Collaborative and has been appointed to serve on the mayor’s steering committee on sustainability as well as the planning and Urban Design Committee of the Group Plan Commission. She holds a Ph.D. in science education from Vanderbilt University and a BA from the University of Chicago.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Dr. Kirsten Ellenbogen about science, city-wide collaboration, and national partnerships in museum tourism. Kirsten also breaks down the vast difference it makes when other institutions speak with each other and work together, instead of being adversarial.



What You Will Learn:

  • How to work with competitors to establish points of differentiation
  • The power of saying yes
  • How to manage a challenge to attendance in what should be your busiest season
  • Working with other community players to achieve and exceed expectations around a huge community event
  • How to maintain your roots as a beloved institution while also connecting with first-time visitors
  • Working with other nearby cultural institutions to create a wider “campus”
  • Cathedral thinking – Looking at tourism development from a generational perspective
  • How strategic plans bring focus to both what you are working on and what you are not working on

From a “No” Organization to a “Yes” Organization

Organizations get reputations. When you have a reputation for saying no, opportunities start to dry up, and you get stuck in a rut of doing the same things year after year. Saying yes can also have its challenges, like when your city is hosting a national political convention.

Kirsten talks about how to bring stakeholders together to think through the best ways to face the challenges and opportunities when you invite the nation into your town.

Cathedral Thinking

We also revisit a concept from another episode – Cathedral Thinking – as we explore what it means to be a cultural institution with a long view, and a view to contribute and participate fully in the community where you are situated.

Planning isn’t just about the next year or two, but about laying a foundation for generations to build on. That may sound grandiose, but when you are a cultural institution in a community rich with art, sports, music, and science attractions, taking the long view together is just good stewardship.

What foundations are you laying down for future generations?


Feb 6, 2019

Tiffany Gallagher is eastern USA branch manager for Civitas, where she helps clients form and manage Tourism Improvement Districts. Throughout her career, she has shown a strong commitment to the tourism and business communities. Most recently she served as the President of the Greater Syracuse Hospitality and Tourism Association and currently serves on the New York State Hospitality and Tourism Board of Directors. Relevant experience also includes; serving on the Board of Directors of Destination Marketing Organizations, Strategic Planning Councils, and Business Improvement Districts. 

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Tiffany about how Tourism Improvement Districts (TIDs) can create a public/private partnership that brings huge benefits to a travel region. These can be formed around hotel accommodations, wineries, breweries or ski resorts. TIDs create a stable funding stream and puts decision-making in the hands of industry leaders in the region.

What You Will Learn:

  • The role that Tourism Improvement Districts (TIDs) play in building a destination’s competitive advantage
  • How TIDs are getting more traction in the eastern United States
  • How to set up a TID as a legal entity
  • Why TIDs are a benefit to both the public and private sector in the district
  • The crucial role of relationships in DMOs, local government, and industry in a successful TID partnership
  • How to gather the general data needed and the buy-in to form a TID in your area
  • How a TID establishes a stable funding stream to market your region as a unique travel destination
  • Why there are no size requirements for establishing a TID – from one hotel to major cities
  • How TIDs can form around any travel-related industry (wine, brewery, skiing, etc.) that agrees to form one

When and Why to Form a TID

TIDs are an exciting concept that has been a big factor on the west coast of the US and are slowly growing in popularity across the eastern US.

What makes a TID such an attractive idea? The power, Tiffany tells us, is that this funding mechanism is championed by the industry. It is also managed and spent by the industry. TIDs are a stable form of marketing funding that hotels or other travel categories in a region can use until it doesn’t make sense anymore. If the payers are not benefitting, they can disband the TID.

How to Form a TID

A Tourism Improvement District is a legal entity. Tiffany has formed organizations as small as one hotel and as large as all the hotels in a mid-sized city. Relationships are key, as this is essentially a public/private partnership between local governments and the industry players in a given region.


Jan 30, 2019

Fred Bonn of New York State Park, Finger Lakes Region, and his management team, oversee 29 facilities across 10 counties. In 2018, Finger Lakes Parks has welcomed over 3. 8 million patrons who enjoyed hiking, swimming, boating, golf, and camping. Prior to joining New York State Parks, Fred served as the director of the Ithaca-Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Currently, he serves on the board of the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance, and the State Theater of Ithaca. He also represents New York State Parks on the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Fred about regional collaboration from the perspective of a state-run entity. He has some fantastic success stories to share about working to enhance the visitor experience at the parks he and his team manage and paying attention to all the resources that abound beyond the park borders. He also ends with arguably our most delicious co-opetition story yet, so listen in for a truly special episode.

What You Will Learn:

  • Equipping all customer-facing staff with training to answer basic questions about your destination and region
  • Finding funding and working with key stakeholders to enhance the visitor experience at your venue
  • Tying your destination into the broader visitor experience of your region
  • How to manage huge maintenance projects at key attractions while protecting public safety
  • Empowering people to come up with solutions
  • Taking blinders off and working for a greater good
  • Best practices for successful partnerships
  • The power of face to face conversation in travel planning
  • Taking travel information to where people are actually going

Taking the Blinders Off

Even if you’re just a little cabin in the woods, you are part of a wider region where people are spending time vacationing. The more you can look beyond your individual business, the more opportunities you will find. For Fred Bonn and the Finger Lakes area state parks, that meant not just thinking about hikes and camping, but about the regional wines, craft beverages, history – everything that draws people to visit the Finger Lakes region. Travelers don’t pay attention to town or county lines when they are planning their itinerary, so the more local businesses, public entities, visitors bureaus, and DMOs can work together to market a region – the more pie there is to share. That is the lesson Fred continually learns and preachs to others in his work.

Lessons From the Ice Cream Sundae Wars

Controversy is sticky. People pay attention when there is a controversy. So when Ithaca, NY found out that Two Rivers, Wisconsin was trying to lay claim as the birthplace of the ice cream sundae, war may not have been inevitable – but it made for some good headlines. It was the perfect opportunity for some good old-fashioned co-opetition.

Both towns agreed to boast that they were the first, with the thought that maybe they would get some national media attention. Not only did it work, but when a media outlet would interview one town, they would call the other to give them a few clues about how to keep stoking the flames. “Reality” TV is not the only place where fake controversy can pay off- publicity from friendly rivalries can be a great way to garner attention and a win-win for both participants.


Jan 23, 2019

Sam Filler serves as the executive director of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, the main trade association responsible for statewide investments in research and promotion on behalf of the New York wine and grape industry. He previously served as director of industry development at Empire State Development. In that role, Sam worked closely with the alcoholic beverage industry and policymakers to implement governor Andrew Cuomo’s Craft Beverage Initiative. Sam is a graduate of Vassar and New York University. He serves on the boards of Cornell Agritech Advisory Council, National Grape Research Alliance, Wine Market Council, and New York Kitchen.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Sam about the intersection of the craft beverage industry and travel and tourism. The regional nuances, especially of wines and other craft beverages, create a tremendous opportunity for destinations and the beverage makers who call that region home.


Credit: Wine and Grape Foundation


  • How to work together across a region to promote niche markets like craft beverages as part of the tourism fabric of the region
  • Where to look for marketing dollars and join in creating a bigger impact through regional partnerships
  • How you can lose economic development marketing dollars if you have no one in charge of deciding when and where to spend those dollars
  • Ways to better know your target market, and target the right messages to that market
  • How to bring the right tactics and strategies to your marketing plans, even on a limited budget


Craft beverages are becoming a huge industry. Every town and hamlet, it seems, has at least one winery, brewery, and distillery, dispensing locally hand-crafted wine, beer, and spirits.

And of course, all of those adult beverages are a big part of the travel and tourism industry. Wine and beer trails are becoming more popular and drawing in a larger audience. These trails and other craft beverage related events present a great opportunity for beverage makers, regional hotels, restaurants and other destinations to work together to create a unique and memorable visitor experience.


One of the challenges of collaborating with multiple players in a given region is figuring out who is in charge of what.

With a project like a wine trail, the point person is likely running a business full-time alongside this volunteer commitment. Sam saw the need to develop a “set of tactics and strategies that we can offer to these wine trails that they can kind of pull from and know that there are tried and true techniques to attract the right people.”

So through the Wine and Grape Foundation set about to provide exactly this kind of strategic direction and some real tools that can filter down to the smallest, smallest winery.  


Jan 16, 2019

Tami Brown currently serves as the General Manager for the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, the only independent aquarium in Ohio. Tami promotes the tenets of “servant leadership”, and her fascinating career path has wound between the arts and culture industry and the travel and tourism industry, giving her unique insights into both.

Tami has spent her career working with attractions in northeast Ohio including the Western Reserve Historical Society, the Center for Contemporary Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Cleveland International Film Festival. She served as Vice President of Marketing for Positively Cleveland, a non-profit dedicated to using tourism to drive economic vitality throughout the region. She also serves on many boards of directors, including the Ohio Travel Association, the Tourism Ohio Advisory Board, the Center for Community Solutions, and Flats Forward (representing the Flats neighborhood of Cleveland).

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Tami about the overlap between the arts and culture industry and the travel and tourism industry, and why that often-overlooked relationship has the potential to be a powerful driver for both industries. Listen to our conversation, and learn how effective partnerships can benefit everyone involved.

What You Will Learn:

  • How Tami’s career diversion into marketing ironically led her to her dream job in the arts and culture industry.
  • Why authenticity is the key to standing out as a desirable destination
  • The power and potential of leveraging connections within different industries
  • How an unexpected partnership with a local craft brewery to helped grow a program to protect and endangered turtle species
  • The importance of communication when creating a partnership

Why Do Partnerships Matter?

One of the major challenges we the travel and tourism industry face is in finding new ways to promote ourselves. Tami provides a great example of the benefits that partnering with other organizations can provide. Her contacts within both the cultural and tourism industries have allowed her to use outside-the-box thinking to come up with innovative marketing possibilities.

There is an obvious and logical overlap between tourism and the arts and culture industry that is too often ignored. By reaching out and forming cross-industry connections, we can form strong relationships that have broad-reaching effects.

When Opportunity Knocks

Opportunities to promote our industry are everywhere, as long as we remain open-minded and ready to cooperate. We already know the dramatic economic impact that destination marketing can have, so the natural extension of that mindset lies in coordinating our efforts wherever possible. Through its partnerships with businesses and organizations in a variety of industries, the Greater Cleveland Aquarium is leading by example. That’s why it was my great pleasure to speak with Tami about her efforts.


Episode Transcript

Jan 9, 2019

Beth Erickson has served as the President and CEO of Visit Loudoun since 2014. Visit Loudoun is in Loudoun County, Virginia and in 2016 alone, they generated almost $1.69 billion in travel spending and supported more than 17,000 jobs in the travel industry and adjacent businesses.

Prior to her current position with Visit Loudoun, Beth served as the Vice President of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership, a non-profit organization that works to raise awareness and support for the 180-mile stretch of land lying between Gettysburg, PA and Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia plantation home, Monticello. In 2008, the partnership was recognized by Congress as a National Heritage Area. Beth chairs the government affairs committee for the Virginia Restaurant Lodging Tourism and Hospitality Association. She also serves with numerous organizations including the Loudoun County Comprehensive Plan Stakeholder Committee, Loudoun County Economic Development Commission, Loudoun County Economic Development Authority, and many more committees and boards of directors. She has received numerous awards and honors for her work.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Beth about the wildly successful work her organization has been doing to turn Loudoun County, Virginia into a popular and respected travel destination and well-connected cultural center. Listen to our conversation and discover how education, collaboration, and storytelling have served as powerful tools for building up the local travel and tourism industry and have had wide-reaching effects for the entire region.

What You Will Learn:

  • How Beth’s background in manufacturing, marketing, and advertising first exposed her to the world of destination marketing
  • How Loudoun County’s existing reputation as the wine country of the nation’s capital was a rich foundation to build upon
  • How Visit Loudoun works with the Virginia state tourism office to coordinate and bolster their efforts
  • Why Beth’s biggest challenge has been making tourism more visible, and how she has worked with elected officials to “tell Loudoun County’s story”
  • What projects she’s currently working on, including the upcoming opening of a world-class athletics center and training facility
  • Why collaboration and cooperation between “competing” parts of the tourism industry have been impactful on her own work

Why Does Destination Marketing Matter?

Aside from the tremendous economic impact the travel and tourism industry has on an area, destination marketing is a wonderful way to tell the story of a location. Through coordinated education efforts and cooperation with local and state organizations and elected officials, the ripple effect from marketing efforts can boost an entire region.

In Loudoun County’s case, the efforts Beth and her organization are making have been major contributing factors in opening up new avenues for growth. It has helped expand local transit and athletic opportunities, and certainly been an influence on Amazon’s decision to locate their HQ2 a mere 50 miles from Loudoun.

Cooperation Equals Opportunity

As Beth illustrates beautifully in our conversation, cooperation with others has been a powerful tool to help tell Loudoun County’s story. By working with the state tourism office, elected officials and other organizations, Beth’s coordinated efforts have paid dividends for the local travel and tourism industry helping to expand the local economy with new and exciting opportunities for both visitors and residents.

Our industry is a remarkable engine for regional growth and cultural development. There are countless opportunities for thinking outside the box while growing your reputation as a worthwhile travel destination. That philosophy of innovation and teamwork is precisely why it was such a pleasure to chat with Beth and hear her insights.


Episode Transcript

Dec 19, 2018

Putting a marketing plan together may seem like a daunting task, competing with your daily must-do list and everything else vying for your attention. But without a plan, you are just wandering in the desert and hoping for outcomes you haven’t clearly defined. Planning is a necessity in order to grow and sustain your business.

This episode of Destination on the Left is a solocast all about developing a solid marketing plan: setting goals and the tactics it will take to achieve those goals. We’ll talk about situational analysis, SMART goals, and drilling down on exactly who your target market is. We’ll talk about the messaging you need for different stages in the customer journey. We’re going to give you everything you need to get a great plan for 2019 together and get it done!

What You Will Learn:

  • How to set SMART goals for the coming year
  • How to do a situational analysis
  • Steps to develop one or more buyer personas
  • Developing and following through on a tactical marketing plan
  • Keeping your plan flexible, but tethered to doable goals and outcomes

Insights to Support Your Plan

Plans are fluid documents.- you don’t have to have all the answers today. They provide a roadmap to where you want to go, but it’s okay to tweak them and change them. Having a plan to start with will make it easier to make adjustments along the way.

You will start your plan by answering this question: What are the top three to five goals that you want to accomplish in 2019?

Back in Episode 96, we touched on some really important ideas that affect how you plan your marketing. I spoke with guest Susan Baier from Audience Audit. She talked about getting beyond the who and the where to really understanding the why. Why are clients looking for a travel option, and why is your destination the best option for them? Understanding the why provides you with the insight needed to tailor communications to speak to them. This is the kind of information you need to gather for an effective marketing plan.

Getting Tactical

None of this matters if plans remain on a page somewhere on your laptop or in a binder lost in a pile in your office. So in this episode, we also dig into the tactical elements that will bring your marketing plan to life.

Remember, this is a breathing and living document. It’s not written in stone and it can easily be changed and adapted as you move through the year. Just having the plan is a huge step in helping you to achieve your goals in 2019.


Dec 12, 2018

Nancy Marshall has been doing PR since the early 1980s. She founded her agency, Marshall Communications, in 1991 serving tourism and especially outdoor recreation clients. Since then, her agency has grown significantly and now her and her team handle the state of Maine Office of Tourism and state of Maine Department of Agriculture, as well as the Orvis Company. Nancy’s passion is around personal branding and she works with individuals to leverage their personal brand. Nancy recently launched her own podcast, the PR Maven – so check that out right after you listen to this one!

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Nancy about all things PR. We discuss how Nancy gets into the trenches with her clients to find out what they are all about. We also talk about digging in on data and analytics-how to look at the right numbers to understand where your visitors are coming from and why. Hers is a breadth of knowledge that doesn’t come along every day, so this is a great conversation.


  • How personal brand can impact the present as well as your legacy
  • Why building relationships online and offline is so important
  • Becoming a trusted resource in good times and during crises
  • The importance of data and analytics for the best PR bang for your buck
  • How co-opetition can give you boots on the ground where your clients need them
  • How to learn from your raving fans to help define the brand story


Being connected in real life with your media contacts is so important. Nancy says for her, “That has been where the magic happens – when I’ve been able to spend time with my media contacts in some shared activity. It builds trust and a genuine relationship.”

Digital relationships are good, but there is something about meeting and connecting with people in real life that helps deepen those bonds, so you are friends – and also that your destination will be top of mind, because of that outdoor adventure you shared, or the great meal at a memorable restaurant. With a relationship built on trust, when a crisis occurs, people are more likely to trust what you are saying.


Measurement is crucial. What do you measure and why does it matter? Nancy shared, “When we’re starting a new engagement with a client, we actually have a discovery meeting where we discuss what the goals are and what the metrics should be. We decide collaboratively what to measure.”

With tools like Google Analytics and others at our fingertips, there’s no excuse for not knowing the data.


Dec 5, 2018

Caroline Boland and Gary Curran together run the Dingle Peninsula Tourism Alliance, located on the southern coast of Ireland. Gary serves as chairperson of the alliance, and Caroline is a marketing consultant for DPTA.

Gary grew up on the peninsula and now runs Greenmount House, a 4-star rated bed and breakfast in Dingle. Caroline visited some years ago and knew this beautiful place was where she wanted to live. Together, Gary and Caroline have been traveling in Massachusetts and New York on behalf of the DPTA. Coincidentally, both Gary and Caroline graduated from the Shannon College of Hotel Management in Galway, Ireland.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I have a conversation that will make you want to pack your bags immediately and head for the southern coast of Ireland. I talk with Caroline and Gary about the challenges of marketing on a limited budget and the exciting opportunities for collaboration that come out of that kind of necessity. 

What You Will Learn:

  • Why the Dingle peninsula is renowned as one of the most beautiful places on earth
  • Strategies for extending your season
  • How to market your region on a small budget
  • The difference between marketing yourself as a destination or as an attraction
  • Benefits of getting your message out directly to the consumer
  • How to develop meaningful sister city relationships

Beautiful Landscape is Just the Beginning

Whatever brings people to your destination is often just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. How do you help visitors explore all your destination has to offer? In Ireland’s Dingle peninsula, it starts with the incredible natural beauty. From there, the people, the food, the hectic festival schedule (they have a LOT of festivals) can all be a big draw. We talk about how there is a different target market for different seasons, and how to connect with people who will enjoy the winter or shoulder season, and those who want to be there in the summer.

Sister Cities and Genuine Relationships

As Caroline points out, “You don’t have to have money to make a new friend. You just have to be genuine and, and just welcoming and just want to spend time, share a bit, and build a relationship.” That’s how they approached their relationship with sister city, West Springfield in Massachusetts. How can you build a mutually beneficial relationship, so it’s not just a plaque on the side of the road, and now you’re a sister city? There is some great conversation around making that happen.


Nov 28, 2018

Cory Lee is a travel blogger and advocate accessibility to accommodate disabilities of all kinds. At a young age, Cory was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, but that certainly did not diminish his desire to travel. He has visited destinations on six of seven continents (Antarctica is still on the to-visit list!)

Since starting his blog, in 2013, he has gained more than 50,000 followers across social media and his blog won the prestigious 2017 Lowell Thomas Award for Best Travel Blog. He has written for National Geographic, Lonely Planet, and is a frequent contributor to New Mobility magazine. Corey hopes to inspire others to break out of their comfort zones and start rolling around the world.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Cory about the challenges and opportunities with accessibility in the travel and tourism industry. Did you know that people with some form of disability spend $13 Billion a year on travel? If you’re not thinking about accessibility, you are leaving money on the table.

What You Will Learn:

  • Finding your audience as a travel writer to attract destinations to work with you
  • Why destinations need to clearly advertise their accessibility to people with disabilities
  • How to advocate for accessibility accommodations in real time
  • Considering accessibility in your group tour programs
  • The details to attend to in planning an accessible trip
  • Creative ideas to make your destination even more accessible

Full show notes available here:

Nov 14, 2018

Jay has been in the travel industry since 1974, beginning his career operating camping programs for students throughout North America. Jay moved to Massachusetts in 1987 with his family and shortly after started up Sports Travel and Tours. The business first began with group trips primarily for baseball and expanded quickly to include most other major sports. The business has a specific niche, tapping into the passion of the sports fan experiencing games and events live.

Jay also serves on the executive committee of NTA, where he has served in a number of capacities, including board chair.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Jay Smith about the importance of seemingly random conversations and just being willing to talk to people. Opportunities abound when you are open to a conversation. You never know where those casual chats might lead. Jay has built a thriving travel business on this simple principle.

What You Will Learn:

  • The beauty of TTP and TTMP (Talk To People, then Talk To More People)
  • How to exceed people’s expectations so they return to your service
  • Diversifying to weather changes in the market
  • Learning how to get to “yes”
  • Using co-opetition to play to your strengths and let others play to theirs

Full show notes available here:

Nov 7, 2018

David Huether currently serves as the Senior Vice President of Research at the U.S. Travel Association. In this role, David manages the association’s economic, tourism marketing and advocacy research programs. The U.S. Travel Association is a national non-profit travel advocacy organization working within all aspects of the travel and tourism industry, generating $2.4 trillion in economic output and supporting more than 15 million jobs in the United States.

Before he joined U.S Travel in January of 2011, David was Chief Economist at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), where he served as the organization’s economic forecaster and principal spokesman on economic matters important to America’s industrial base. Prior to joining NAM in 1997, David worked with the Bureau of Economic Analysis at the U.S Department of Commerce as an economist. David received his bachelor’s degree from Guilford College in North Carolina in 1990, and he obtained his graduate degree in economics from George Washington University in 1997.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with David about the important information-gathering and analytic work his organization, the U.S. Travel Association, is doing. U.S. Travel and other advocacy groups collect, collate, and disseminate statistics about the travel industry, helping to secure funding and support from local, state and federal policy-makers. Listen to our conversation and discover what information is being gathered, and how that information is being used to reshape our industry.

What You Will Learn:

  • Learn what is officially considered “travel”, and what sort of immense impact on domestic business and leisure travel have to the U.S. economy.
  • David explains the challenges the United States faces in capturing its share of international travel from other nations, and what steps are being taken to address the problem.
  • David discusses why many outside factors impact the state of the travel industry. Indicators such as the strength of the US Dollar, the price of gasoline, and national employment growth all have their part to play.
  • The U.S. Travel “Made In America” report is a powerful tool available to destination marketing professionals to showcase how the travel industry is an important economic contributor to local communities across the country.
  • Learn what fascinating and illuminating information U.S. Travel discovered when analyzing the career paths of travel professionals compared to professionals from other industries, across a thirty year period.

Why do the Numbers Matter?

One of the great challenges we face is successfully educating policy-makers on how important the travel industry is on both the local and national level. There is an unfortunate perception that travel is just a “fun but low-wage” industry to work in, which we know isn’t the truth of the situation.

Having access to the important metrics that organizations like the U.S. Travel Association track and gather can help dispel these misunderstandings. The travel and tourism industries have an incredible, far-reaching impact on communities across the country. Revenue is generated, jobs are created, and entire regions are boosted by our industry, so it’s critical that we get that message out.

How the Information is Used

Once groups like U.S. Travel have analyzed and processed the information they gather from their studies, those reports can be used to show a cause-and-effect relationship between government travel policies and funding, and how those initiatives impact communities.

By shining a light on the clear relationship between policy and outcome, advocacy groups can illustrate how important our industry is to the health of our communities and can create a stronger point from which to argue on behalf of important policies and changes. This work is crucial to the travel industry, which is why it was my pleasure to speak with David on the subject.


Oct 31, 2018

Nicole Mahoney is the host for the Destination on the Left podcast. She is also the CEO of Break The Ice Media, the travel and tourism marketing agency she founded in 2009. Break The Ice Media specializes in working for clients in the travel and tourism industries, through the strategic use of public relations, social media, digital advertising, tourism marketing campaigns, influencer marketing, and video marketing.

Nicole got her start in the business world while attending college when she worked for her father at her family’s car stereo shop. After college, Nicole began working in sports marketing at Frontier Field in Rochester, New York, as the Executive Director of the Lilac Festival. She went on to run promotions for the Canandaigua, New York Business Improvement District and worked on projects for the tourism promotion agency Visit Rochester. With over 20 years of experience in the tourism marketing field, Nicole has truly dedicated herself to the travel and tourism industries throughout her career journey.

On this special 100th episode of Destination on the Left, Nicole discusses why she created the show, building upon the spark of an idea she had all the way back in 2013 while she served as the co-host of an internet radio show. She reflects on Destination on the Left’s past episodes, diverse topics, even more diverse guests, and how the show has evolved over time.  She also looks to the future, with exciting plans for the next 100 episodes!

What You Will Learn:

  • Learn the history of the Destination on the Left podcast, and why Nicole believes it is important to give leaders in the travel and tourism industry a platform to showcase their ideas and successes.
  • Listen as Nicole reflects upon the journey she and Destination on the Left have taken from the show’s beginning, through one hundred episodes of informative conversation with guests from all over the world.
  • Learn what it took to bring Destination on the Left to life, from finding the right podcasting partner firm to designing a logo and website, to eventually being hosted on 33 different platforms such as iTunes and Google Play and even Amazon Alexa.
  • Nicole shares key milestones from the last two years and one hundred episodes, highlighting the wonderfully diverse and informative topics she has discussed with her guests.
  • Nicole expresses her deep appreciation for the support of her listeners and shares the wonderful feedback and reviews she has received.

What is Destination on the Left?

Nicole Mahoney wanted to create a platform to give professionals in the travel and tourism industry a chance to talk about their most creative ideas and share their stories of success. Tourism isn’t recognized as an “official” industry by the federal government, and too often the business leaders and professionals in the field aren’t treated as the industry leaders they are.

That’s why Nicole created Destination on the Left. Through showcasing successful business executives and bright ideas from the world of tourism, Nicole hopes to shine a light on how critical and impactful the travel and tourism industries can be, empowering and strengthening communities all over the world.

100 Episodes Later…

Join Nicole as she reflects on one hundred episodes full of amazing guests from all over the country and the world. That’s not to mention the incredibly diverse topics they’ve discussed; topics including regional marketing, influencer marketing, travel PR, digital marketing, grassroots efforts, food tourism, and many others.

And the future of Destination on the Left is equally as bright. This year saw the first podcast roadshow, as well as a five-part series on museums. And there’s so much more planned for the future. Listen and join in on the celebration!

Oct 24, 2018

The travel industry is changing all the time. But some things are timeless. The challenge is to meet the evolving needs of clients, but retain all of the standards of good customer experience that are indeed timeless.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, we talk with a true practitioner of this art. Justin Osbon talks with us about his experience with a truly legendary European tour operator, how to thrive as a 3rd generation company, and how to look to the future.

Justin Osbon started with Image Tours as an account executive where he was expected to deal directly with travel agents who were already working with Image Tours as well as prospects and create new relationships with additional travel agents. In 2007, he was promoted to senior account executive where he was in charge of the team of account executives, and in 2009 became sales director covering all aspects of sales for Image Tours, Inc.

During his career, he has volunteered and participated at various associations including the National Tour Association, American Bus Association, as well as others. He was also given the opportunity to mentor some of the collegiate scholarship winners for Tourism Cares. He was voted one of the top travel supplier sales reps in 2010 by readers of Travel Agent magazine. In January of 2014, he was voted top 10 next gen by readers of Group Today magazine. He has also served as NTA’s chairman in 2016 and remains involved with NTA through leadership team committees.

Full show notes available here:


Oct 17, 2018

In a region with a lot of tourism opportunity, sibling rivalry is just part of the dynamic of working together. Even more so with metropolitan areas in close proximity: like the two Kansas Cities, or Dallas/Fort Worth, or my guest’s hometown of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, Adam Johnson of Visit Saint Paul talks with us about the fun you can have with this sort of friendly rivalry. We talk about working together to bring people to the region. And humor – travel is fun, so having fun in your tourism messaging can really create positive vibes about your destination.

Adam Johnson is vice president of marketing with Visit St. Paul where he is responsible for marketing St. Paul as a meetings and tourism destination, along with developing the company’s social media strategy, media relations plan, and special events planning.

Some events Adam has worked closely on include the 2018 Super Bowl, 2008 Republican National Convention, 2011 and 2018 NCAA Frozen Four, 2011 Visa Championships, the Annual Red Bull Crashed Ice Village, an Annual LuckyPalooza on West 7th Street Party, and the 2016 Rider Cup.

He was the brainchild behind “Hello Minneapolis, Love St. Paul”; the Adele Parody, “Free Beer for Furloughed Government Workers” which highlighted St. Paul’s hospitality community; and he led the team that helped St. Paul be named Most Romantic Getaway in North America and Best Local Food Scene by Ten Best in USA Today.

Adam has a communication’s degree from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is also a 2006 graduate of the Leadership St. Paul Program through the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce. He has served on the board of the Capital River Council, Minnesota Mississippi River Parkway Commission, Skyway YMCA, St. Paul Festival and Heritage Association, Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association, National and Ordway Circle of the Stars.

Adam lives in St. Paul with his wife Emily and infant sons Leo, Otis, and Oscar, and when not working he enjoys watching sports, golfing, and spending time with family.

Full show notes available here:

Oct 10, 2018

Getting influencers and travel writers to pay attention is a great way to showcase what you are offering to the travel and tourism public. Bringing them onsite and having them write about your organization can be a big public relations win. But how do you make the connection? Email and phone calls are hit-or-miss at best, if you haven’t got an established relationship already.

That’s why a tactic called the “desk-side visit” can really break the ice and get you and that writer enthused about working together. On this episode of Destination on the Left, we do a deep dive into the desk-side visit. How do you make it happen? How does it really make a difference in your organization?

Today we are talking to one of the Break The Ice Media team members in a team cast episode, Sarah Blackwell.

Sarah is a consultant and brings knowledge of the public relations industry to her work at Break The Ice, including the ability to write, pitch and tell a great story. Her experience working with journalists and a passion for PR and social media has allowed her to help her clients get great exposure and effectively connect with their target audience. Sarah is a graduate of The College at Brockport Suny with a bachelor of Science and Journalism and Broadcasting, with a concentration in PR and a dual degree in English.

She joined Break the Ice Media in 2013 and brought with her hospitality and marketing experience from internships at Disney, Southwest Airlines, American Cancer Society, and the Susan B Anthony House. Since joining Break The Ice, Sarah leads many of the travel PR clients that the agency serves, including the Haunted History Trail of New York State, Genesee County Office of Tourism, and the Canadian PR program co-op made up of 15 partners. She is very involved with the Public Relations Society of America, Rochester Chapter serving as a board member and co-chairing the PRISM Awards Committee.

Full show notes available here:

Oct 3, 2018

Why are people interested in traveling to your destination? Finding out the “why” makes marketing more precise and leads to more visitors and ergo, more revenue.

Finding out the “why” gets beyond lumping people into demographic categories. It helps us understand what motivates them and what could potentially motivate them to choose us.

Our guest this episode of Destination on the Left is Susan Baier. Susan is an Audience and Marketing Strategist. She helps organizations figure out what’s going on in the minds of their prospects and customers, and how to use that information to craft targeted efficient and effective marketing programs. Her company, Audience Audit, develops custom attitudinal segmentation research for smart marketing agencies and their clients in a wide range of industries.

She has worked with over 50 agencies and their clients including Gap, Kona Grill, Infusionsoft, Jayco, Tufts University, AT&T, Pella and more. Susan has been a Marketing Strategist for 30 years working in Fortune 500 firms such as Dial and ConocoPhillips as well as in marketing agencies. She has an MBA in marketing and entrepreneurship and has mentored hundreds of small business owners in marketing and audience strategy. Susan regularly speaks at major marketing conferences including Inbound and Content Marketing World. She’s been featured on Jay Baer’s Social Pros Podcast, the Build a Better Agency podcast, and the Duct Tape Marketing podcast.

Full show notes available here:

Sep 26, 2018

Today’s podcast is a little different from our regular episodes. We are talking to one of the Break the Ice Media team members on another team-cast episode, Rhonda Vaccaro. We are going to dive into a topic that is a favorite of Rhonda’s- creating successful FIT itineraries.

Rhonda is a Vice President and Senior Consultant at Break the Ice Media. She brings more than 20 years of sales and new business development to her role at Break the Ice. She’s a master at creating relationships and has a deep understanding of sales strategies, creating win-win opportunities for BTI’s tourism clients. Rhonda assists our DMO clients with travel trade marketing strategies, product development, sales outreach, trade show representation, getting products in catalogs and on the shelf, with tour operators, receptive operators, and other trade companies. She also provides tracking and reporting and of course, closing sales successfully.

Rhonda currently holds several volunteer positions within the industry. She serves on ABA’s 2018 Marketplace Education Committee, I Love New York’s China Ready Committee, the New York State Tourism Industry Association’s Empire State Tourism Conference Scholarship Committee, I Love New York’s Canadian Roadshow Committee and a co-chair of the Professional Women of the Finger Lakes’ Women of Distinction Awards Committee. Rhonda is 2005 past chairperson of the Visitor Industry Council and a former Digital Rochester board member, where she was the director of major events.

Sep 19, 2018

Destination tourism often has a larger story to tell beyond just one institution, even one as iconic as the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Even if you don’t pay close attention to baseball, you know it as “America’s National Pastime.” Part of the joy of this industry is finding the story to tell that brings people to a region and to your specific tourism destination. Cooperstown has a bit of everything: a perfect small-town vibe, birthplace of author James Fenimore Cooper, and fall foliage and outdoor fun to rival anywhere else. Like Cooperstown, every destination has a unique story to tell.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I speak with Craig Muder. We talk about his work with the Baseball Hall of Fame, and how destination travel can be a real anchor business for a small town.

Craig joined the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 2008 as the Director of Communications. His responsibilities include managing the Hall of Fame’s publication projects, editorial calendars, and content distribution, along with media relations. A native of Hubbard, Ohio, located about half-way between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, Craig graduated from Kent State University in 1991 and embarked on a 17-year career in newspapers as a sports writer and editor. A lifelong baseball fan, Craig covered Hall of Fame induction ceremonies and other museum events from 1998 through early 2008 at the Utica Observer-Dispatch before finding a home at the Hall of Fame. Craig and his wife and two daughters live in New Hartford, New York.

Full show notes available here:

Sep 12, 2018

As tastes and sensibilities change, your organization needs to change with them, or else deal with a shrinking market share. If your organization has history, another challenge is perceptions that change more slowly than your brand message. That’s what was happening at Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, NY. The zoo was growing as a leader in wildlife conservation from upstate New York all around the world.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I speak with Pamela Reed Sanchez. Pamela has served as president and CEO of the Seneca Park Zoo Society since 2014. She’s a passionate advocate for species survival and brings this focus to the zoo society’s guest experience, education, and conservation programs. Prior to the zoo, she worked across various cultural and arts organizations, including the George Eastman Museum, her well-received TEDx Talk, “What The Killing of Cecil the Lion and Harambe the Gorilla Should Have Taught Us,” is a great example of the provocative ways Pamela encourages people to make changes in their everyday lives on behalf of conservation and species survival.

Full show notes available here:

Sep 5, 2018

The field of travel and tourism is ever changing. Adaptation and collaboration are a part of the territory to stay relevant and to stay in business.

Group touring has been a segment of the industry where adaptation has been especially necessary. Finding new alliances, experimenting and learning from both successes and flops – it’s all part of the job. On this episode, Nicole speaks with guest Nick Calderazzo about all of these dynamics and more.

Nick has been working in the hospitality industry all his adult life, 18 years in hotels in New York City, and 18 years as a Receptive Tour Operator in New York City, and now eight years as the President of Twin Travel Concepts, a tour operator in the Hudson Valley of New York State.

Nick is currently President of Travel Alliance Partners and has been a TAP partner for six years. Travel Alliance Partners is a North American Corporation, who in 2001, emerged as a dominant leader in the travel industry, and is currently in their 17th year of business. Additionally, Nick serves on the New York State Tourism Industry Association Board, has served five years on the NTA board, and has a prestigious appointment to the Travel and Tourism Advisory board.

Full show notes available here:

Aug 29, 2018

In any competitive landscape, keeping a legacy cultural institution relevant is a challenge. Keeping it relevant while retaining the original vision is an even greater challenge. For many in the travel and tourism industry, we’re always looking to strike a balance between differentiation and collaboration. We really need both to thrive. In New England, where you can’t walk ten feet without bumping into a place with historical significance, Old Sturbridge Village is striking this balance.

In this episode, we hear from Jim Donahue. Jim is highly regarded in the nonprofit sector as a collaborative visionary. He is recognized as one of the top nonprofit executives in New England, with an impressive background in leadership, education, and fundraising.

Prior to taking the position as president and CEO for Old Sturbridge Village, Jim was the CEO of the Bradford Dunn Institute for Learning Differences in Providence, Rhode Island. In that time, he managed the merger between the Bradford Dunn Institute and CVS Highlander Charter School in 2004. During his seven-year tenure as the director of the charter school, he led the renovation of two campuses for the school and the establishment of several key capacity-building partnerships.

Since taking over as Old Sturbridge Village president in 2007, Jim has led the institution through a renaissance by increasing attendance, fundraising, and revenue from special programs. Highlights of his tenure include the reopening of the museum’s restaurant division, the renovation, and reopening of the lodging complex, the creation of the Ken Burns Lifetime Achievement Award, establishing an immersive theater program, including The Sleepy Hollow Experience, and the expansion of popular events like Christmas by Candlelight and Fourth of July.

In 2017, he launched Old Sturbridge Academy, the first public charter school located in a museum in Massachusetts. A revolutionary model of experiential learning, and a partnership between a school and museum, the academy is already changing the lives of its students, many of whom come from underperforming school districts. In 2010, he was named Nonprofit Leader of the Year by the Worcester Business Journal, and in 2013, received the Larry Meehan Award for the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism. He is a member of the American Antiquarian Society, a Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and has served on the boards of a number of Rhode Island nonprofits.

Full show notes available here:

Aug 22, 2018

What do you do when a destination is perceived as being geared toward a certain age group or other segments of the population? That has been one challenge for the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, New York. In a market like Rochester, with plenty to keep children and adults occupied, capturing attention even with the idea of play can be a challenge.

On this episode, we explore the study and curation of play, and how to market a museum dedicated to playing to travelers and tourists of all ages. We are joined by two guests, Shane Rhinewald and Karen Dodson.

Shane is Senior Director of Public Relations at The Strong Museum of Play, the ultimate play destination for all ages and the only museum in the world dedicated to the study of play. Shane works with the media and external partners to share the museum’s stories; from public programs and tourism programs to exhibits and new collections. He also leads the induction team for The Strong’s National Toy Hall of Fame, and World Video Game Hall of Fame, which receive billions of media impressions and international attention each year. Shane has a bachelor’s degree in History and a master’s degree in Journalism. He has been with the museum for 10 years in a variety of marketing and PR roles. Shane was also the 2017 Chair of the Visitor Industry Council and past Chair of Visit Rochester’s Social Media Committee.

We also have Karen Dodson, Tourism Sales Associate at The Strong Museum of Play. Hired in 2016, Karen’s role was established to help build the travel trade market segment and increase visitation, both domestically and internationally. Karen’s more than 30 years’ experience working in the travel trade industry has included both regional and local hotel director of sales and marketing, 10 years managing a 425,000 square foot 100 plus store retail outlet, to planning and escorting outbound adult and student tour groups from the Rochester and surrounding areas. All of this has enabled her to bring her wealth of knowledge and experience to her current position. Karen also has served as the 2015 Chair of Visit Rochester’s Visitor Industry Council, has been a past Chair of the Travel Trade Committee of which she continues to be a member, and has been a past President of a local area Chamber of Commerce and currently serves on the ABA Orientation Committee for the 2019 marketplace.

Full show notes available here:

Aug 15, 2018

As businesses, we live or die on data. Understanding the market, understanding who is coming to our destination, who is interested but doesn’t know enough to make a decision – these pieces of information are vital to our ability to thrive in travel and tourism. But gathering and interpreting this data is a challenge for everyone.

Our guest on this episode of Destination on the Left is an expert in gathering and analyzing data, specifically for our industry. Our guest is Erin Francis-Cummings. Erin is president and CEO of Destination Analysts, where she has spent the last 15 years studying travelers from across the globe and translating their evolving, complex, and fascinating behaviors and opinions into marketing insights for Destination Analysts’ 150-plus clients.

Erin has designed research strategy and facilitated consumer research for some of the world’s greatest destination brands, including Bermuda, California, the Fiji Islands, Napa Valley, Florida, Washington DC, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

In addition to conducting research: from brand auditing to user experience, to ROI analysis, she also oversees the production of Destination Analysts, The State of the American Traveler. This is the travel industry’s longest running and most relied on tracking study of American leisure travel sentiment and behaviors. Also produced by Destination Analysts is The State of the International Traveler, an annual study of the travel behaviors and perceptions of international travelers in 13 top feeder markets to the United States. Erin currently serves on the international board of the Travel and Tourism Research Association.

Before leading Destination Analysts, Erin held advertising and marketing management roles at Amtrak and the San Francisco Travel Association. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California Los Angeles and is a proud mother of two school-aged children.

Full show notes available here:

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