For the final episode in a special three part series of Destination on the Left episodes, I visited the Destinations International 2021 Annual Convention and spoke with several attendees who are experts in the travel and tourism industry. These guests shared remarkable insights in their mini-interviews, and our conversations were focused on learning to adapt to the challenges we’ve all faced through the global pandemic and even embracing the disruption by innovating and getting creative. The brilliance each of these leaders shared is certain to be invaluable as we continue to navigate the pandemic.
In this episode, you’ll hear from these extraordinary leaders:
The Destinations International Annual Convention is an incredible yearly event that brings together experts from both within and outside of the travel and tourism industry, to exchange ideas and collaborative solutions for the many challenges our industry faces today. This year’s convention was uniquely focused on the challenges and opportunities we have experienced over the past two years, and it was my honor to speak to some of the extraordinary guests to get their insights into where we started as the pandemic began, where we’ve been, and where we’re going in the future of our industry in a post-pandemic world.
Adam Johnson from Zartico
Adam explains why the pandemic has taught many of us to be more nimble and flexible and taught us to see beyond year-over-year KPIs. He shares why he believes staying nimble will be crucial going forward, and he explains why working collaboratively with residents and local organizations will be crucial going forward. Adam shares why now is the ideal time to rethink how we’ve traditionally done things and break out of our habits and rituals.
Annette Rummel & Michael Hensley from Great Lakes Bay CVB
Annette and Michael explain why “Semper Gumby” (forever flexible) has been the theme they’ve attempted to embrace throughout the pandemic. They share how being creative and tackling immediate challenges while remembering long-term goals has been key. They share how data has been central to their recovery strategy, and they discuss the importance of not viewing disruption as a “negative” but rather as an opportunity to realign, correct for vulnerabilities, and innovate.
Greg DeShields from Tourism Diversity Matters
Greg talks about how the biggest positive disruption he has experienced has been seeing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) moving to the forefront of the industry in the last 18 months. He shares why every level of the industry needs to consider their DEI position. He explains why this greater focus on DEI is beneficial for the entire industry and creates opportunities to broaden messages and reach more people. He shares how today’s customers have higher DEI expectations from the travel and tourism sector than ever before.
Jim Walter & Andi Jaspersen from Visit Cheyenne
Jim and Andi discuss how disruption lies at the core of the work they do. They explain how their duties have expanded to encompass the Downtown Development Authority as well. They talk about why standing still isn’t an option and always pushing and growing has been key to their success. They also share how partnerships in their community have been powerful, impactful and important.
Melaine Rottkamp from Dutchess Tourism
Melaine explains why your ability to embrace change is key to your success and survival, regardless of the industry you’re operating in. She highlights how organizations who have embraced new opportunities have survived and thrived through the pandemic crisis. She explains how outdoor experiences have become key attractions throughout the area during the pandemic, with outdoor trails and gardens being instrumental “hidden gems” and revenue generators even as the indoor spaces have remained closed.
Steve Powell from Destination Services
Steve shares his perspective that “disruption” is nothing more than the introduction of new generational cultures. He explains why technology is reshaping the industry and will be central to the “new norm”. He talks about how the pandemic has accelerated changes that were already coming, and how the things we’ve had to sacrifice through the pandemic have given us a new appreciation for life and work experiences.
Tiffany Gallagher from Civitas
Tiffany talks about how the disruption has created opportunities for a brighter future by shining a light on things we’ve ignored and neglected for too long. She shares how the loss of tourism income and other pandemic financial impacts have shown us how essential tourism is to the overall health of our economy. She believes leveraging this new level of attention and understanding will make the industry stronger in the long term.
Wes Rhea from Visit Stockton
Wes discusses why he believes examining data will be crucial moving forward, and he talks about how using geolocation data can answer a number of questions and give us new insights. He shares how collaboration with vendors has been key over the course of the pandemic. He also discusses the importance of rolling DEI efforts into our organizations. He celebrates Stockton being named the most diverse city in the nation, and he looks toward the future and even bigger DEI initiatives and efforts.
Embracing Change and Welcoming Disruption
Many of these leaders spoke of the importance of not becoming entrenched in our old ways of doing things and instead focusing on innovation, new solutions and flexibility. Greater diversity, equity and inclusion in our marketing efforts and outreach will be crucial moving forward. And, for all the chaos and turmoil the pandemic has caused, it has also given us a rare opportunity to reexamine how we do things and challenge our own assumptions.
I want to thank all of the extraordinary travel and tourism experts who shared their wisdom with me over this three-part special series. These visionaries and trailblazers are finding solutions to the unprecedented challenges our industry faces today, and they are paving the way for a bright future for travel, tourism and hospitality in a post-pandemic world.
I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing the unique insights and perspectives all 26 of these leaders generously shared with me at the Destinations International 2021 Annual Convention. Thank you so much for joining the conversation! Together, we can apply the lessons we’ve learned during the pandemic to strengthen our industry as a whole.
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