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Destination On The Left

Destination On The Left is a podcast focused on the travel and tourism industry that explores successful collaborations, creative marketing ideas and best practices. Interviews are a mix of Destination Marketers, Industry Leaders, Consultants and businesses in the industry. We explore consumer marketing programs and travel trade marketing programs. This podcast provides an opportunity for professionals in the travel & tourism industry to share what they have learned and successes that they have achieved.
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Now displaying: 2020
Dec 16, 2020

Twenty years ago, Pascale Bernasse fulfilled a lifelong dream and began a career in the travel industry. Today, that dream remains a reality for her as the co-owner and President of French Wine Explorers.

Bernasse started working in the travel industry in 2000 after leaving a corporate career that had left her uninspired. Taking a leap of faith, she started her career at two of the first internet-based cruise retailers, then moved on to gain experience with a small niche tour operator and a brick and mortar travel agency. In 2007 Bernasse and her husband, Pierre, acquired French Wine Explorers, a boutique tour operator specializing in luxury wine vacations in France and Italy.

For the past nine years, Bernasse has been featured as a Condé Nast “Top Travel Specialist” for her expertise. Bernasse earned this reputation by providing exceptional immersive tours with memorable experiences. Her success is due to her insider’s knowledge and relationships with the top estates and guides in France. Daughter of a French native, Bernasse spent summers in France and received part of her college education and professional experience there. All this time spent in France has allowed her to have a deep perspective that she shares with clients.

Says Bernasse, “I am incredibly proud of my experiences in the travel business these last 20 years. This has been a dream of mine since I was a young child spending my summers in France. Over the years, I have forged relationships with outstanding clients and service providers. These partnerships have allowed me to grow in ways that I never imagined. We use a high-touch approach with our clients; and this fuels our brand as Pierre and I surround ourselves with the best in the business. I hope the next 20 years will challenge, reward, and inspire me as much as the past 20 have been!”

Along with recognition from Condé Nast, French Wine Explorers has been recognized by Wine Enthusiast, Travel and Leisure, Rachel Ray Magazine, Travel Weekly, and Bon Appétit magazines.

Destination on the Left is joined by Pascale Bernasse, the president of French Wine Explorers. In our conversation, Pascale and I talk about the importance of finding your tribe and maintaining focus so you can navigate the challenges of this pandemic. She explains how her company found its North Star and managed to stay healthy through all of the hurdles in 2020. And she also discusses her commitment to serving the community and putting her customers first. Our podcast is full of invaluable insights about French Wine Explorers’ ability to persevere in these trying times, and I am sure it will energize you as it did me.

What You Will Learn:

  • How Pascale found her way into the travel and tourism industry 20 years ago
  • Pascale’s role as co-owner and president of French Wine Explorers
  • The importance of finding your tribe amidst a global crisis
  • How to maintain focus so you can navigate the challenges of the pandemic more effectively
  • What French Wine Explorers did to stay healthy through all of the hurdles of 2020
  • How Pascale’s commitment to service and putting her customers first paid off during the pandemic

French Wine Explorers

Destination on the Left is joined by Pascale Bernasse, the president of French Wine Explorers. In our conversation, Pascale and I talk about the importance of finding your tribe and maintaining focus so you can navigate the challenges of this pandemic. She explains how her company found its North Star and managed to stay healthy through all of the hurdles in 2020. And she also discusses her commitment to serving the community and putting her customers first. Our podcast is full of invaluable insights about French Wine Explorers’ ability to persevere in these trying times, and I am sure it will energize you as it did me.

Serving, Not Selling

French Wine Explorers offers wine tours in France, Italy, and Spain to help wine lovers become true connoisseurs. Her customers are not comfortable sitting on a beach for a week—they are looking to come back with more knowledge than they started with by participating in enriching experiences abroad. On the surface, French Wine Explorers is a tour company, but Pascale figured out how to take it so much further than that. By focusing on relationship development and the individual needs of each client, each experience has a personal touch that her competitors can’t offer. French Wine Explorers doesn’t sell, it serves. And the new circumstances of the pandemic have only made that more significant.

Responding to the Global Pandemic

It goes without saying that the events of 2020 have been challenging for everyone, but the travel and tourism industry has been hit especially hard. It has forced us to adapt and serve our clients in new ways. In the first half of the year, Pascale and her team focused solely on protecting the investments of clients who had booked tours in 2020. The second half of the year has been dedicated to finding ways to run the business more efficiently based on Pascale’s vision for the future. France experienced a number of terror attacks in 2016 which cut French Wine Explorers’ business in half. Moving forward, Pascale and her team focused on building financial insulation for anything else that might happen in the future. That insulation has been key in their ability to pivot and push forward in these difficult times.

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/

 
Dec 9, 2020

As a tourism professional for over 25 years, David Holder co-founded Clarity of Place with a hands-on understanding of what destination leaders need to be successful. David leads stakeholder engagement efforts and crafts tactical plans to ensure destinations are equipped with the data and industry insights to react to changing environments but still attain their strategic vision.

In leading a variety of destinations, David proved himself to be an industry innovator, taking new perspectives on what it means for destinations to be competitive and specializing in setting and meeting measurable marketing, sales, and product development results.

A versatile and effective communicator, David honed his destination management skills by collaborating with industry partners through service on the board of directors for Destinations International, the Destination Marketing Accreditation Program, and the US Travel Association Destinations Council, to name a few.

Destination on the Left is joined by David Holder, the co-founder of Clarity of Place. David’s organization helps destinations navigate threats and opportunities that impact their ability to attract visitors and attain their long-term strategic goals. He has over twenty-five years of experience in the travel and tourism industry, and he has mastered the art of tactical planning, data analysis, and collaboration to ensure destinations can thrive in changing environments. On our podcast, David explains how DMOs should communicate with their communities. He also shares why aligning your priorities with the priorities of the community will set you up for success.

What You Will Learn:

  • David’s journey into travel and tourism
  • How DMOs can better communicate with their communities
  • Why aligning your priorities with the priorities of the community will set you up for success
  • The difference between the ‘why’ of what you do vs. the ‘what’ or the ‘how’
  • How to leverage transformational metrics for tactical planning
  • What DMOs can do to form stronger connections with economic development
  • How the pandemic has impacted destination marketing

Clarity of Place

Destination on the Left is joined by David Holder, the co-founder of Clarity of Place. David’s organization helps destinations navigate threats and opportunities that impact their ability to attract visitors and attain their long-term strategic goals. He has over twenty-five years of experience in the travel and tourism industry, and he has mastered the art of tactical planning, data analysis, and collaboration to ensure destinations can thrive in changing environments. On our podcast, David explains how DMOs should communicate with their communities. He also shares why aligning your priorities with the priorities of the community will set you up for success.

Get Buy-in From Your Community

David offers a unique perspective when it comes to the different ways destinations can leverage data. He believes there is a dire need for destinations to communicate more effectively across their communities because there is a disconnect between the priorities of DMOs and the priorities of the communities. Clarity of place has made it their focus to find connections between DMOs and communities, so they can help everyone understand the big picture effect of their programs and why they do what they do. If you can get buy-in from the community, your destination will have much greater success.

Responding to the Global Pandemic

When David and his team at Clarity of Place first started looking for these connections, they explored many of the different programs destinations created in response to the global pandemic. They found that the hyper-local outreach and progressive content strategy we have seen are only going to continue in these destinations after the pandemic subsides. The pandemic has changed the needs of the community and the individual, and it has put everything DMOs do into a different context. By understanding the data that drives the new trends, marketing organizations can use them to guide their strategies moving forward.

Episode Transcript

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/

Dec 2, 2020

With transformation and culture change in her DNA, Judy McKinney-Cherry is a seasoned leader and successful entrepreneur recognized for her expertise in economic and community development. She is sought after and known for her ability to balance a strategic focus with boots on the ground pragmatism that she leverages to help emerging businesses forge growth trajectories and create sustainable and successful futures. Ms. Cherry is currently the Executive Director for SCOPED, the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development, and the CEO/CFO for the Schuyler County Industrial Development Agency.

Ms. McKinney Cherrys diverse background includes over 25 years of executive experience across the private sector, public sector, and university settings including appointments by the Governors of New York and Delaware. Her service on numerous local, regional, and national Boards includes Corning Community College Regional Board of Trustees, CCS Workforce Investment & Opportunity Board, the Southern Tier Central Planning Council, Locate Finger Lakes!, Erie Canal Heritage Fund, Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce, Regional Energy and Economic Development Corporation, to name a few.

As a certified economic developer with fellow member status, she also serves on the International Economic Development Council Accreditation Committee. When she manages to pull herself away from doing the work she loves and for which she has an unwavering commitment, you can find her riding her BMW motorcycle, beekeeping, working with raptors, and spending time on the golf course. She currently resides in Watkins Glen with her husband, Phil, her corgi, Winston, and their chickens, Emily, Lucy, and Ethyl.

Destination on the Left is joined by Judy McKinney Cherry, a seasoned economic and community development professional with a wealth of experience in the travel and tourism sector. She currently serves as the Executive Director of the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development, as well as the CEO, CFO of the Schuyler County Industrial Development Agency. Judy has a deep understanding of the role travel and tourism plays as an economic driver in destinations across the country. On our podcast, she joins us to share her story, highlighting the importance of housing in economic performance, and mapping out her collaborative framework as it relates to our 3C’s.

What You Will Learn:

  • Travel and tourism’s role as an economic driver in communities across the country
  • Why housing is critical to the performance of any economy
  • Judy’s experience with collaboration, and how it ties into our 3C’s framework
  • How Judy’s public/private sector perspectives and experience with data influence her decisions
  • Why we need to approach tourism as so much more than promoting/marketing a destination
  • What Judy has done to help her organization stand out from the pack
  • How Judy’s team has used creativity and collaboration to navigate crises
  • How the pandemic has leveled the playing field in travel and tourism

Tourism is Part of the Economic Fabric

Judy McKinney Cherry is a seasoned economic and community development professional with a wealth of experience in the travel and tourism sector. She currently serves as the Executive Director of the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development, as well as the CEO, CFO of the Schuyler County Industrial Development Agency. Judy has a deep understanding of the role travel and tourism plays as an economic driver in destinations across the country. On our podcast, Judy joins us to share her story, highlighting the importance of housing in economic performance, and mapping out her collaborative framework as it relates to our 3C’s.

More Than Marketing

Judy is extremely data-driven in her approach to strategy, and she views tourism as an economic driver. It is part of the economic fabric of every community, which is why tourism boards and organizations are so much more than marketers alone. If you look at tourism as an entire industry instead of a means of promoting your destination, then you will be able to thrive collectively. Tourism is not a subsect of economic development, it is part of it. And it is a way for communities to engage travelers in ongoing relationships that lead to potential opportunities for growth.

Planning for What-If Scenarios

In travel and tourism, Judy is always planning for the what-if scenarios. COVID is a good example because the entire industry transformed overnight. When destination marketers are only focused on promoting a destination, there is virtually nothing for them to do in a situation like this. But when they operate as an integral part of a destination’s economic development, they can help fill in the gaps wherever it is necessary. The essence of creativity is problem-solving. When you combine that with collaboration and a willing network of organizations that have a location’s best interest in mind, disaster scenarios are easier to manage.

Episode Transcript

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/

Nov 18, 2020

In our solocast episode of Destination on the Left, we share some exciting new content in an episode format we’ve never done before. Nicole Mahoney does an exclusive table read of her keynote speech about world-changing collaborations. During the podcast, She provides a refined perspective on the importance of collaboration in the travel and tourism industry. Collaboration will play a significant role in the recovery of our industry, and we compiled numerous conversations with other industry experts so we could share the overarching sentiment with you.

What You Will Learn:

Nicole’s keynote speech on world-changing collaboration
Why travel and tourism will bounce back stronger than ever
How we can master the art of collaboration to keep travel alive in the “new normal”
How to apply the 3 C’s of Collaboration framework
Why we need to have a collective vision to have a successful recovery
Examples of world-changing collaboration lived out by other travel and tourism professionals
How tourism marketers have leveraged digital media to collaborate

Collaboration During Economic Recovery

In our solocast episode of Destination on the Left, we share some exciting new content in an episode format we’ve never done before. Nicole Mahoney does an exclusive table read of her keynote speech about world-changing collaborations. During the podcast, She provides a refined perspective on the importance of collaboration in the travel and tourism industry. Collaboration will play a significant role in the economic recovery of our industry, and we compiled numerous conversations with other industry experts so we could share the overarching sentiment with you.

We Will Bounce Back Stronger Than Ever

For a long period after 9/11, people were afraid to fly, afraid to travel to big cities, and afraid to gather for large group events. Sounds familiar right? At the time it was hard to imagine the travel and tourism industry ever recovering from such a devastating impact. Through that world-shaking event, then the great recession, and now the global pandemic resulting from COVID-19, the travel industry has and will continue to prevail. It will bounce back stronger than ever, and sometimes we forget that—while history doesn’t always repeat itself—it often rhymes.

The Art of Collaboration

It is overwhelming to look at what has happened to our industry knowing there is no clear end in sight, but we are in this together. If we can master the art of collaboration, we will find new ways to keep travel and tourism alive in the “new normal” that awaits. Adversity creates pressure and urgency that stimulates creativity and brings out the best our minds have to offer. Never let that go to waste. Take advantage of the opportunity to band together with our industries brightest minds and lead the world out of this. Collaboration is truly an art, and by harnessing its power, we will come out better than before.

Additional Resources:

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

 
Nov 11, 2020

As America’s Road Trip Expert, Dr. Forbes has traveled by car in all 50 states, enjoying hundreds of scenic byways and scenic drives passing through thousands of historic towns. Her love of the road trip began at age 7 and even her High School was on a Scenic Byway. After a career in architecture and facility management, ending at The World Bank in Washington, DC, she was able to transform her love of the road trip into a successful career. Since beginning to develop road trips and driving travel packaging for destinations throughout the United States, Dr. Forbes has assisted over 300 locations to develop and promote new travel products in their areas. While managing an international inbound tour operator, she included scenic byways in every possible driving trip for overseas visitors.

Even though Dr. Forbes still assists destinations and regional locations to develop road trip experiences, more recently she contracted to take on the role of Director of Development and Marketing for the National Scenic Byway Foundation, and also the management of the effort to develop a comprehensive website to include all scenic byways and scenic roads throughout the United States. In addition to those roles, she serves as Professor of Destination Management and Marketing for the Temple University Masters in Travel and Tourism program. Dr. Forbes is conversant with the economic impact of Scenic Byways and scenic roads along with methods to create economic development in areas where it is hardest to come by. Her unique background in working on all sides of the equation – developing road trip experiences for the travel sellers and selling road trips as the head travel agent, holding an IATA number to travel buyers, plus teaching the subjects and working in economic development delivers a comprehensive perspective on what today’s visitors need and want and what travel sellers must do to respond, not found anywhere else.

She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Art and Architectural History from the University of Wisconsin, a Doctorate in Environmental Planning from Union University, a Certificate in Digital Marketing from the University of Illinois, and is currently working on an MBA at Taft University.

Destination on the Left is joined by Dr. Maree Forbes, Director of Development and Marketing for the National Scenic Byway Foundation. As America’s Road Trip Expert, Dr. Forbes has traveled by car in all 50 states, enjoying hundreds of scenic byways and scenic drives passing through thousands of historic towns. On our podcast, Maree shares her story and talks about the importance of scenic byways to the small towns and communities that they encompass. She also discusses the use of storytelling to create visitor experiences, and the importance of collaboration in travel and tourism.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Dr. Forbes’ journey into the travel and tourism industry
  • The importance of scenic byways to the small towns and communities that they encompass
  • How Dr. Forbes creates itineraries based on visitor experience
  • How Dr. Forbes drove international travel through America’s scenic byways and drives
  • How storytelling enhances the ability to build visitor experiences
  • What Dr. Forbes has done to target different demographics with her travel experiences
  • The importance of creativity and collaboration in building road trip experiences

The National Scenic Byway Foundation

Dr. Maree Forbes is the Director of Development and Marketing for the National Scenic Byway Foundation. As America’s Road Trip Expert, Dr. Forbes has traveled by car in all 50 states, enjoying hundreds of scenic byways and scenic drives passing through thousands of historic towns. She has assisted over 300 locations to develop and promote new travel products in their areas. And her experience spans every piece of the equation. On our podcast, Maree shares her story and talks about the importance of scenic byways to the small towns and communities that they encompass.

Preserving the Beauty

Dr. Forbes designs unique road trip experiences for scenic byways and scenic drives in conjunction with The National Scenic Byway Foundation, an organization that picked up the pieces when federal funding was cut. She and her team are looking for ways to promote these one-of-a-kind travel routes on one central platform so they can fund preservation efforts and maintain the irreplicable beauty of the byways and scenic drives for generations to come. You can’t just build a new one when the beauty is destroyed, so these efforts are critical to locations across the country.

The Personal Travel Portfolio

Building these unique road trip experiences for a broad spectrum of travelers requires a lot of creativity. As competitive as the travel and tourism industry can be, Dr. Forbes had to figure out how to elevate the road trip. It was a challenge to inspire visitors to take the scenic route instead of flying to a destination and flying back, but she had a lot of success targeting international travelers with her “personal travel portfolio.” Many international travelers wanted to rent a car when they got to America, but with the grandiosity of the U.S., they didn’t quite know where to start. This program had a story for each day of travel, with detailed information about things to see and do that would make their trip more satisfying. And the use of creativity to turn driving into a travel experience did so much for scenic byways and drives around the country.

Nov 4, 2020

While owning an ad agency was never in her dreams, Ginna Royce can’t think of a better way to spend her life–with the exception of being the next Food Network star! The opportunity to experience different industries, personalities, and technology through her clients is an amazing part of every day; the chance to share this with her husband–my partner–is a blessing.

She has deep West Virginia roots but was raised in northern Virginia. WVU provided a phenomenal Journalism education and she landed at the Dominion Post right after graduation. A short stint with an ad agency had her hooked on the culture but it was a client that forced her hand…he canceled his contract with the firm and told her to call him when she got her own office. She never looked back.

They cut their teeth on 18 hour days and lots of retail for the first 15 years, the last eight have included service and manufacturing industries along with international marketing. Delbert and Ginna developed a wanderlust recently that has taken them to Tahiti, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Africa. And there’s still a lot to see. With three dogs and a cat, time at home is complete.

Ginna has a passion for this business…better yet, she has lifelong friends that entered her life disguised as clients and employees. It doesn’t get better than that.

Destination on the Left is joined by Ginna Royce, the CEO and Creative Director at BlaineTurner Advertising. BTA focuses on providing an honest, eye-opening approach to marketing, where research, strategy, and creative work in perfect unison. When we learned about Ginna’s work with the CVB in her region of West Virginia, we knew she would bring a ton of value to the table. On our podcast, Ginna shares her journey into the travel and tourism industry, and her unique approach to marketing in this niche.

The Evolution of Tourism Marketing

Ginna Royce is the CEO and Creative Director at BlaineTurner Advertising. BTA focuses on providing an honest, eye-opening approach to marketing, where research, strategy, and creative work in perfect unison. When we learned about Ginna’s work with the CVB in her region of West Virginia, we knew she would bring a ton of value to the table. On our podcast, Ginna shares her journey into the travel and tourism industry, and her unique approach to marketing in this niche. She explains what DMOs can do to generate more leads and maximize the results of their campaigns. And she also talks about how her agency is using collaboration to serve a CVB that now includes three counties.

No Experience Wasted

BlaineTurner was founded in 1986, and as you can imagine, a lot has changed in advertising/marketing in the last thirty-four years. Having that perspective enables Ginna to think critically about every business problem that her clients and prospects bring through BTA’s doors. In addition to that, her agency has served many industries outside of tourism like healthcare and manufacturing. Their broad spectrum of work means they can adapt quickly in the ever-changing market place as new channels, consumer behaviors, and industry trends arise. In travel and tourism, that is an important agency trait now more than ever.

Brand Positioning in Travel and Tourism

When your agency can navigate the challenges of a changing advertising landscape, you build trust that leads to long term relationships. A great example of this is BlaineTurner’s relationship with the Visit Mountaineer Country CVB. The organization has been working with BTA since its inception in 1986, and together they have worked through an expansion to three counties, as well as a complete rebranding of the CVB in 2019. Brand positioning is a major topic of discussion in travel and tourism. And Ginna’s ability to cater to visitors and stakeholders alike has enabled her clients to speak to multiple audiences while remaining effective. From giveaways to creative campaigns, BTA continues to find new ways to generate interest among different demographics.

Oct 28, 2020

Greg DeShields currently serves as the Executive Director at PHLDiversity a business development division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

As Executive Director of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau PHLDiversity, Greg is responsible for developing and implementing plans, strategies, and initiatives specifically designed to raise Philadelphia’s image as a diverse multicultural destination leading to hotel room nights and economic impact for the region.

Greg is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University Providence, Rhode Island, with an A.S. Degree in Hotel & Restaurant Management; and B.S. Degree in Hospitality Management.

His professional development includes a certification from the Institute for Diversity, Urban League of Philadelphia, Leadership Forum, Leadership Philadelphia, and Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange.

Destination on the Left is joined by Greg DeShields, the Executive Director at PHLDiversity. PHLDiversity is a business development division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau that develops and implements plans, strategies, and initiatives specifically designed to raise Philadelphia’s image as a diverse multicultural destination. During our conversation, Greg talks about why it is so important for businesses to create a strategy for diversity, equity, and inclusion in their organizations AND communities. Then he explains what it takes to implement the strategy for long-term results.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Greg’s journey into the travel and tourism industry
  • How multiculturalism has a financial impact on destinations
  • How DEI continues to evolve as time moves forward
  • Why DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) is a marathon, not a sprint
  • The business case for creating a DEI strategy
  • How to foster community participation and involvement for diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Why proactive strategy and planning is better for DEI than taking a reactive approach
  • How a collaboration between PHLDiversity and a local LGBT chamber led to new revenue and business for both organizations
  • How podcasting ties into the work that PHLDiversity does

The Expansion of DEI in Travel and Tourism

Greg DeShields is the Executive Director at PHLDiversity, a business development division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau. He is responsible for developing and implementing plans, strategies, and initiatives specifically designed to raise Philadelphia’s image as a diverse multicultural destination leading to hotel room nights and economic impact for the region. During our conversation, Greg talks about why it is so important for businesses to create a strategy for diversity, equity, and inclusion in their organizations AND communities. Then he explains what it takes to implement the strategy for long-term results.

The Evolution of Multiculturalism

After Greg spent some time getting settled in his career, he started to understand the economic impact that multiculturalism had on destinations across the globe. But once he moved from the board of directors to a leadership position in PHLDiversity, he started working to expand the table beyond culture. It embraced all communities like women and LGBT, and DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) continues to evolve over the years. Now, Greg and his team are focused on eliminating barriers and creating access for people of color.

Creativity and DEI

Normally we talk about examples of creativity used to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the travel and tourism industry. But in this case, the PHLDiversity organization is an example in and of itself. The organization has been around for over 30 years, and in the late 1980s, Philidelphia was not known as a tourist destination. When Atlantic city started to gain notoriety, the city needed to find a way to engage diverse communities as gaming expanded. This led to the formation of a new organization that brought black voices into the discussion. Community participation has been a key part of their work to this day, and PHLDiversity continues to engage the local population in new and innovative ways.

Episode Transcript

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/

Oct 21, 2020

Cindy Rodriguez is the Co-Founder of Adirondack Diversity Solutions, a Human Resources consulting firm focusing on diversity and inclusion within the workforce and beyond. Adirondack Diversity Solutions works with organizations to create and execute initiatives that share the organization’s vision, support its mission, and live its values through forward-leaning innovations that materialize the social and economic benefits of a diversified workforce and client base.

With over ten years of Human Resources experience spanning across industries, Cindy delivers innovative human resources solutions that promote transparency in policy and procedures, communication strategies, community engagement, all while embracing and embedding diversity, equity, and inclusion into organizational values, culture, policies, and practices.

Destination on the Left is joined by Cindy Rodriguez, Co-founder of Adirondack Diversity Solutions. Her company is an HR consulting firm that designs and implements initiatives around their clients’ visions, missions, and values. As a result, they can capitalize on the social and economic benefits of a diversified work environment. With over ten years of human resources experience, Cindy delivers innovative human resources solutions that promote transparency in policy and procedures, communication strategies, community engagement. On our podcast, Cindy explains how this approach to HR ties into the ideas of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • What is is like to be “one of a few”
  • Why there is a lack of representation in consumer campaigns
  • What travel and tourism professionals can do to improve engagement with diverse audiences
  • The work Cindy’s team is doing to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace
  • Why intentionality is such a powerful tool for travel and tourism professionals

Using Creativity and Collaboration to Address Racism

Cindy Rodriguez is the Co-founder of Adirondack Diversity Solutions, an HR consulting firm that designs and implements initiatives around their clients’ visions, missions, and values. With Cindy’s expertise, Adirondack’s clients can capitalize on the social and economic benefits of a diversified work environment. Cindy has over ten years of human resources experience, and she delivers innovative HR solutions that promote transparency in policy and procedures, communication strategies, community engagement. On our podcast, Cindy explains how this approach to HR ties into the ideas of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“One of a Few”

Cindy is a first-generation Latina, and her love for travel and tourism was sparked by the annual trips to her parents’ home countries as she grew up in the United States. Through her experiences, however, Cindy often found herself feeling that she was “one of a few,” and that sparked her passion for the work with diversity, equity, and inclusion that she does today. Wanting those things is not enough. So Cindy partnered with Dr. Donathan Brown to help other organizations carry out those beliefs. From policies and procedures to recruitment and retention, they help clients engage communities of color to create more comprehensive products, programming, and outreach strategies.

Driving Community Engagement

Throughout her career, Cindy and Dr. Brown have relied heavily on creativity and collaboration to address racism in local communities. The Adirondack Experience and The Cooperstown Friends of The Village Library are two great examples. ADS has partnered with them to help tourism leaders of color share their journeys and visions for the future. While they’re helping to put the spotlight on this demographic, they are also engaging the community as a whole with a unique, action-oriented dialogue. The power of creativity and collaboration is limitless, even in unprecedented times.

Episode Transcript

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/

Oct 14, 2020

Melissa Cherry serves as the Chief Operating Officer at Destinations International. She is responsible for the development and execution of the overall marketing and communications, product engagement, information technology, meetings, and education strategies to promote and elevate the Association’s mission and brand to drive awareness of its impact to advance the success of the destination marketing industry worldwide.

Prior to joining Destinations International, Melissa was senior vice-president for marketing and cultural tourism at Choose Chicago. During her four-year tenure at the city’s official destination marketing organization, she led Choose Chicago’s domestic and international marketing strategies, including all efforts for brand strategy, integrated marketing, research, advertising, official publications and collateral, website, social media, and event marketing. Additionally, she launched the first-ever Cultural Tourism Strategy to increase visitation and awareness to Chicago’s cultural entities, events, and neighborhoods.

John Percy is President and CEO of Destination Niagara USA. It is the official Tourism Promotion Agency and a full-service Destination Marketing Organization serving Niagara Falls and Niagara County, New York/USA. Previously, John served as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the organization. Other prior experience includes Vice President of Tourism for the Niagara Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau and 15 years in shopping center marketing and management in both Western New York and Detroit, Michigan.

In addition to serving as Vice Chairman for the Board of Governors for the American Bus Association Foundation and on the Board of Directors for ABA’s actual association, John also serves as the current Chair-elect on the Destinations International Foundation Board of Trustees. He also serves on boards for the Niagara USA Chamber of Commerce, Niagara Falls Community Mission, and the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area.

John is also a co-chair of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion task force for Destinations International, a task force that Melissa Cherry oversees in her role.

Destination on the Left is joined by Melissa Cherry, COO at Destinations International, and John Percy, President and CEO of Destination Niagra USA, to discuss America’s racial unrest. The conversation about equity, diversity, and inclusion can be uncomfortable to have, but it is needed in every aspect of our lives right now. On our podcast, Melissa and John share their personal stories about how they have been impacted by bias. The racial conversation is both a challenge and an opportunity, and there is so much we can do right now to make sure this moment in time does not pass us by.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Melissa and John’s journeys into travel and tourism
  • How equity, diversity, and inclusion manifest in the travel and tourism industry today
  • Melissa and John’s personal experience with racial bias
  • Why the conversation about race is both a challenge and an opportunity
  • How we can use creativity and collaboration to tackle prejudice in travel and tourism
  • Why Destination International’s DEI Committee was created and how it has evolved
  • What we can do NOW to make an impact on racial inequality in the U.S.

Systemic Prejudice in Travel and Tourism

Destination on the Left is joined by Melissa Cherry, COO at Destinations International, and John Percy, President and CEO of Destination Niagra USA, to discuss America’s racial unrest. The conversation about equity, diversity, and inclusion can be uncomfortable to have, but it is needed in every aspect of our lives right now. On our podcast, Melissa and John share their personal stories about how they have been impacted by bias. The racial conversation is both a challenge and an opportunity, and there is so much we can do right now to make sure this moment in time does not pass us by.

Coming Together As One

As the conversation about race is amplified, there is a new sense of urgency and a light at the tunnel. But while there are many opportunities for addressing the issue of race, there are a lot of challenges. Through Melissa and John—a woman of color and a gay, white man—their personal stories show how real systemic prejudice and bias is here in the U.S. It is something that we can’t ignore any longer, and by coming together as one force of creative problem solvers, we can tackle this adversity in our industry once and for all.

The Racial Conversation

Right now, there are a lot more conversations about race and they are easier to have. But only a couple of years ago, we still had to convince people to be a part of the conversation at all. The best thing we can do as a collective is to show empathy and facilitate open discussions about the realities we don’t truly understand. What do our organizations look like? What do our communities look like? Those are the questions we need to be asking ourselves in order to properly direct our problem-solving skills and make a difference.

Episode Transcript

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Oct 7, 2020

In Destination on the Left’s 200th episode, we kick off October’s theme of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Nicole Mahoney shares experience with these issues, and she talks about the different ways her team is working together to live out the ‘equitable’ core value within their company. Learn what we can do to explore, understand, and act on the topic of diversity in the travel and tourism industry.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Host Nicole Mahoney’s experience with the challenges of equity, diversity, and inclusion
  • What Nicole’s team is doing to live out the ‘equitable’ core value within their company
  • What we can do to explore, understand, and act on the topic of diversity in the travel and tourism industry
  • The lessons Nicole learned about diversity in applicant pools during the hiring process
  • How Nicole’s team took a proactive approach to diversity in their company and industry
  • How the team was living out their core values, and where they were falling short
  • Why addressing systemic racism in your organization will impact existing employees, future employees, and clients alike

Addressing the Topic of Diversity in our industry

In Destination on the Left’s 200th episode, we kick off October’s theme of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Nicole Mahoney shares experience with these issues, and she talks about the different ways her team is working together to live out the ‘equitable’ core value within their company. Learn what we can do to explore, understand, and act on the topic of diversity in the travel and tourism industry. In light of recent events in the United States that sparked severe racial unrest, the opportunity to have this conversation could not have come at a better time.

Looking into the Mirror

With racial injustice sweeping the country right now, it is hard to focus on more than race. In the travel and tourism industry alone, racial diversity is a major issue, and it goes all the way to the leadership level of top organizations. As Nicole started to think about this, she realized that even her own company is guilty of homogeneity. Nicole didn’t build a team of white women on purpose, and there was no discrimination in the hiring process—she just didn’t receive a diverse applicant pool. But that is how she and her team *used* to think. After the death of George Floyd, they decided to take a proactive approach to diversity instead of leaving it to circumstance.

A Deep Dive into the Unknown

At first, Nicole and her team weren’t quite sure how to address the issue of diversity in their company and industry. But after exhausting every resource and contact they could pull from their network, a plan started to materialize. They used their ‘equitable’ core value as a framework and starting point in their exploration of systemic racism and diversity in the United States. The team figured out where they were living that core value, and where they were falling short. And as a result, the discoveries they made will shape the policies and actions of the organization as a whole, impacting existing team members, future team members, and clients alike.

Additional Resources:

Sep 30, 2020

Rick Antonson is the author of the travel narratives: To Timbuktu for a Haircut: A Journey Through West AfricaRoute 66 Still Kicks: Driving Americas Main Street, and Full Moon Over Noah’s Ark: An Odyssey to Mount Ararat and Beyond. He is the co-author of Slumachs Gold: In Search of a Legend. He was president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver, is past chair of the board for the Destinations International, based in Washington, DC, and served as deputy chair for the Pacific Asia Tourism Association, based in Bangkok, Thailand. He speaks around the world about the multi-generational philosophy Cathedral Thinking. Rick and his wife Janice make their home in Predator Ridge, Okanagan Valley, Canada. You can find him online at www.rickantonson.com and www.cathedralthinking.com.

Destination on the Left is joined by Rick Antonson, the former president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver, the past chair of the board for Destinations International, based in Washington, DC, and the former deputy chair for the Pacific Asia Tourism Association, based in Bangkok, Thailand. He initially joined us on Episode #44, where we talked about using cathedral thinking to create a brighter future. During our conversation, we talk about the importance of scenario planning and managing a crisis. We discuss the different ways the pandemic has shown tourism affects everyone. And we discuss the power of cathedral thinking in rebuilding the future.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • What was going through Rick’s mind as the pandemic gained momentum and spread across the globe
  • Rick’s approach to crisis management in the tourism industry
  • What we should be doing to respond to the crisis right now to prepare our destinations for regrowth
  • The concept of cathedral thinking, and how DMOs can use it to plan for rebuilding in the future
  • Different ways in which the pandemic has shown tourism’s effect on entire communities

What Comes Next After COVID?

Rick Antonson is the former president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver, the past chair of the board for Destinations International, based in Washington, DC, and the former deputy chair for the Pacific Asia Tourism Association, based in Bangkok, Thailand. He initially joined us on Episode #44, where we talked about using cathedral thinking to create a brighter future. During our conversation, we talk about the importance of scenario planning in managing a crisis. We also discuss the different ways the pandemic has shown tourism’s effect on entire communities. And we discuss the power of cathedral thinking in rebuilding the future.

Crisis Management 101

At first, we were facing more of a business and marketing crisis than a worldwide shutdown like we see today. That is the first step in crisis management—identifying you are actually IN a crisis. But in crisis management, the most immediate thing is to then determine what the situation is and get the facts. This enables tourism organizations to have more strategic discussions based in realism, not idealism. You can’t react to a crisis based on what you wish was happening or somebody’s artificial forecast. You have to react based on the facts, and sometimes you have to go below the surface to get away from the noise and piece together what is really happening.

Stepping Stones

Rick recently authored an op-ed that ran in the Vancouver Sun titled “Immediate Financial Assistance Needed to Save BC Tourism Sector.” In this piece, Rick talks about the importance of funding tourism now in order to regain lost business by the year 2023. This is not a quick rebound. Even if a vaccine is approved and distributed in major markets across the globe, it will take time for the wheels to start turning again. People have to individually want to travel again—not desire. But making travel a priority when they’re concerned with getting back to work and replenishing their savings is also going to take time. The pandemic has taken a toll on our industry, but we do have the power to rebuild it better than before.

Sep 23, 2020

Living in Southern Africa for 12 years, Thomas has 20 years of experience in the Hospitality and Tourism sector while working for brands like TUI and Thomas Cook in 8 countries and cultures. His focus on digital marketing and distribution, the turnaround of Hospitality and Tourism businesses, and the opening of Hotels has made him a Digital Native Hospitality and Tourism professional. Before that, he started his career with the largest commercial company, METRO, in Europe and IBM, where he evolved his career in IT, software development, and systems integration. It is this combined commercial, IT, Digital, and Hospitality and Tourism experience that created the holistic approach of Rainmaker Digital.

Destination on the Left is joined by Thomas Mueller, the founder and CEO of Rainmaker Digital. Rainmaker is a social enterprise with a clear target to keep more tourism spend in destinations through the democratization of technology. On our podcast, Thomas joins us to talk about how his company is helping clients keep more of the tourism spend in their destinations by disrupting the digital value chain. He shares his take on why Coronavirus is the biggest opportunity of our lifetime, and he also talks about sustainable tourism from an economic perspective.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Thomas’ journey into the travel and tourism industry
  • Why there were such profound skills gaps in small and mid-sized hospitality businesses during the digital transformation of travel and tourism
  • Thomas Mueller’s 5 Stages of Success, and how destinations are using it to transform their travel ecosystems in South Africa
  • How Rainmaker is eliminating the complexities of the digital revolution in hospitality
  • Why Coronavirus is the biggest opportunity of our lifetime in travel and tourism
  • How the role of DNCs will change as a result of COVID
  • How Thomas has seen creativity used throughout the pandemic
  • Why economic sustainability is as critical as environmental and social sustainability in the travel and tourism industry

Rainmaker Digital

Thomas Mueller is the founder and CEO of Rainmaker Digital, a social enterprise with a clear target to keep more tourism spend in destinations through the democratization of technology. This technology enables destinations and their hospitality and tourism businesses to take back control of their visibility, digital presence, reputation, communication, and distribution. On our podcast, Thomas joins us to talk about how his company is helping clients keep more of the tourism spend in their destinations by disrupting the digital value chain. He shares his take on why Coronavirus is the biggest opportunity of our lifetime, and he also talks about sustainable tourism from an economic perspective.

Adapting to the Digital Market

Thomas brings so many different viewpoints to the table because he has worked with teams in almost every corner of the travel and tourism industry. He experienced the digital transformation in real-time, and he helped businesses thrive by staying in front of the rapid changes. But during this process, he discovered massive skills gaps in small and medium-sized businesses who were struggling to adapt to the digital market. All of the various roles were siloed and cut-off from the core business, so they failed to communicate with each other and couldn’t deliver what the customer wanted. Thomas used the 5-Stages of Success to guide these teams to a more holistic approach to destination marketing.

A Holistic Managed Service

The five stages are streaming, planning, booking, experiencing, and sharing, and Thomas Mueller made it available as a holistic managed service. All of the stages became integrated and interdependent on one another, which allowed them to perform at a much higher level. Then, because it is a managed service, hospitality businesses can easily overcome the skills gaps. With the responsibility in Rainmaker’s hands, the clients can focus on what they do best; making customers happy. Rainmaker makes sure there are customers coming through the doors without any complexity or technical challenges.

Keep More Tourism Spend in Destinations for Sustainable Tourism Development | getenabled@rainmaker.travel

Episode Transcript

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Sep 16, 2020

James is Partner and Co-founder of Rove Marketing, a leading tourism data, analytics, and consulting firm. They are focused on helping tourism organizations become more data-driven, so they are better positioned to navigate change, maximize travel visitation, and ultimately drive revenue growth.

He brings over 20 years of strategic knowledge in CRM, customer experience management, data and analytics, branding, and digital marketing strategy.

Destination on the Left is joined by James Sauter, a partner and co-founder of Rove Marketing. Rove is a leading tourism data, analytics, and consulting firm focused on helping tourism organizations become more data-driven, so they are better positioned to navigate change, maximize travel visitation, and ultimately drive revenue growth. On our podcast, James talks about how destinations are using mobile location data to inform their early recovery plans, how residents sentiment data can help with recovery and rebuilding and how collaboration will fuel the future of tourism.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • James’ vision with Rove and the services they offer
  • The two areas in which Rove works with tourism organizations to help them utilize data
  • How Rove has used data to help tourism organizations navigate the pandemic
  • The tourism dashboards Rove is building all over the world, and how they work
  • How Rove is tracking resident sentiment to support destinations and drive tourism traffic
  • How mobile location data and other sources are being used creatively to help destinations recover
  • What role data will play in transforming destinations to fit the “new normal”
  • How this data collection and analysis process will eventually be able to span multiple destinations and entire regions

Rove Marketing

James Sauter is a partner and co-founder of Rove Marketing. Rove is a leading tourism data, analytics, and consulting firm focused on helping tourism organizations become more data-driven, so they are better positioned to navigate change, maximize travel visitation, and ultimately drive revenue growth. On our podcast, James talks about how destinations are using mobile location data to inform their early recovery plans, how residents sentiment data can help with recovery and rebuilding and how collaboration will fuel the future of tourism. He explains how we can better use data to plan for the future during these uncertain times.

The Power of Data Collection

Before COVID, everything pointed to massive growth in the tourism industry. It was a major opportunity for Rove to get in on the ground floor and help tourism organizations make better decisions by leveraging data technology and their insights. They accomplish this by providing full-service consulting and data collection services under one roof. And data collection is more important now than ever. It has played a huge role in understanding what is happening in the travel industry as consumer trends/government regulations change. Using that information, DMOs can plan the best course of action and pivot as needed.

How to Use the Data You Collect

One of the areas where James’ team found its stride was with mobile location data. As we work through this fragmented reopening process, it is important to know where people are, where they’re visiting within a location, how long they’re staying, and their demographic. This can help destinations drastically during the early stages of recovery. They are also using creativity to leverage data in other ways, such as sourcing rating and review information. Rove can pull all of the reviews for restaurants, hotels, attractions, etc. and put them into a scale to track performance. Obviously, when COVID hit, there was a dip in data for this tool, but everything is proving extremely valuable as tourism reopens.

Episode Transcript

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/

Sep 9, 2020

In Destination on the Left’s solocast episode, we share the process that our team recently developed to reset our forward-thinking mindset. We found that when you challenge yourself and your team to move past the perceived limitation of uncertainty and stay focused on the future, many opportunities will appear. This solocast is an opportunity to discuss our company’s experience and the tools we used to get back on track during the pandemic’s challenging times.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How to assume a solutions-oriented, forward-thinking mindset during this challenging pandemic
  • The meeting agenda we use for our team strategy meeting
  • How to implement the processes from Gino Wickman’s “Traction” in your own organization
  • The benefits of performing a SWOT analysis to generate forward-focused questions that guide your team’s discussion
  • How to use Traction’s IDS process to solve unique business problems that arose during your strategy meeting
  • How to create a forward-focused gameplan and define every team member’s role so you can execute with maximum efficiency

Working Together to Plan for the Future

In Destination on the Left’s solocast episode, we share the process that our team recently developed to reset our forward-thinking mindset. We found that when you challenge yourself and your team to move past the perceived limitation of uncertainty and stay focused on the future, many opportunities will appear. This solocast is an opportunity to discuss our company’s experience and the tools we used to get back on track during the pandemic’s challenging times.

Strategic Meeting

One of the first pieces of our process is the meeting strategy. Using techniques from Gino Wickman’s book Traction, we run through financials, new projects, accomplishments, upcoming projects, and our current business plan that was updated in May. Our business plan depicts the Traction model, which includes our core values, mission, vision, marketing strategy, and 3-year picture. This segues into a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats). From there, we move to forward-focused questions segment about our team and performance as an organization. Then, we used those questions to identify goals that will carry us through the end of the year and into 2021.

Identify and Solve Your Issues

The IDS format is another Traction piece that we have used to maintain a forward-thinking mindset. With this method, you first identify the problem you want to solve, then collect feedback from your team, and work together to figure out the best solution. In our case, it was whether or not to renew our lease given the current circumstances of COVID-19. We weighed the pros and cons of working from home, and the IDS process prevented us from talking in circles so we could reach a solution. Once everyone on your team understands the gameplan and knows their role in how you’re going to move forward, you will build momentum extremely fast.

Additional Resources:

Sep 2, 2020

Sanger is the leading ambassador and advocate for museums in New York. She produces programs that promote best practices and deepen connections with members and constituents. She seeks new programs and funding opportunities for museums and the organization; maintains and develops relationships with stakeholders including museum professionals, industry partners, state and federal funding agencies, private foundations, local, state, regional, and federal government officials, and leaders of peer institutions and arts organizations. Created a state-wide partnership with Smithsonian Institutions Museum on Main Street Program. Doubled organizational membership and income. Instrumental in legislative initiatives to secure new state funding sources for museums.

Destination on the Left is joined again by Erika Sanger, Executive Director of the Museum Association of New York State! She made her first appearance on Episode #25, where we talked about the role of museums in New York State’s tourism and economic development. But a lot has changed since then. On our podcast, Erika discusses the different ways museums continue to innovate and change to meet visitor needs during the pandemic. From online and virtual programming to redefining the physical spaces, this part of our industry is doing everything possible to adapt.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Erika’s role as the Executive Director of the Museum Association of New York State
  • How the changes Erika’s organization has made over the last several years prepared them to pivot during the pandemic
  • How Erika has helped and supported other members of her industry throughout the pandemic
  • Which parts of the museum have taken the largest hit from the pandemic, and how that will impact them moving forward
  • The silver linings to the global pandemic and its impact on museums
  • How museums have leveraged different platforms to create a profound virtual experience for visitors to enjoy at home

The Museum Association of New York State

Erika Sanger is the Executive Director of the Museum Association of New York State. She made her first appearance on Episode #25, where we talked about the role of museums in New York State’s tourism and economic development. But a lot has changed since then. On our podcast, Erika discusses the different ways museums continue to innovate and change to meet visitor needs during the pandemic. From online and virtual programming to redefining the physical spaces, this part of our industry is doing everything possible to adapt.

Stretched Thin, But Still Fighting

It has been nearly six months since the global pandemic shut down our world economy, closed borders, and brought the travel industry to a complete standstill. We are doing everything in our power to keep up, and the levels of creativity and collaboration in the travel industry are evolving at an unprecedented rate. As the world slowly re-opens under limited circumstances, associations like the Museum Association of New York State are leading the charge, helping the struggling industry stay afloat and build momentum.

The Post-COVID Museum Experience

All of this change and adaptation begs the question, what will the post-COVID museum experience and landscape actually look like? With such a massive economic hit, many of the client-facing positions of the industry have been eliminated. We have lost so many future leaders of their respective fields, and the only thing museums can do is hope for more support and continue to be resilient. Increased social media presence, data collection, and a general pivot to virtual was the ultimate savior of museums at this time. They are creating the virtual mirror of the museum experience as we know it, and it has seen great success.

Aug 26, 2020

Kate Scopetti is living a full life revolving around a passion for travel, plus an exceptional ability to develop super creative and truly unique experiences, naturally led to the creation of the categorically successful Mid Atlantic Receptive Services, (MARS) and its subsidiaries: Go Performing, Go Student Tours, Go Sports Tours, and SoccerTours.net.

Destination on the Left is joined by Kate Scopetti, President and owner of MARS & Companies (Mid-Atlantic Receptive Services). On our podcast, Kate joins us to talk about the group travel industry, the work her organization is doing to prepare for recovery, and why collaborations are more important than ever. She explains her philosophy of “opening our minds to where the opportunities lie,” and talks about how that philosophy is applied in her own businesses.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Kate’s background and her journey into the travel and tourism industry
  • The evolution of MARS & Companies since its inception
  • What MARS & Companies is doing to prepare for recovery after the pandemic
  • How MARS & Companies transformed into a true wholesaler
  • How Kate has used creativity to help MARS stand out from the crowd
  • The different strains of collaboration in the group travel industry
  • Why collaboration is more important than ever in the group travel industry
  • Kate’s philosophy of “opening our minds to where the opportunities lie,” and how that philosophy is applied in her own businesses
  • How the group travel industry has been affected by the global pandemic

MARS & Companies

Kate Scopetti is the President and owner of MARS & Companies (Mid Atlantic Receptive Services). With a full life revolving around a passion for travel, Kate has developed an exceptional ability to craft extremely creative and truly unique experiences that led to the formation of MARS and its subsidiaries. On our podcast, Kate joins us to talk about the group travel industry, the work her organization is doing to prepare for recovery, and why collaborations are more important than ever. She explains her philosophy of “opening our minds to where the opportunities lie,” and talks about how that philosophy is applied in her own businesses.

Transforming into a True Wholesaler

MARS & Companies initially started as a receptive company in the Mid Atlantic Region. They developed a substantial following in the DC area as the go-to experts for tour operators and other agents in the area. They worked collaboratively with this regional network of tourism professionals to connect different types of clients with different types of products throughout the year. And from there, they transformed into a true wholesaler. MARS & Companies now offer products around the world, and they still have a significant amount of clients that were with them from the beginning.

Creativity in the Group Travel industry

Collaboration has enabled Kate to build a powerful foundation and client base, but the use of creativity really helped MARS & Companies stand out from the pack. Kate and her team use creativity to build unique, custom strategies for their clients based on the specific needs and goals of each one. As a wholesaler, they can help their clients grow by expanding their product offerings without adding a significant amount of labor. Using creativity during these difficult times is only going to yield new solutions that will become part of your product line when things pick up again. As we make our way out of this pandemic, that is important to remember.

Aug 19, 2020

Kathy Casstevens is the Marketing Director at Starved Rock Lodge. She is also a photographer, tourism professional, and lover of nature. Kathy launched GnatTravel a year ago to promote travel in a different way. She is also the chair of the LaSalle County Tourism coalition.

Destination on the Left is joined by Kathy Casstevens, the Marketing Director at Starved Rock Lodge. During our conversation, Kathy shares her journey into destination marketing and talks about how she has used creativity and collaboration to market Starved Rock Lodge on a shoestring budget. She provides a bunch of tips and insider hacks for marketing that will drive results at any destination, and she walks us through the content strategy that helped bring over two million visitors through Starved Rock last year.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Kathy’s journey into destination marketing with Starved Rock Lodge
  • How Kathy has used creativity and collaboration to highlight Starved Rock’s unique features and make it stand out from the crowd
  • How Kathy leverages digital photography to drive visitor traffic at Starved Rock
  • Different platforms Kathy is using to share Starved Rock’s massive digital photo library
  • Systems and processes Kathy has in place to manage her content strategy
  • How Kathy has been communicating with the press during lockdown
  • Different collaborations that have helped Starved Rock Lodge grow its visitor base

Starved Rock Lodge

Kathy Casstevens is the Marketing Director at Starved Rock Lodge in Utica, IL. She joins Destination on the left to share her journey into destination marketing and talk about how she has used creativity and collaboration to market Starved Rock Lodge on a shoestring budget. During our conversation, Kathy provides a bunch of tips and insider hacks for marketing that will drive results at any destination. She walks us through the content strategy that helped bring over two million visitors through Starved Rock last year, and she discusses some of the exciting projects on the horizon that aim to generate even more traffic next year.

What Makes You Unique?

Starved Rock Lodge is nestled in the heart of Starved Rock State Park in North-Central Illinois. It is such a unique place because it completely disrupts the rolling meadows and cornfields with 18 glacier-cut canyons, seasonal waterfalls, and unbelievable views. The actual lodge sits atop an 80 ft bluff overlooking Starved Rock on the Illinois River. And as you can imagine, there is a lot of material to work with in designing a marketing campaign that sets Starved Rock apart from the pack. Last year, they had over two million visitors come through their destination, and as travel and tourism start to pick back up, they plan to do more. Photography is one of the primary tools Kathy will use to accomplish that goal.

Build Your Content Library

When Kathy started working at Starved Rock Lodge, they literally had ONE digital photo. Now, they have a digital library of hundreds of thousands. With such an unusual landscape in an unsuspecting geographic area, being able to show prospective travelers what makes it unique is vital to their marketing efforts. Over the years, Kathy has expanded the range of platforms Starved Rock uses to promote it’s massive digital photo library, and she is able to reach a significantly greater audience through apps like tik tok, Instagram, and a handful of others. Staying organized is a challenge in and of itself, but if you can build a massive content library of your own, there is so much you can do with it at any given time.

Aug 12, 2020

Rachel Laber Pulvino is a Rochester native who has the privilege of promoting her hometown on a daily basis as the Director of Public Relations and Communications for Visit Rochester. In this role, Rachel is regularly reaching out to regional, national, and international media to share Rochester’s story, and help media and visitors alike discover the activities and attractions that make Rochester an ideal destination. Raised in Rochester, Rachel attended SUNY Geneseo, where she earned a B.A. in Communication and continued on to the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University for graduate school, where she earned an M.S. in Public Relations. Rachel is an active member of the Public Relations Society of America, Rochester Chapter, currently serving on the board, while also volunteering on the programming and PRism award committees. Rachel also volunteers her time for the SUNY Geneseo Alumni Association Board of Directors as well as Big Brothers Big Sisters Greater Rochester. Rachel is a proud resident of the City of Rochester where she resides with her husband, Rich Pulvino. When she’s not playing tour guide to visiting travel writers on the weekend, you can find Rachel visiting wineries in the Finger Lakes, at arts and cultural performance, or at Wegmans.

Destination on the Left is joined by Rachel Laber, the Director of Market Communications and Public Relations for Visit Rochester. She joins Destination on the Left again to talk about what the Visit Rochester team is doing to support their tourism industry partners through the pandemic. Rachel originally appeared on Episode #57, where we talked about driving tourism in Rochester, NY through creativity and collaboration. She is here to expand on that and talk about the different programs and response measures her team has taken over the past four months.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How Visit Rochester pivoted to help the community respond to the pandemic
  • The development of Visit Rochester’s digital content strategy for the local market
  • The ROC acronym and how Visit Rochester has used it to navigate the pandemic
  • How Visit Rochester began to create new programs after learning that the pandemic was going to be a long-fought battle
  • What Visit Rochester did to help local businesses in the community thrive during the reopening phase
  • How the ROC Ready Promise is providing a sense of safety to visitors in the reopening phase
  • The creation and execution of Visit Rochester’s Rediscover Rochester campaign

A Lifeline for the Community

Rachel Laber is the Director of Market Communications and Public Relations for Visit Rochester. She joins Destination on the Left again to talk about what the Visit Rochester team is doing to support their tourism industry partners through the pandemic. Rachel originally appeared on Episode #57, where we talked about driving tourism in Rochester, NY through creativity and collaboration. She is here to expand on that and talk about the different programs and response measures her team has taken over the past four months. From the initial lockdown to the reopening phase, Visit Rochester has remained nimble throughout. This is a look into the challenges they faced during quarantine, and how they overcame them to continue supporting the industry.

Visit Rochester’s Massive Pivot

When the stay-at-home order first went into effect back in March, Rachel and her team had to act swiftly. They began meeting and ideating daily to try and plan for what might be coming down the pipeline, and fight or flight took over. Instead of burying their heads in the sand, Rachel and her team approached the problem as realists, identifying what challenges were on the horizon, and what they could do to support their stakeholders at that moment. Visit Rochester pivoted right away, and within 24 hours, they shifted their efforts from marketing Rochester to outsiders to speaking directly to their local audience.

Knowledge is Power

Visit Rochester dedicated itself to promoting local businesses. They helped organize and roll out virtual events that their attraction partners were putting together. And ultimately, they became a conduit of information. Rachel and her team were fiercely on top of all developments in government regulation and response, and they made sure their partners were informed so they could plan their next moves accordingly. It inspired a powerful digital content strategy that is still driving traffic for all of their partners today, and it took the organization’s creative and collaborative function to an entirely new level.

Aug 5, 2020

Curt Bedei is the Executive Director for the Ottawa Visitors Center in Ottawa, Illinois. He was hired in 2011 as the Graphics Design Manager to handle the botanical brand management. Since then, Curt has worked his way up, earning a certificate in Not For Profit management. In 2015, he had the opportunity to take on his current role. Curt sits on many boards and committees related to tourism, such as the Heritage Corridor CVB, LaSalle County Tourism Coalition, the Looking For Lincoln/ Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area, and the Ottawa History and Scouting Heritage Museum. Curt has always lived in the Ottawa Area, and he loves history and traveling so this seemed like a natural fit.

Destination on the Left is joined by Curt Bedei, the Executive Director for the Ottawa Visitors Center in Ottawa, IL. On our podcast, Curt shares his journey into travel and tourism and talks about the creativity and collaborative efforts OVC has made to help their destination thrive. Learn about Ottawa’s community-driven approach branding, and find out how they are responding to the difficult challenges brought forth by 2020.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Curt’s journey into travel and tourism in Ottawa, IL
  • Curt’s advice to anyone who is graduating or just getting into travel and tourism during these difficult times
  • How the OVC has been able to make Ottawa, IL stand out from the crowd
  • How Curt and his team have used creativity and collaboration to help tourism thrive in Ottawa
  • What Curt and his team did to develop the botanical brand for Ottawa, IL
  • How Curt and his team engaged the city and community in their rebranding process
  • How the OVC has responded to the new challenges posed by 2020
  • What Curt’s team is doing to drive traffic to the outdoor attractions when a lot of other stuff is closed
  • New projects in the works at OVC for 2020 and 2021

Ottawa Visitors Center

Curt Bedei is the Executive Director for the Ottawa Visitors Center in Ottawa, Illinois. During his conversation with host Nicole Mahoney, Curt explains how Ottawa lives out its botanical brand. He talks about the discovery process for identifying what truly makes Ottawa stand out from the pack. And as a community, they have focused on developing an experience to live out the brand promise. Curt joins Destination on the Left to talk about how the Ottawa community has responded to the difficult challenges of 2020. He also dives into the regional collaboration that brought a national television program to their destination, which is still paying dividends today.

Stay the Path

Like many of the guests on Destination on the Left, Curt sort of stumbled into tourism. However, he quickly discovered that it was his calling, and since 2015, he hasn’t looked back. Curt has had an inspirational career as the Executive Director. But before he ever started climbing the ranks, Curt had no idea where he would end up. He was a graduate of the Great Recession; a position similar to what many budding travel and tourism professionals are facing today. But because of that, Curt is no stranger to difficult times in this industry. He stresses the importance of staying your path and pushing forward no matter what because you can’t plan for the opportunities that this industry will bring. You just have to be ready to capitalize on them when they arise and let nothing else get in your way.

Rebranding Ottawa

Curt’s relentless determination is one of the main reasons the Ottawa Visitors Center has experienced such great success since he took the helm. When he joined the team at the Ottawa Visitors Center, they were looking to rebrand in order to stand out from the crowd and lift the community up. Curt and his team used creativity and collaboration to make that happen. They came up with the botanical brand in 2012, which focused heavily on developing gardens, art, and culture in the community. They revitalized the downtown area and did everything in their power to create a greater sense of pride in the community. This was all accomplished in collaboration with the city and the community itself—and the high level of support that was generated through this focus on engagement produced astonishing results.

LIVE EVENT: The Ottawa Visitors Center is hosting a virtual experience with Abraham Lincoln on August 12th at 7 pm. The live, online performance will combine period music with conversation and narrative by President Lincoln, using Lincoln’s own words, while illuminating Lincoln’s use of communication as a personal and political tool. This engaging show features Lincoln impersonator George Buss, and Illinois folk musician and folklorist Chris Vallillo. The performance will be followed by a Q & A with Buss and Vallillo. More information can be found on their website.

Jul 29, 2020

For Destination on the Left’s solocast episode, I want to talk to you about virtual events. Our team has been working with several clients to assist them with virtual event planning, and so much valuable information has come out of our experiences. On our podcast, we talk about why you should consider virtual events, what a virtual event is, and how to host your own virtual event. We also walk through a virtual event case study that exemplifies the process of turning a live event into a virtual event.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Why you should consider virtual events for your business
  • What virtual events are and how they are structured
  • The different types of virtual events
  • How to host a virtual event, and the technology behind it
  • How to determine what type of virtual event is best aligned with your organization’s goals
  • The benefits and drawbacks of using the video feature in virtual events
  • The best digital platforms you can use to conduct your virtual events
  • Live content vs. prerecorded
  • How to incorporate interactive elements into your virtual event

Are Virtual Events Right for Your Business?

For Destination on the Left’s solocast episode, I want to talk to you about virtual events, Our team has been working with several clients to assist them with virtual event planning, and so much valuable information has come out of our experiences. On our podcast, we talk about why you should consider virtual events in the first place. Then, we look at what a virtual event actually is, and how to host your own virtual event from a technological perspective. We also walk through a virtual event case study that exemplifies the process of turning a live event into a virtual event. This is a huge opportunity for all types of businesses, and it will provide you with tons of useful skills and content as business resumes.

Virtual is Here to Stay

There is a lot of skepticism around virtual events. Businesses aren’t quite convinced of their longevity, engagement, and trackability. But the reality is that virtual events are here to stay. As hybrid events become the norm, there will be tons of new audiences to reach in new ways. Virtual events provide a one-on-one, intimate meeting style where buyers and sellers can plan for the future. In group settings, more people can participate in virtual events due to lower costs and lack of travel requirements. On top of that, all of the digital assets created for virtual events can be leveraged over and over again as time moves on. You can build on what you have, and repurpose content to build a robust resources library that will continue to generate business down the road.

Working with Strategic Partners

From virtual summits and conferences to consumer activations and award ceremonies, there are a bunch of different types of virtual events that your business can host. Depending on your organization’s goals, resources, and timeline, some virtual events are much more effective than others. Marketing agencies are in the best position to help you select the best option and put it together because they utilize content development and digital marketing strategies on a daily basis. Even if you don’t have most of the skills needed to develop a virtual event in-house. It is easy to collaborate with a strategic partner and create something memorable. Virtual events are a great way to build momentum as lockdowns are lifted, so I highly recommend incorporating one into your 2020 marketing strategy.

Jul 22, 2020

JoAnna Haugen is a seasoned writer, speaker, and founder of Rooted, a solutions-storytelling platform. Her work has been published in more than 60 print and online publications, including Fast Company, Popular Science, Mongabay, BBC, and CNN. Her time as a returned Peace Corps volunteer, commercial travel writer, intrepid world traveler, international election observer, and American expatriate informed the establishment of Rooted, a storytelling platform at the intersection of sustainable travel, environmental conservation, and community-focused advocacy efforts. Rooted’s mission is to responsibly document, support, celebrate, and share sustainable travel initiatives that put communities first and to help others do the same. Learn more about JoAnna’s background here: https://www.joannahaugen.com/about/

Destination on the Left is joined by JoAnna Haugen, the founder of Rooted, a solutions storytelling platform. On our podcast, JoAnna and I have an amazing conversation about using the diverse voices of a local community to help tell that destination’s story. JoAnna talks about how the world is a messy place, and she shares her thoughts around embracing the messiness to develop a greater sense of authenticity. Learn how JoAnna uses authenticity, creativity, and collaboration to navigate the new challenges posed by the global pandemic.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • JoAnna’s journey into the travel and tourism industry
  • Why JoAnna was inspired to combat the damage caused by travel writing by creating her own storytelling platform
  • How Rooted is helping destinations thrive
  • Rooted’s three target audiences, and how the platform brings them together as a cohesive force
  • How JoAnna is using her platform to promote responsible travel communication and sustainable travel
  • How JoAnna’s experiences in Kenya shaped her entire perspective of the travel and tourism industry
  • JoAnna’s perspective on what destinations should be doing to stand out from the crowd
  • How destinations can embrace the diverse voices of their communities
  • Different ways destinations are using authenticity, creativity, and collaboration to navigate the new challenges posed by the global pandemic
  • Projects that JoAnna will be introducing in the near future
  • Best practices from JoAnna’s Collaboration in Crisis Guide

The Power of Storytelling in Travel and Tourism

JoAnna Haugen is the founder of Rooted, a solutions storytelling platform seated at the intersection of sustainable travel, environmental conservation, and community-based advocacy efforts. On our podcast, JoAnna and I have an amazing conversation about using the diverse voices of a local community to help tell that destination’s story. JoAnna talks about how the world is a messy place, and she shares her thoughts around embracing the messiness to develop a greater sense of authenticity. Learn how JoAnna uses authenticity, creativity, and collaboration to navigate the new challenges posed by the global pandemic.

Local Solutions with a Global Impact

JoAnna says that “local solutions can have a global impact,” and that nugget inspired her to look for ways to combat the damage and destruction that travel writing has on the destinations we travel to and the people we meet while we’re there. It culminated in the creation of her storytelling platform “Rooted,” which aims to responsibly document, support, celebrate, and share sustainable travel initiatives that put communities first and help others do the same. We need to communicate about people, places, and the planet in a way that can activate impactful change. To accomplish this, JoAnna focuses on three specific audiences: travel service providers, representatives for local travel initiatives, and content creators.

Responsible, Sustainable Travel and Tourism

Many of us travel to certain places because the people there have shaped the destination as we know it. At the end of the day, JoAnna’s goal is to lift up local people, enterprises, and communities to highlight the work they’re doing and create vibrant destinations. That is what drives Rooted’s initiative to amplify everything being done on the local level. And in the midst of this global pandemic, we have an opportunity to tell an even greater story. If we want to maintain a sustainable travel and tourism industry moving forward, we need to do so in a way that lifts destinations up and paints them as something more than a pretty backdrop.

Jul 15, 2020

There’s a southern accent, where Courtney Kasper comes from. She is a Sweet Home Alabama native, Florida State and Syracuse University graduate, and a Poodle person. Courtney is the current Equal Rights Heritage Center Visitor Experience Manager. She is a former associate publisher of Today’s Central New York Woman, and a journalist with work featured in Time Out New York and Dance Magazine. Courtney is a direct descendant of Revolutionary heroine Nancy Morgan Hart, otherwise known as War Woman.

Destination on the Left is joined by Courtney Kasper, the Visitor Experience Manager at the Equal Rights Heritage Center in Auburn, New York. On our podcast, Courtney and I have an amazing conversation where she shares her approach to “being patient where you are with your place in life.” We talk about the vast amount of ways that idea ties into her current work and the state of crisis we are currently experiencing. She walks us through the process she used to create a powerful brand identity for the building she was hired to manage. She also discusses the many collaborations and creative breakthroughs that enabled her organization to successfully navigate the challenges of the pandemic.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The purpose behind the welcome center and how it ties into Courtney’s backstory
  • The collaborative nature of the City of Auburn Historic and Cultural Sites Commission
  • How Courtney has used creativity to help Auburn stand out from other destinations in the area
  • How Courtney overcame the challenge of developing the welcome center’s brand identity while preserving its history
  • Different ways that Courtney has used creativity to navigate the pandemic
  • What it means to “be patient where you are with your place in life” and how it relates to the work Courtney is doing now

The Equal Rights Heritage Center

Courtney Kasper is the Visitor Experience Manager at the Equal Rights Heritage Center in Auburn, New York. On our podcast, Courtney and I have an amazing conversation where she shares her approach to “being patient where you are with your place in life.” We talk about the vast amount of ways that idea ties into her current work and the state of crisis we are currently experiencing. She walks us through the process she used to create a powerful brand identity for the building she was hired to manage. She also discusses the many collaborations and creative breakthroughs that enabled her organization to successfully navigate the challenges of the pandemic.

More Than a Welcome Center

The Equal Rights Heritage Center is unique because it is technically the official welcome center for the city of Auburn, New York. It is the headquarters for the City of Auburn Historic and Cultural Sites Commission, which was started to create a round table for all of the different site directors so they could create strategies to boost tourism in Auburn together. With exhibits like “Seeing Equal Rights in NYS,” however, it is so much more than a welcome center. They are trying to promote tourism, but more importantly, they are trying to tell Auburn’s story and the stories of the amazing people who made Auburn what it is today.

Creating a New Brand Identity

The collaboration between all of the historic and cultural sites has yielded great results for the City of Auburn. But creativity is what really helped the destination stand out from the pack. The Equal Rights Heritage Center has so many things under one roof, so Courtney had to develop a brand identity that captured the right amount of everything. Through the Market New York program, Courtney was able to work with an agency to create a powerful campaign highlighting the unique welcome center building and its equal rights exhibit. They built out content to highlight the unique backstory of the building, and they designed events to celebrate other aspects of Auburn as well. It was a difficult challenge, but Courtney was able to reinvent the welcome center’s brand while preserving its history.

Jul 8, 2020

Adam Stoker has been in marketing now since 2007. In 2012, he got his first experience in marketing for tourism destinations. From that point forward, he knew he had found his passion. Since then, Adam has worked with destinations across the country to improve their marketing, branding, and use of technology.

He is the President and CEO of an advertising agency focused on marketing for tourism destinations. It’s called Relic, and it’s in Provo, Utah.

Adam started the Destination Marketing Podcast in May of 2019. After having so many amazing guests come on the show and share their knowledge, he realized he needed to curate all of that content into a book. This is his first time doing something like that and he’s really proud of it.

Adam’s hope is to release a new edition every year, as the industry is always changing.

He is a father of four and married to the girl of his dreams. Without their support, this never would have been possible. Adam lives in Salem, Utah.

Destination on the Left is joined by Adam Stoker, the President and CEO of Relic, an advertising agency in Provo, Utah that specializes in destination marketing. On our podcast, Adam talks about the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the tourism industry as a whole. He shares examples of creative marketing that has helped destinations stand out at this time. And he also explains what destination marketers can do to reach the right audiences at the right time during reopening travel.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Adam’s journey into travel and tourism
  • How starting his career during the Great Recession prepared him to deal with the COVID-crisis
  • Brands that have done an amazing job using creativity and collaboration to stand out from the crowd
  • The impact of crisis on creativity in the world of destination marketing
  • How Adam’s agency has used creativity to overcome recent challenges
  • How Adam helped his clients navigate the unique obstacles presented by the pandemic
  • What Adam’s team came up with to help clients stay top of mind in a socially responsible way
  • How Relic approached its clients’ recovery campaigns
  • How to access Adam’s worksheet to create a plan and implement the changes

Marketing for Post-Lockdown Travel

Adam Stoker is the President and CEO of Relic, an advertising agency in Provo, Utah that specializes in destination marketing. He is also the host of the Destination Marketing Podcast, where he interviews industry experts from a wide range of tourism focuses. On our podcast, Adam joins us to talk about the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the tourism industry as a whole. He shares examples of creative marketing that has helped destinations stand out during this crisis. And he also explains what destination marketers can do to reach the right audiences at the right time in the reopening travel market.

A Resurgence of Creativity

There is a whole generation of people in the destination marketing industry that has not lived through a crisis. Adam’s journey into the travel and tourism industry started at the beginning of the great recession, and it ended up being a blessing in disguise. Learning how to navigate a crisis is going to benefit you for the rest of your career because challenges will continue to arise. Ten years of sustainable growth has devalued creativity in the travel and tourism industry, but this crisis has forced brands to find new ways to stand out from the crowd. DMOs generally operate within a small geographic area with similar features to their competitors, so it is important to move past the first idea at the brainstorming session. From Oregon’s animated campaign to Nebraska’s “Nebraska is Not for Everyone” campaign, there is a lot of good stuff out there right now.

Backs Against the Wall

Times of crisis produce some of the greatest challenges DMOs will ever have to overcome. But when our backs are against the wall, we inevitably do some of our very best work. Since every single one of Adam’s clients was facing similar struggles as a result of the pandemic, the first thing on the agenda was to create temporary destination messages to keep them top of mind. The next step was to help clients create their recovery campaigns, which for many of them would be the difference between having a job or not having a job when everything is all said and done. Adam’s team produced some of the greatest work they have ever done during that time, and it will have a significant impact on their clients moving forward.

Jul 1, 2020

Colleen Siuzdak is the Manager of VISIT Staten Island, a campaign run out of the Staten Island Borough President James Oddo’s Office of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. This office, created in June 2017, invites visitors to explore the borough’s many parks and cultural attractions, while encouraging residents to explore their own backyard. Start your journey to Staten Island on the free Staten Island Ferry and see the many offerings of the Unexpected Borough!

Jennifer Sammartino is a former journalist and experienced communications professional with a particular interest in serving the community. She’s fresh off serving as the first-ever Director of Tourism and Cultural Affairs for the Office of the Staten Island Borough President. And she is ecstatic to take on new challenges as Deputy Chief of Staff.

Destination on the Left is joined by Colleen Siuzdak and Jennifer Sammartino from the Staten Island Office of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. During our conversation, Colleen, Jennifer, and I discuss the different ways VISIT Staten Island entices visitors to explore the Unexpected Borough. We talk about the challenges of marketing a destination so close to Manhattan, and the creative ways in which VISIT Staten Island has collaborated to boost tourism!

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Colleen and Jennifer’s journey into the travel and tourism industry
  • How the free Staten Island Ferry has made an impact on the Unexpected Borough’s visitor numbers
  • Why the VISIT Staten Island campaign entices visitors to explore the many offerings of the Unexpected Borough
  • The challenges of marketing a destination in such close proximity to Manhattan
  • Creative ways in which VISIT Staten Island has collaborated to boost tourism
  • How the decline in international travel has impacted their marketing strategy
  • How Colleen and Jennifer have embraced Staten Island’s parks and lower population density as they restructure their marketing efforts
  • Best practices that have made Colleen and Jennifer’s partnerships successful
  • How Colleen and Jennifer are taking a more holistic approach to destination marketing

VISIT Staten Island

Colleen Siuzdak and Jennifer Sammartino join us from the office of the Staten Island Borough President, James. S. Oddo! Colleen is the manager of VISIT Staten Island, a campaign highlighting the borough’s many parks and cultural attractions for visitors and locals alike. Jennifer is the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Office of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. Together, they form an unstoppable destination marketing team. In our conversation, Colleen, Jennifer, and I discuss the different ways VISIT Staten Island entices visitors to explore the Unexpected Borough. We talk about the challenges of marketing a destination so close to Manhattan, and the creative ways in which VISIT Staten Island has collaborated to boost tourism!

The Unexpected Borough

As we all know, the tourism and hospitality industry is extremely competitive—especially when a destination is nestled in the heart of a tier-one city like NYC. To help the Unexpected Borough stand out from the crowd, Colleen and Jennifer stretched their creative and collaborative efforts as far as they would go. They worked with the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce to hire a marketing agency that could help with some of the heavy lifting. They held workshops with cultural stakeholders in the area such as museums and art galleries, so they could rebrand Staten Island through that lens. Colleen and Jennifer created a unique and refreshing image for Staten Island, which gave them a platform to form partnerships and build itineraries moving forward.

You Haven’t Seen New York Until You’ve Seen Staten Island

The ”Unexpected Borough” tag line has taken off, and people are using it everywhere. It has been so well-received because the entire campaign is completely void of desperation and packed with confidence. Staten Island isn’t begging people to visit, they are asserting the notion that you haven’t truly seen New York without visiting Staten Island. There is so much to offer, and so much love to spread, which is why Colleen and Jennifer have seen such a great return on their investment in this project. When people finally do get to see Staten Island, they are proactively sharing their experiences for the world to see. It has created a compound effect that is driving visitor traffic to this day.

Jun 24, 2020

Robb Wells, President and CEO of the Greater Beaufort-Port Royal CVB, has been a Destination Marketing Professional for more than 15 years. Starting his career as Executive Director for Duplin County Tourism in North Carolina before moving to become Sr. Director of Marketing at the Knoxville Tourism & Sports Corporation and then became Vice President of the Tourism Division for the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce before taking on his current role as President and CEO of the CVB.

Robb is successful at establishing the vision and strategies necessary to ensure a destination’s continued success. He excels at creating relationships, networks, and business connections while partnering with all core tourism constituents to significantly increase the area’s visitor experience and overall economic impact.

In this episode of Destination on the Left, we are joined by Robb Wells, the President and CEO of the Greater Beaufort-Port Royal Conventions and Visitors Bureau in South Carolina. During this conversation, Robb discusses his journey in the travel and tourism industry, and he shares invaluable lessons about responding to adversity and uncertainty. Learn how Robb’s organization is using creativity and collaboration to cut through the noise and make a positive impact on the Beaufort community.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Robb’s journey into the travel and tourism industry
  • Robb’s role as the President and CEO of Greater Beaufort-Port Royal CVB
  • How Robb’s experience with collaboration and interdepartmental connectivity has changed since he first started
  • Why partnerships shape the perception of DMOs in their communities
  • How Robb has used creativity to make Beaufort stand out from the crowd
  • How Beaufort builds powerful public relations campaigns to cut through the noise
  • How Robb uses creativity to overcome the adversity and uncertainty of hurricane season
  • Future projects for the light at the end of the tunnel
  • How Robb is working with other departments and organizations to create something bigger than themselves
  • Advice for how to approach a successful collaboration

Greater Beaufort-Port Royal CVB

Robb Wells is the President & CEO at Greater Beaufort-Port Royal CVB in South Carolina. Robb started his journey in travel and tourism with a DMO in a small rural community that was still under economic development. The lessons and experience Robb picked up in that role set the stage for his career and prepared him to lead the operation with the Greater Beaufort-Port Royal CVB. In this episode of Destination on the Left, Robb shares invaluable insights about responding to adversity. Robb’s community has to prepare itself for hurricane season every year and the lessons he has learned from dealing with that uncertainty are widely applicable to other scenarios as well.

Never Stop Learning

Robb’s first day on the job was a governor’s conference. As a twenty-four-year-old who got thrown into the deep end, Robb had to learn on the fly and work outside of his comfort zone constantly. It is something most of us do now and then, but to this day, Robb is educating himself regularly to serve his community the best he can. Whether you find tourism or tourism finds you, it is important to stay ahead of the changing landscape by leveraging all of the resources you can find. Travel and tourism is a highly competitive space that requires creativity and collaboration to thrive in, and it is woven into the fabric of our communities’ economies.

More Than Tourism

When Robb first got into the travel and tourism industry, everything in his community’s tourism strategy was siloed. Robb put a lot of energy into facilitating interdepartmental connectivity and collaboration. He maintains that emphasis to this day because it shapes the way communities view DMOs. People might not understand the tourism industry, but they understand the role of a DMO in their community because of the prevalence of partnerships. Robb is working with his partners on things like content creation and festival production, contributing to an even greater presence of the CVB in Beaufort. Whether it is aggressive public relations campaigns or new attractions, Robb’s organization is focused on a much bigger picture than tourism alone. They are making an impact on the Beaufort community with everything they do.

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