This month I was fortunate enough to attend Destinations International’s Membership Summit, or what was formerly known as Shirtsleeves, for the first time! This conference is for destination management organization (DMOs) and convention and visitor bureau (CVBs) staff members to attend and focuses specifically on partnership and membership (P.S. DMOs and CVBs are interchangeable phrases). Despite the fact that my current title is “Event Specialist,” my role sits within our Industry Relations department at Visit Bucks County, which is the department that not only handle events, but also partnership and outreach.
Aside from the great sessions I attended, I think the most impactful part of the conference was getting to meet and talk with other DMO professionals and hear about all the ways destinations do things differently even though we all have the same end goal. It was also really refreshing to see how open everyone was to sharing their tips and tricks, their programming schedules, their email templates, pretty much anything and everything, with the other destinations in attendance. The lack of competition between the destinations in regards to partnership (since partners must be within that destination) made for a very open, accepting, and educational environment.
With that said, I wanted to share some snippets of information that I picked up while at the conference.
(1) “Destination organizations are a community need. They are a common good. They should be spoken about as a common good.” (Don Welsh, President & CEO, Destinations International)
From my vantage point, if your community is not on your side, your efforts will never be as successful as you intend them to be. You want your local community to realize the incredible economic benefits of and to help you further your travel initiatives. Word of mouth is still incredibly powerful and you want your community to share the good your doing and help to encourage their networks to visit your destination. At the end of the day, the recipient of a DMOs efforts is the community itself. The entire system needs to come full-circle in order for it to work at maximum efficiency. In the words of Brenda Scott Savage, Director of Membership for Visit Houston, “tourism and travel is everyone’s business” and the end goal is “quality of place for everyone;” so community must be front and center.
(2) “The easiest way to create memorable event is to have poor service.” (Jim Gilmore, Co-Founder, Strategic Horizons, LLP and Co-Author of the book “The Experience Economy”)
With global connection becoming easier and more expansive by the day, word travels faster than ever before. The surest way to create memorable experiences, that are shared with others, is to offer poor service. Unfortunately, humanity is more apt to share bad experiences as opposed to positive ones. When your organization has a service failure, that small part of the full experience will stick with your Guest. When that happens, most businesses automatically think that an apology is the end-all-be-all of fixing the problem. However, as cliche as it is, actions speak louder that words. The actual response to service failures should be resilient and immediate action to fix the issue. Unfortunately, businesses cannot be perfect all the time. When imperfect experiences happen, how they are solved is the true measure of a business’s ability to deliver on experience and Guest service.
(3) “What gets measured gets done.” (Don Welsh, President & CEO, Destinations International)
It’s no secret, data management, measurement, and analysis is the center of the universe at this point in time. In Don’s welcome remarks, he reviewed 11 trends that Destinations International has been tracking for travel and tourism. Trend #5 was: “harvesting data and developing business analytics differentiates successful tourism enterprises and destinations.” At the end of the day, every destination offers the same base-level services, products, and experiences. Destinations have accommodations, retail, attractions, and food and beverage options. How do we show the success or grow rates or visitation in order to show difference between various locations? Data. Data can chart those elements of business growth and change, which provides a more concrete way to measure the ethereal concept of visitor experience. If we know where we currently stand in the eyes of the consumer, it becomes much easier to map how we can improve the designed experience.
If you happen to be someone that works for a DMO or CVB and you’re reading this, I highly recommend this conference. I heard some great ideas and met some amazing people from various countries and I can’t wait to go back again next year!