This week I attended my first Destinations International Marketing & Communications Summit. It also happened to be the first time there was a both a Marketing and a PR/Communications-specific track at this conference. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the sessions I attended.
As a Director of Communications, I stuck closely to the communications track sessions. I was impressed by the quality of the speakers chosen and the breadth of content covered for each topic. Some sessions taught me new strategies, others helped affirm that things my team is already doing are on track. Here are my top takeaways!
1. The experiences travelers seek are evolving.
The future traveler has their sights set on adaptive resilience, the superself and seeking wonder. These themes revolve around re-establishing control, holistic wellness and fantastical, sensory experiences. People are connecting more deeply to cultural experiences as a way to take care of their mental wellness and be more present. Places where people can “play” at any age are top of the bucket list.
Session title: Decoding the Future Traveler: Consumer Trends for 2023 & Beyond, Sarah Tilley of Wunderman Thompson Intelligence
2. Cross training with the sales department can vastly improve your meetings/events PR.
For the most successful meetings/events stories – the communications team needs to work closely with the sales department. Meetings and events writers – just like any writers – are looking for tailored, unique stories that fit their audiences. Talk to your sales team, talk to meeting planners and pitch the stories that matter and elevate your destination.
Session title: Communicating Your Destination’s Authentic Story Through Business Events, Ally Dorrough of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, Lisa Grimaldi of Northstar Meetings Group and Lori Cioffi of Skift Meetings
3. Locals are your best brand ambassadors.
Inviting influencers to visit your destination is great. But don’t forget about locals! They can be your best brand ambassadors. At Visit Colorado Springs, we started a 2023 brand ambassador program where we’re partnering with one local influencer each quarter. We chose people who are already tagging us in their content and championing the destination. They love Colorado Springs, and they each reach specific target markets that showcase the values of our region.
Session title: Strategic Opportunities for Elevating Your PR Role, Karyl Leigh Barnes of Tourism Practice Development Counsellors International and Julie Freeman of MMGY
4. To live out your EDI initiatives, know what EDI means to your organization.
Many DMOs now have EDI strategies, but some are still struggling to make progress. The first step to move forward as an organization is to define each element of EDI – equity, diversity and inclusion. Determine what each word means to your organization in order to create a strong strategy. EDI is not showing a person of color in imagery and calling it “diverse” – one diverse perspective does not represent an entire group. EDI is an ongoing exploration, discussion and understanding of identity and different perspectives.
Session title: What’s in an Acronym: How to Integrate EDI into Your Communications Strategy, Sophia Hyder Hock of Destinations International
5. Influencers are a prime example of blending paid and owned strategies.
Influencer collaborations have changed vastly over the years as they’ve grown in popularity and have discovered the value they can bring to brands. Influencers need to be budgeted for like paid media, but they should be treated like earned media. They need the same level of connection and personal touchpoints as you’d give a journalist when inviting them to your destination and creating an itinerary for them.
Session title: Finding the Harmony in Your Paid and Owned Strategies, Jamie Claudio of Madden Media
My favorite part of the summit was reuniting with my peers from my 30 Under 30 class! We were able to spend time together, share our experiences and brainstorm new ideas. I also presented an idea for a session and as a result, I was able to serve as a panelist for one of the sessions titled “Perceptions Vs. Reality: Communicating Around Crime and Safety in Destinations.” I was joined on the panel by Jordoun Eatman, Vice President of Engagement & Inclusion at Experience Grand Rapids, and it was moderated by Danny Guerrero, CEO & Founder of The Culturist Group.
I highly recommend this conference to anyone in Marketing or Communications roles at their destination. And if you’re ever looking to get more involved or have a topic you’re passionate about that you think would make a great session – why not ask? Remember, you can create the opportunities you seek!