Back in January, I wrote a blog post titled “Essential, Absolutely Necessary, and Very Important, Part 1.” This is the promised sequel.
In the first blog I referenced an article in Wired Magazine titled “Humans Walk Weird. Scientists May Finally Know Why.” which pointed out that humans have an unusual foot which is an oddity in the animal kingdom. That, combined with the fact that we have a strange gait compared to other animals, makes the human walk, well, weird - at least to the rest of the animal kingdom. And, according to the article, all of this has contained a mystery throughout these many years. Why do we walk this way?
When walking, people exhibit a “double bounce” walking pattern: The first bounce helps the foot absorb the impact of the body’s weight as it hits the ground. The second one’s purpose, though, scientists haven’t understood – until now. Biomechanists, a job title that was new to me, determined that the second bounce is an energy-saving technique that allows humans to walk long distances by prioritizing endurance over speed.
Which begs the question - why did humans evolve to prioritize endurance over speed? Why evolve an energy-saving technique that would help humans walk often for longer periods without getting tired? To me, the answer is simple. Because they need to travel. We have been traveling from the beginning of time. The history of humankind is the history of travel.
Therefore, travel is essential to us. It is absolutely necessary to travel for food, water, and fresh air. It is absolutely necessary to travel for companionship, community, and culture. And it is absolutely necessary to travel to stimulate our brains and answer the questions that have filled our minds since the beginning of time. In order to be human, travel is very important.
In 2009, Destinations International’s Chair Maura Gast of Visit Irving Texas offered closing thoughts at the conclusion of her term at the DI Annual Convention in what is now referred to as the famous "if you build a place" speech. It was one of those special moments when a person verbally crystallizes what we all know to be true. Maura Gast said,
“If you build a place where people want to visit, you’ll build a place where people want to live. If you build a place where people want to live, you’ll build a place where people want to work. If you build a place where people want to work, you’ll build a place where business wants to be. And, if you build a place where business wants to be, we’ll be back to building a place where people want to visit. It all starts with the visit and that visit doesn’t happen without us.”
I have heard this repeated many times and too often the person forgets that last phrase - “and that visit doesn’t happen without us.” That is a shame because that last phrase holds all the power of the statement. It doesn’t happen without us. In 2019, Destinations International laid out the argument for public support for destination organizations and the work we do. We laid out the community need destination organizations fill.
"In today's globalized, interconnected world, every community must compete with every other for its share of the world's visibility - its share of attention and respect. Every community must compete for its share of the world's tourists, its share of consumers, and its share of available talent. Every community must compete for its share of the world's businesses and its share of available capital and investment. Those communities that fail to compete will lose ground. They will be left behind.”
We went on to explain how that community need is filled.
“The community needs infrastructure, public space, transportation, capacity, and residents. But these are not enough. For a community to compete, people need to know about the destination, hear about it, and be able to find it when they search. People need to have a clear and positive image of the destination brand. This will create a desire for people to visit the destination, experience the people for themselves and ultimately share their experiences with others.”
We went further and explained why destination organizations, and what we do, are the means to fill that need and we made it clear who we are doing it for.
“We bring strategies to achieve awareness and positive impressions; brand development, management and communication; promotion, marketing, sales and visitor engagement. Sound familiar? Destination organizations are the experts. They have the tools, knowledge and relationships to provide the solutions. And most importantly, they have something that no outsider will ever bring to the table: They have the love for their community to see it through.
Destination promotion is for the benefit and well-being of every person in a community. It is an essential investment in developing opportunities and building quality of life for the people of a destination.
What does our industry always point to? How many jobs are created, how much local spending is generated, how much local tax revenue is generated and how much economic activity is generated. So, who is it helping? Who is our customer? It is the residents of the community.”
And we summed it all up in what we called the Cornerstone Statement - the argument for public support for destination organizations and destination promotion.
“Every community must compete with every other community for its share of the world's attention, customers, and investment. To compete, people need to know about a community, have a positive impression, and want to visit to experience the community and meet its people.
This is achieved by clearly developing, articulating, and managing the community's brand. Efforts must be made to promote, market, sell, and engage potential visitors. And all of this must be reinforced over and over again. Destination organizations are uniquely positioned to do this.
Addressing this need for destination promotion is for the benefit and well-being of everyone in a community. It is a common good. It is an essential investment in developing opportunities and building a quality of life that benefits all residents of a community.”
Most recently we added one final touch to this.
“Our purpose is not to put heads in hotel beds, seats in restaurants, or even the return on investment we drive. Return on investment is just a measure of how well we are doing our job. The purpose of a destination organization is to help the community achieve its goals by leveraging the power of destination promotion. That is our starting point.”
In other words, “It all starts with the visit and that visit doesn’t happen without us.” That means that destination organizations are essential. It means that destination promotion is absolutely necessary. And it means this work is very important.
Since then, we have tried to create an infographic that captured not only the statement by Maura Gast but also included the role of the destination organization and the community it serves. And in working on this we realized that the graphic is not a “circle of life” that many have called Maura’s statement. It is a wheel driven by the work of the community and the destination organization in brand management, place stewardship and infrastructure investment, and the promotional and sales work that is done.
The speed of the wheel is in direct response to that work. If it goes too fast, you may end up with poorly managed tourism and a depletion of resources. If it goes too slow you can end up with economic and social stagnation. That is why you need professionals, destination professionals, to keep the wheel moving and at the correct pace for your community. And that means that destination professionals are essential. They are absolutely necessary. They are very important people.
This is the result.
Destination promotion is a catalyst for community vitality, driving what is needed for a community to become that destination where people want to visit, live, work and play. And it is how a destination organization achieves its purpose to help the community achieve its goals by leveraging the power of destination promotion. And it is why that visit doesn’t happen without us.