5 Tourism Lessons from the 2022 Annual Convention (From a First-Time Attendee)

By: Alexea Veneracion, Director of Communications at Visit Colorado Springs / 30 Under 30 Class of 2022

When I learned I’d be attending the 2022 Destinations International Annual Convention as part of the 30 Under 30 program, I knew it would be one of the best networking opportunities of my tourism career. It was that – and so much more. I was inspired by the sessions I attended, topics I discussed with my peers and people I met.

Here are the top tourism lessons I learned in a jam-packed two days.

1. The “DMO” is already evolving, and we need to catch up.

Destination Marketing Organization in the traditional sense – an organization that promotes a place as attractive for visitors – is no longer a comprehensive enough definition of a DMO. Many DMOs have already updated their mission statements to include things like economic vitality and resident benefits. It’s time to embrace being more than a Destination Marketing Organization – we are in the business of destination management. If you Google “destination management,” Wikipedia says “There are very few destination management organizations.” I’d argue that there are MANY destination management organizations – we simply aren’t marketing ourselves as such. Owning the destination management part of our organizations’ roles within our communities is key to showcasing tourism as a community value and ensuring we have a seat at the table for all important community discussions.

2. Lean into the hard conversations.

At the convention, I was part of a conversation called the “Foundation Challenge” focused on violent crime in destinations. I was nervous to get into the discussion given that it’s a very sensitive and difficult time in the world right now when it comes to violent crime, specifically mass shootings. But I quickly understood the importance of starting to talk openly about it and acknowledge the role a DMO can and should play when it comes to violent crime and crisis in a community. We are (or we should be) tapped into our community’s resources and networks, so we have the opportunity to be of great value in both the proactive and reactive strategy around community crises. Don’t be afraid to start these conversations – get ahead of them now and tackle the challenges head on.

3. The halo effect is real ­– take advantage.

I wasn’t previously familiar with the halo effect, but it makes sense. When people think positively about one element of your brand, it’s more likely they’ll think positively about other aspects as well. For destinations, studies show just that. A great example was shown about West Virginia Department of Tourism – the brand homed in on its outdoor recreation, wide-open spaces and scenery to generate a strong marketing campaign, increase visitation and heighten its overall positive brand awareness. By elevating what your brand naturally does well, you’re more likely to improve positivity around other brand attributes.

4. There shouldn’t be an “accessibility strategy.”

No, that’s not a typo – there shouldn’t be an accessibility strategy because accessibility shouldn’t be a separate focus area. Accessibility HAS to be ingrained in every aspect of an organization. Welcoming all visitors should truly mean all visitors. At least one-fourth of the population has a disability. But really, accessible features of a destination benefit EVERYONE. Anyone who has broken bones, lost their voice, started aging and having mobility issues – and so many more examples – can benefit from more accessible features in a destination. Take notes from two organizations that are rising above when it comes to integrating accessibility into their destinations – Visit Mesa and Greater Lansing CVB.

5. Banish “advertising value equivalent” for good.

When I first joined my organization two years ago, our primary metric for media coverage was still advertising value equivalent (AVE) otherwise known as equivalency – and it was still being calculated by physically measuring with a ruler how much page space an article received. Even with a savvier calculating system, the truth is that any and all AVE formulas confuse cost with value. PR has changed drastically over the years as the world has become digital and new channels have emerged – so it’s time to ditch AVE once and for all. DI launched a PR Measurement Guidelines Handbook for destination organizations. If you haven’t already, urge your communications team to read the handbook and reassess how PR efforts are being measured.

If you’ve never been and you’re considering attending the annual convention (or sending a team member for the first time) – do it! One thing is guaranteed – you’ll make impactful connections and leave with a renewed energy to bring back to your organization.

About the Author

Alexea VeneracionDirector of Communications at Visit Colorado Springs / 30 Under 30 Class of 2022

About the Author

Alexea joined Visit COS in February 2020 after spending five years at a public relations agency. She oversees internal and external communications, including media and influencer relationships, crisis communications, social media strategy and editorial content. An innovator and breaker of the status quo, Alexea was awarded a Colorado Inno "Inno on Fire" award in 2019 for her work on several Colorado-based PR campaigns. When she’s not coordinating media visits and building out content calendars, you can find her hitting the hiking trails or grabbing a bite at her favorite local restaurants.

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