About the Lexicon

At our 2018 Annual Conference, we released our policy brief entitled, “The New Tourism Lexicon: Rewriting Our Industry’s Narrative.” In it, we demonstrate why our industry must utilize a new tourism vocabulary to connect with stakeholders in a meaningful way and better illustrate the value of destination organizations. If we hope to change the narratives surrounding our industry, we must begin with a values-based approach. That means speaking with stakeholders in a manner that is simple and emotional and connects their values to your organization. This brief was a follow-up to a brief published in 2017 entitled, “Advocacy in the Face of Ideology.”

The Lexicon aims to help provide framing for destinations on the rules of effective language:

  1. Keep it simple.
    Unless you speak the language of your intended audience, you won’t be heard by the people you want to reach. When it comes to effective communication, small beats large, short beats long, and plain beats complex.
  2. Say It. Repeat it. Say it again.
    Finding a good message and then sticking with it takes extraordinary discipline, but it pays. Remember, you may tire of saying the same exact same thing again and again, but many in your audience will be hearing it for the first time.
  3. Provide context.
    Without context, you cannot establish a message’s value, its impact or, most importantly, its relevance. Far too often, leaders in our industry tout the benefits of tourism and destination promotion without providing a broader context. We provide “solutions” without attaching them to an identifiable “problem,” and, in such instances, those solutions come across as meaningless.
  4. Credibility is as important as philosophy.
    The words you use become you, and you become the words you use. If your words lack sincerity, if they contradict accepted facts, circumstances, or perceptions, they will lack impact.


Since 2018, we have released a new iteration of the Tourism Lexicon annually to reflect how our stakeholders spoke about common or public goods in the prior year. This year-over-year analysis has given us the data to rank and order the words each year and to illustrate themes or values that arise. A demonstration of this can be seen below from our presentation at the 2019 Advocacy Summit.

Advocacy Summit Session

In 2020, we expanded the lexicon’s geographic reach into Australia and Canada. The latter was introduced in our pandemic lexicon, as we explored how politicians in these two countries were discussing the pandemic. In exploring how stakeholders spoke across different countries, we were able to discern how our values come across in unique ways. For example, the United States puts more emphasis on business in its expressions while Canada emphasizes words relating to government and social programs.


These insights laid the groundwork for the foundation values that informed our Community Shared Value roadmap workbook.

In addition, we expanded our set of goods beyond just public goods to also include narratives around civic, social, and equitable goods. These expanded sets of goods reflect how our communities changed throughout 2020 due to the pandemic and the civic, social, and climate unrest we all experienced.

The Reason for the Lexicon

We will continue to release updated tourism lexicons each year to help our industry communicate its work and worth in simple and effective language that resonates with our stakeholders. Each year, it is important to remember:

  1. Words matter and those words need to be chosen carefully and reflect our values and the values of our community.
  2. Facts matter, but only as a support to our words and values and not as stand-alone statements.
  3. Continuous engagement matters as a reinforcement of our words and the underscoring of our of values.
  4. Actions matter as they must back up our words or neither our words or actions matter.

International Lexicons

Our advocacy team has developed different versions of the lexicon based on analysis of local political and media databases.