by: Alyssa Poulin, Destinations International
I recently had the incredible opportunity to spend two days connecting with over 30 representatives of Mexican destination organizations at the 3er Encuentro de OMDs (3rd Meeting of DMOs) amidst the sunny desert backdrop of Saltillo, Mexico. Not only did I introduce the development of our Event Impact Calculator (EIC) tool for Mexican destinations (in Spanish!), but I also shared our ongoing research on the role of destination organizations in addressing crime and safety.
Here are a few takeaways from my time at this special meeting.
I find when presenting sessions with time for Q&A that I am surprised by how much I learn from the audience, in addition to the other way around. I observed members of the audience taking notes and expressing curiosity as I shared examples of US destination organizations contributing to safety initiatives in their communities. Yet the most stunning part for me was the number of questions and comments the audience freely shared. As I had presented in Spanish, a small part of me hoped the audience would let me off easy with no questions – of course, this would not be the case!
Audience members shared their own struggles with crime and safety and some examples of initiatives their destinations are working to implement. There was even interest in convening a roundtable for Mexican destination organizations to discuss solutions. One finding I gathered is that violence manifests itself differently across different regions in the country. Crime tended to be concentrated in certain areas and different types of crime are more prevalent in other areas. The same could likely be said about crime around the world, and it is important to remember we are not looking for one-size-fits-all solutions here. As we build out the final deliverable of this project, a compendium of best practices, we seek examples from destinations large and small covering a diverse range of challenges and solutions.
Another takeaway is that WhatsApp is the way for connecting stakeholders in Mexico. It seems that most folks utilize WhatsApp over a traditional phone messaging service, and I found that conference attendees were more likely to ask to connect on WhatsApp than via email. More importantly, Mexican destinations are leveraging the service to connect with residents and industry partners in innovative ways.
In conjunction with Julio Valdes of CAT Consultores, we are developing a case study on Saltillo, Mexico’s use of WhatsApp to “citizen-ize” security in the destination. Federico Fernandez, Saltillo’s Chief of Security, shared some novel concepts around safety and ensuring residents feel secure and have open lines of contact with police. In an excellent panel following this case study presentation, a hotelier and CVB director joined the stage to share their perspectives on safety and crime prevention. One of my favorite takeaways was the idea that we need to innovate and meet residents where they are. By utilizing the popular messaging platform WhatsApp, Federico was able to galvanize residents around community safety. The group agreed that safety should not be politicized, and we all have a responsibility for discussing safety transparently and in open forums.
Even with variations by region, destination size and so on, I found that Mexican destinations seem in alignment about the important things. Across several sessions, I picked up on a theme around finding your destination’s strengths and playing to them. In her session on attracting international events, Farah Frederick, Marketing Manager of the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Monterrey, emphasized the importance of understanding what your destination can uniquely deliver on and finding ways to communicate this to event planners.
Special thanks to Julio for organizing this event and bringing together some brilliant industry minds. There are so many case studies and examples we can learn from our Mexican destination peers. All the more reason to practice our Spanish!