by: Andreas Weissenborn, Destinations International
Let’s face it, it has been a tough year to be a destination organization. Yet, if you read the room, it was a hard year for all industries, and we feel it. Like that of a pressure cooker, slowly building both in and around our sector: our home-life, work-life and, well, just life is in a tough spot right now. What we outlined with our values is still very much at play in our day to day, however; in such a divisive world we currently reside in, it is natural for anxiety to creep into our lives. A consequence of anxiety is that it leads to more conflict between our logic and emotions in our decision-making processes.
Right now, everyone is both tired and triggered by the world that is revolving and it is showing through our anxiety. From both sides, science is being questioned, faith used as a weapon, and politics as a battle of attrition, with neither side winning. In this next normal, we are facing heightened areas of anxiety not quite seen since the great depression, only now it is being made worse by the pandemic. For those who have been hardest hit in our communities, we might consider these times the era of anxiety. However, we do have the tools to assuage anxiety and the means to build mindfulness into what we do to better shield our work and destinations from anxiety. The only way to combat anxiety is to cultivate joy and lots of it. We can teach our communities how to feel positive in both where they live and where they travel. Let’s break down what we as a sector can do to cultivate joy in our work.
Identify, Reflect, and Project (I.R.P)
Each day, you should take the time to exhibit the following traits both internally and externally for your organization:
- Identify one positive occurrence or activity for both your organization and community each workday. For example: it cannot be overstated how important celebrations and anniversaries are to our community. Many of our destinations are lucky to have long-standing partners in our community who add to the fabric of the brand and placemaking. You should identify and become aware of those milestones or celebrations they may have (years in business, new menu or items released, or long-serving individuals in tourism.) When a positive occurrence or event can be identified, you can work to ensure that it is felt by all in the community. Go the extra step and ask both your staff and stakeholders to reflect on their positive occurrence.
- Project these positive happenings outwards. Use all means of social media to connect the brand back to these positive events. It is equally important to share internally with staff through email, Slack, Teams or staff meetings.
To really stick the landing of the first component of I.R.P, add a dose of gratitude and thankfulness for that positive event. Any reflection of gratitude helps provide an emotional awareness of joy in our communities and oneself and helps extend this feeling through the moment.
It might feel awkward to consider tracking joy, yet tracking our other sales and marketing activities by other means is so central to being a destination organization. From funding spent, to events booked, and marketing connections, we track and analyze all our activities to provide a sense of accomplishment in our work. So why not track joy? If we are projecting positivity and gratefulness through our social media channels, take some time each week or month to reflect on their engagement. Did a certain post generate more comments/likes/reshares than the others? Track it! Over time, you will have a considerable cache of joy to analyze.
Being able to reframe a negative into a positive is one of the most concrete ways to conjure joy in the day-to-day. We all face hardships at the individual, organizational, and community levels. However, it’s all in the story we tell ourselves about said hardships and how we deal with them. Instead of lamenting all group business that has canceled due to the pandemic, look at the opportunity to drive in-market or resident awareness of the same assets normally only promoted to visitors. The adage of “if life gives you lemons” could never be as true as in the era of anxiety. Whatever these positive affirmations are, make sure to push them through I.R.P, as discussed earlier.
Give more than you take. We have the ability at the individual and organizational level to distribute kindness at the world stage through our brand. We feel better about ourselves and our work when we are doing it for the benefit of others. For a destination organization, it might be raising awareness or volunteering for issues surrounding social or cultural enhancement to your community. When the community experiences our work through our acts of goodwill, it will be remembered and, more importantly, rewarded back through good faith.
Finally, and perhaps most difficult of all, we should practice being mindful and investing more time in being in the present moment. Our work should help both residents and visitors alike feel good about our community. We turn visitors into residents and residents into community members. Our role is highlighting the big and small that happen in our community every day and we cannot lose sight of our contributions of both pushing back on anxiety and investing in joy in our communities. We all should think of ourselves as destination mindfulness organizations.
We plan to share more around cultivating joy and becoming more mindful in our organizations. We would love to hear ideas and suggestions you may have on being mindful in your destination!
For now, some resources on adapting mindfulness practices in your organization may be found here.