By: Gabe Seder, Destinations International
Last month, at Rendez-Vous Canada in Toronto, Destinations International announced the formation of the Canadian Destination Leadership Council. The Destinations International Board of Directors made the council a standing committee of the Association. The Council will serve as a forum for executives from Canada’s destination organizations to collaboratively elevate the voice of Canadian destinations and to tackle key issues affecting the destination organization industry in Canada.
In the months leading up to Rendez-Vous Canada, we reached out to more than 40 destination organizations from every province in Canada to understand their most pressing advocacy priorities. It is clear from these conversations that many destinations continue to suffer lasting consequences from the effects of the pandemic, and that recovery—though well underway—is inconsistent at best. As Canada’s destination leaders build out of the pandemic and into a changed tourism landscape, there is consensus around several priorities for destination organizations across Canada.
1. Build awareness of the value and economic contribution that destination organizations make to communities. Destination organizations must do a better job to educate stakeholders about the impact that they have on the communities they serve. This includes economic return on investment but goes beyond that to include less highlighted outcomes such as the sector’s ability to attract investment and the role the sector plays in adding to the social fabric of Canadian communities.
2. Communicate the value of business events, sports, and related activities. While many stakeholders appreciate the value of “tourism” broadly, we must do more to show the significant impact of meetings, events, sports, and related industries. This is especially important when destination organizations are unable to access funding for sales or marketing of events in their communities.
3. Champion causes that affect access to Canada. The industry must advocate on behalf of Canadian communities to remove barriers to visitation that go beyond pandemic-related travel restrictions, resolving border issues to ease cross-border travel, and championing improved air access for destinations
4. Protect Canadian visitor-based assessments and room taxes. Every effort must be made to protect visitor-based assessments and assure that these are allocated to destination organizations to implement destination marketing and related programs.
5. Improve collaboration among Canadian destination organizations and other industry groups. To carry out the Canadian industry’s strategic priorities, it is essential that opportunities are created for destination organizations to collaborate, coordinate, and organize. Aligning messaging with other industry groups is also crucial for destination organizations to advocate effectively.
6. Share best practices among destination organizations. The industry benefits when the community of destination organizations at various levels can learn from one another and build on each other’s innovations and creativity. It is necessary to establish some Canadian specific best practices in several areas that Canadian destination organizations can bring to their own communities.
The creation of the Canadian Destinations Leadership Council is an important first step in addressing these advocacy priorities. We are confident that by creating a platform for Canadian leaders to convene and collaborate, we are laying the groundwork for a long-term program of strengthening, professionalizing, and elevating the destination industry in Canada.
We anticipate the Council will strengthen the destination organization industry through networking, encouraging professionalization, and providing a platform for a “one voice” approach to advocacy. Council will serve as a dedicated voice to represent the interests of destination organization to Canada’s federal government and other stakeholders, leveraging Destinations International’s resources to communicate the impact of destination organizations in their communities.
Furthermore, the Council offers a mechanism for partnership and collaboration with other Canadian industry groups. Key to success for the Council is partnership with Tourism Industry Association of Canada to raise awareness of the role and impact of destination organizations among policymakers in Ottawa.
Creating the Council was a member-driven initiative. We owe a debt of gratitude to Destinations International’s Canadian members for envisioning this program and bringing it to fruition. Future success of the Canadian Destination Leadership Council depends on engagement and participation of Canadian destination organization leaders. For more information or to find ways to get involved in the Council, contact Gabe Seder: [email protected].