By Rebecca Wu, Tourism Richmond
I learned about Destinations International 30 under 30 (30u30) on my first day of work at Tourism Richmond in 2018. I would not be eligible to apply until 2020, but I was excited about the prospect of networking with industry professionals from all over the continent, attending the Annual Conference, participating in year-round professional opportunities, and gaining recognition as an emerging leader in the tourism industry. It was my short-term goal to apply and be selected into the 2020 30u30 class.
Last February, after spending hours fine-tuning my essay and ensuring my home-made video was under 1.5 minutes, I finally submitted my application right before the deadline. With my fingers crossed, I waited patiently for the results which were expected to be released in April. Shortly after, the COVID-19 pandemic took us by surprise and decimated the travel and tourism industry. At that point, I was not sure what would happen next. Would travel resume later in the year? What was going to happen to our stakeholders, and what can we do to support them? I believe a lot of people had the same questions, and were seeking answers and ideas on how to pivot their entire strategy.
As I was struggling to make sense of what was happening in the world, I received an acceptance email into the 2020 class of 30u30. I was pleasantly surprised; although I was confident about my chances, I knew the competition was fierce as there were many qualified applicants. This email turned my year around, as one of the highlights of 2020 was being inducted into the 30u30 class. I had the opportunity to virtually meet 29 other young professionals, and gain insight into what their organizations were doing to adapt and pivot during the pandemic. It was very reassuring to have access to a core support group during times of uncertainty, and to share and exchange stories with each other.
We were invited to the virtual Annual Conference in the summer, which was very well organized, and provided relevant and timely content. After attending the conference, I was hopeful that the tourism industry will recover quicker than expected. Destinations International also organized monthly Lunch and Learns, and invited experts from different fields to share their experience and provide us with invaluable insights on how to progress in our careers.
So far, it has been a rewarding experience being part of the 2020 30u30 class. Although it was not exactly what I imagined it to be, I am a very grateful that the Destinations International team continued to invest in the 30u30 program. They reassured us that our class would still have access to the same quality of professional development opportunities. The guidance and support of everyone in the program helped me remain optimistic, even when things were trending in the opposite direction.
We are probably the most resilient class so far, and I am confident that we will continue to make a significant difference in our industry. I look forward to hopefully meeting everyone one day – maybe in Richmond, Canada – and celebrate our accomplishments in person.
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