This past December, a presentation by Jack Johnson, Chief Advocacy Officer at Destinations International, on the large number of elections across the world in 2024 got me thinking. Crisis control during an election year in the best of times is stressful enough. This year, however, things are a bit different. With wars, environmental issues, natural disasters, and fluctuating economies, the onslaught of crises has landed us in a Polycrisis Era. Add to all of this that eight of the world’s ten most populated nations will hold national elections this year, with 40 national elections happening worldwide. That’s, well, a lot. As destinations look to 2024 with hope for peaceful elections and transfers of power among the countless other crises, it’s time to take stock.
Effective crisis control in an election year means starting now, before people head to the polls, to set your destination up for success.
1. Update Crisis Response Tactics Now
First and foremost, the start of a new year is the ultimate time to update your crisis communication materials in general — election or no election. Crisis control during an election year will require extra steps, of course, to deal with many political variables including conventions and protests.
Having the rest of your response tactics in place, however, will alleviate some of the stress when your DMO finds itself juggling other crises that pop up. Earthquakes and blizzards don’t wait for the “right time” to strike, after all.
2. Reconnect With Partners and Stakeholders
When a crisis hits, your destination needs to get partners on board, so reaffirming your line of communication with them is vital now. As elections approach, they’ll be watching the polls as closely as you. Making sure they are aware of your contingency plans and strategies during these often-turbulent times is essential. Send them a message or test your emergency messaging to let them know you’re prepared and considering them. It will make it easier to engage them to act if a new crisis erupts during this election year.
3. Connect with Candidates
Destination Organizations need to remember they are working for local communities first and foremost — the same people who are heading to the polls this year. That’s something you and the candidates have in common. Use the time before election day to connect with candidates about issues affecting destination advocacy. Consider how you can make sure they know what’s important to your destination with regards to tourism — be it infrastructure, innovation investment, or sustainability — so they can be sure they are working for your community effectively. Candidates can easily forget how important a destination organization’s work is for the community, so it’s worth reminding them while they are fighting to win votes. Plus, having a line of communication with these future policymakers is essential for crisis comms strategies during the election or otherwise.
4. Engage Those Not on the Ballot
While focus is on candidates, 2024 is a strategic year to build relationships with officials not running. As they are breathing easy, not battling for a seat, they will be more receptive to discussions about the issues facing your destination from a tourism viewpoint. Reach out to them, have meetings, and lay out your issues so that they are prepared to act on the concerns and needs you present. With their hands free from the election, they’ll be able to help advocate for your destination organization more effectively during a crisis.
5. Inform the Public
As your local community — for whom you are advocating — heads to the polls, make sure they know the role you play in keeping them safe during the trying times. Develop and share campaigns about issues that matter to your destination partners and locals alike so that they can be even more informed when voting. Living in a destination, it’s easy to shrug off tourism as something that just happens, but the benefits are manifold. So, make them known! Let your local community know the impact — both qualitatively and quantitatively — while they are the most receptive and deciding which officials to elect.
6. Tighten Relationships with Public Services
Finally, while elections tend to be peaceful, a quick flip through a history book reveals examples to the contrary. This is the optimal time to rekindle and strengthen relationships with the local public services in your destination. Reach out to security forces, public transportation, and meeting venues to understand what they are planning during this election year. Hopefully you won’t have to work together during the election season. Affirming that you’re all on the same page will be another ounce of stress off your shoulders during this Polycrisis Era compounded by a massive election year.