By: Alyssa Poulin, Destinations International
I spent some time with Jane Cunningham, our Director of European Engagement, to get a pulse check on what is going on in European destinations. Little did I know, I would learn much more than just how things are going in Europe. We discussed the challenges and triumphs of global destinations, the future of advocacy, and the “I” in Destinations International.
In the nine months since Jane joined our growing Destinations International team, she has already seen and done so much. Right away, she humbly rattled off some of her accomplishments. She has visited twelve cities globally, connected with over 100 individuals around the world on listening calls, and attended or spoken at six international events (from our own CEO Summit, to travel trade and business events meetings). And yet, after twenty years in the industry, she finds herself learning much and making new connections the world over.
One of Jane’s initial objectives is to engage with global destinations and partners in a listening tour. Our team listens to her updates with wide eyes as we envision Destinations International truly coming into its name.
What are the takeaways? We’re learning what is going on in destinations around the world and, as you’ll find below, not only European but also Asian and Oceanic destinations. Attending these events has gained us a broader understanding of all types of destination organizations (from regional to national and beyond). Our association is gaining insights on industry sentiment, what people are feeling across the sector right now. We’re understanding the need to communicate the handprint and footprint of travel and tourism and its impact supporting communities and the workers who live there. We’re learning the challenges global destinations are facing. But, we are also learning from the destinations excelling at sustainability and seeing how others might emulate their success.
"My first Destinations International Annual Convention offered excellent networking opportunities with DMO’s representing a wide variety of destinations, not only in North America, but on all other continents. Taking part in such a comprehensive exchange of ideas, research and knowledge, touching on hot topics such as sustainable and responsible tourism, DEI as well as creating legacy truly made me feel that DMO’s and their teams can make a difference, helping to solve global challenges together.” – Antonia Koedijk, Director, North America, Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions
Perhaps most importantly, we are establishing trust first. As we build ambassadors over the coming years, we aim to solidify our position as the world’s largest association of destination organizations. We’re in this for the long haul. Our mission is to empower our members around the world so that their destinations excel. We’re working on developing what that looks like moving forward.
“We’re all dealing with the same issues but we can learn so much from our European colleagues. They are further down the road.”
- Adam Burke, President & CEO, Discover Los Angeles
And of course, Jane is just getting started. She will represent our membership of destination marketing and management professionals at six more events in the remaining months of this year. First up was Malaysia Business Events Week (MBEW) in Kuala Lumpur where she spoke this week on our Equity Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) efforts and helped broaden the discussion from a US-focus to a more global lens. She is also keen to share how neurodiversity fits into this conversation. Next up is the CityDNA Autumn Conference in Tel Aviv where Jack Johnson will be sharing our Community Shared Value work with European cities. Next, she will be speaking on business events and some of our core advocacy focuses: destination stewardship, community alignment, and organizational resilience at the Regional Tourism New Zealand conference. She will then speak on the importance of creating welcoming destinations and embracing the diversified traveler at 2022 IGLTA Global Convention in Milan. At ICCA Congress in Krakow she is looking forward to connecting with the global meetings industry. To round out her 2022 world tour, she will connect with destination marketing and management professionals at IBTM World in Barcelona.
“It was so refreshing to attend an event that focused on the destination... I was particularly impressed with the drive to really make impact in communities, particularly in violent crime and community transformation. So many industry organisations speak about this, none, in my humble opinion are taking action so DI really are a leader in this.”
- Rory Archibald, Senior Business Events Manager, Visit Scotland
Perhaps more interesting than the dates and destinations she’ll be jet-setting to are the themes that are arising at these global events. In Europe and beyond, there is a lot of talk about Community Shared Value and the importance of understanding our residents. There is an understanding forming that destination organizations the world over have a deeper requirement to engage with their residents. This is about looking at who lives in our community, incorporating their voices into our planning efforts, and always remembering that everything we do must be done with their collective benefit in mind. Visit Flanders, for example, is committed not just to growing its economy through tourism, but to helping the destination flourish. One European framework to view these resident stakeholder interests is the “quadruple helix” of business, academia, citizens, and government.
European destinations are focusing heavily on impact, sustainability, commitment to the environment and reduced inequality. When it comes to impact, so much is at play here.
In the business events world, there has always been a sense of needing to differentiate between the traditional “heads in beds; bums in seats,” mentality we have become attuned to tuning out. Business events professionals, tend to see themselves as creators and not as consumers. The real debate is how do we better articulate the impact of business events and, for that matter, the impact of destination organizations? At PCMA’s 2022 Convening EMEA in Vienna next month, we will get the meetings industry’s take on this question.
Jane’s time spent engaging with destinations the world over underscores an industry truth: we all need to be aligned to move forward.