Those Who Do Not Learn From History…Are Really Missing Out.


By Maura Allen Gast, FCDME, Irving Convention & Visitors Bureau

There’s a quote about those not familiar with history being doomed to repeat it, which ordinarily is something I would champion as, across the span of my career, I’ve had plenty of mistakes to learn from and to try really hard not repeat.

But in the context of this post, I’m hoping the history we need to become familiar with will provide learning in a positive context.

When I got plugged into the then-International Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus way back when, it was the Education Committee (now Professional Development) that captured my passion.  Having only been at one CVB, I knew my perspective was very limited on who and how and what we could be, and engaging there completely opened my eyes.  And lead me to the great privilege of being a reviewer of drafts of “the book” – Managing Destination Marketing Organizations: The Tasks, Roles and Responsibilities of the Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive, by Bob Ford and Bill Peeper.  Which is what completely opened my eyes to our history and how and why we got started, and all the steps along the way…which is what ultimately helped me shape the “Building Blocks” I shared at the conclusion of my term as chair of by-then Destinations Marketing Association International in Atlanta in July 2009.

What it takes to do what we do as destination leaders doesn’t fit cleanly into a syllabus or a standard curriculum outline.  A lot of it has had to come from what moments make of us, what moments make us do. The dynamics of each of our destinations often require us to do the same things our peers to, but to do them very differently based on those local nuances. 

It’s why the content for programs like CDME and DMAP can never be “one and done.”  It’s why we have to keep updating the definition of our asteroids, every time we encounter and then ultimately come out on the other side of a 9-11, or Avian Flu, or Sarbanes-Oxley, or SARS, or COVID. Or hurricanes and tornadoes and typhoons and tidal waves and raging fires and feudal wars.  All before we ever touch on the asteroids that can be local politics…

In 2014, then Destinations International Board Secretary-Treasurer Gary Sherwin shepherded the creation of our industry’s first Hall of Fame, in conjunction with the centennial celebration of our first annual convention.  There were some immediately top-of-mind first-year inductees, particularly Milton J. Carmichael, The Detroit Journal writer turned first chief staff executive of the Detroit Convention & Businessmen’s League, the first organization built to focus on conventions as an economic priority beyond just seasonal visitors. Since then, 40 of our industry’s leading contributors have been named to the Hall.

In 2017 the first Destination Organization Leadership Awardee was recognized, Rossi Ralenkotter, the former CEO of the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, and four others have followed him. (You can click here for the full list.)

There’s a lot of our industry leadership already inducted in these rolls, but I know there are so many more out there that should be. And many of those stories may not be immediately known outside our respective destinations. And it’s not just stories about CEOs or Executive Directors, by the way.  We’ve been shaped by so many at so many levels of leadership.

But it is time that more of those stories get shared, so that we can continue to grow and learn and represent as an industry.  I’m honored to serve with my long-time peer and colleague Melvin Tennant as co-chairs of this year’s Awards Committee, a great committee that also includes Tania Armenta, Ryan George, John Groh, Michael Gunn, Leonard Hoops, Charles Jeffers, and Valerie Knoblauch, and which is more than well and ably supported by Destinations International staffers Jack Johnson and Chelsea Welter.

Nominations are currently open for inductees into the “Class of 2022” for the Hall of Fame and for the Destination Organization Leadership Awards.  Details and nomination forms for the Hall can be found here, and for the Leadership Award here and the deadline for submittals is April 8 – so the clock is TICKING!!