By Jack Johnson, Destinations International
To date we have covered five key values in the operation of a destination organization. Each new value builds upon the last and when looked at together provides a roadmap to becoming a community shared value. We started with destination passion and destination awareness which drives us in everything we do. Next came the values of transparency and inclusion, critical in building trust with a community. Those four values lay the groundwork for the fifth value of destination engagement and the sixth value we discuss in this post, destination collaboration.
As its Latin roots of com and laborare suggest, collaboration reduced to its simplest definition means "to work together." Destination Collaboration is the action of working with someone to produce or create something. Effective collaboration contributes to our success. We work together with our customers, members, clients, suppliers, and community stakeholders to reach our goals. We seek to empower these people with better sharing of information to improve our capacity to solve key problems which ultimately leads to new innovations and approaches.
When we think of collaboration with the community, we identify, engage, and work collaboratively with communities of place (a physical or geographic space like a neighborhood), communities of identity (a group of people tied to each other through social characteristics) and communities of interest (a group of people tied to each other by an issue or goal) within our destination. Such collaborations in key areas such as strategic planning, brand development, and marketing/sales efforts can mutually benefit the community while fulfilling the destination organization’s mission. It can also lay the groundwork for longer-term conversations around issues like funding and destination stewardship.
Through collaborations, destination organizations should create broad-based, local coalitions to help advance, develop, and sustain the destination organization and its goals. The purpose of such coalitions is to develop and promote the destination organization’s vision, mobilize resources, ensure accountability, keep the community informed, nurture partnerships and relationships, and build the capacity to sustain the effort.
There is a need to build sustainable community partnerships beyond just our traditional hospitality members. Too often, relationships between destination organizations and community partners are short-lived, existing only for the duration of a specific project or venture. Partners need to understand they must stay the course to achieve better results in destination promotion. Destinations organizations, in turn, need to create welcoming environments that make their partners want to stay involved. With long-term, committed community partnerships in place built upon a collaborative relationship, it becomes easier to tap into a range of grassroots support and possible funding opportunities. It is easier because everyone has developed an attitude that says, “We’re in this together.”
While more can be done to maximize current support a destination organization may have with existing resources, the present constraints on public and private funding streams, indeed the cutbacks that are occurring at various levels, cannot be overlooked. The cross-sector leadership structures forged to support a community’s destination organization have the potential to serve as a new voice for necessary funding. Partners, forged through collaboration, should advocate for increased and stable financing of the programs and services needed at by a destination organization.
But it all starts with collaboration.