The Value of Innovation


By Jack Johnson, Destinations International

We live in an era of astounding technological transformation in which change, not stability, has become the norm. All around us are now-familiar technologies whose very existence would have seemed extraordinary just a generation ago. From wireless telephones, handheld GPS units, and digital television to computers, the Internet, and the World Wide Web—technology is everywhere and touching all of us in ever more pervasive ways. New forms of entertainment, commerce, research, work, building materials and communication have been fueling the pace of change. They have and continue to create a myriad of new opportunities but many, including economies and governments, are still having a hard time adjusting to this new era quick enough.

Travel has been at the forefront of change. The cell phone has become the tour guide, travel agency, best restaurant locator, map, and more. The cell phone is by our side during the entire journey. The technology that brought us Siri and Alexa, the virtual assistants that meet all our needs (what is the weather like today in my city, turn the radio on, open my email, and more) are now being used in hotels thanks to the arrival of virtual assistants that are specifically designed for this environment. Travel technology is becoming more powerful with help from 5G networks. They promise much faster loading and downloading speeds, wider coverage, and more stable connections. We can do more things and do them faster.

For destination organizations the changes have resulted in more and better information. Looking at travelers and their amount of spent, the reason for the trip, the country of origin and cross-checks this information with public data from public and private sources can develop the extensive visitor profiles and achieve a higher marketing success rate. Better information means better segmentation for campaigns to increase their efficacy and optimize the investment. Personal data can make trip personalization easier and increase visitor satisfaction. The travel industry is one where interaction with the consumer is becoming more critical, and the technological advances are letting us get closer and know our customers a bit better.

At the heart of this age of change is the growth in information technology. We are amid an information revolution that is every bit as profound as the two great technological revolutions of the past—the agricultural and industrial revolutions. We are in the Information Age. The Information Age has changed technology, science, economies, culture, and even the way people think. The Internet, arguably the most prominent innovation of the Information Age has changed the way people do everything. From how they seek information, shop and are entertained. The Information Age has brought about many new inventions and innovations, including many in communication with services like texting, email, and social media. The world has not been the same since.

Destination Innovation means to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new destination promotion methods, ideas, or products. We understand that while the organization’s values are unchanging, the means to achieving them are not. We welcome new ideas and fresh perspectives. We embrace and use new technologies and platforms to tell our story.

Destination organizations have been, often out of necessity, very good at incorporating new technologies and innovative ideas in their promotional activities. But too often this has been in reaction to changes, driven by other innovations and aimed at the outside world. And not enough cultivate and foster innovation internally – identifying a problem and innovating a solution. Even fewer have the residents of the community as the driver of these changes.

Many organizations make grand statements about their commitment to innovation but do not invest in the time, people, or money to foster innovative ideas. According to Jorge Barba, a partner at Blu Maya, an innovation consultancy specializing in helping ordinary companies become extraordinary, leaders that want to build an organization that innovates consistently must provide six things to employees: freedom, resources, diverse teams, support, encouragement, and challenge. In other words, you can put it like this: Have bold goals, get out of the way and reward people for trying.

Placing innovation into the core of the organization’s thinking changes the conversations, it can alter the time horizons, it shifts the whole dynamics of where to go to grow and sustain the organization for the future.

To date we have covered six 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 passion and 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 next two values of engagement and collaboration which will put you into the community working with its stakeholders. Your experience and ability for innovation make you a sought-after partner.