Words Matter: The Newest Tourism Lexicon

<span>Words Matter: The Newest Tourism Lexicon</span>

by: Destinations International Advocacy & Research Team

The Tourism Lexicon
2020 United States Edition

economic development
fund / funding
know / knowledge
work / working

Button: 2020 Tourism Lexicon

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FDN: 2020 Lexicon Text

Destinations International has made the case that relying merely on ROI numbers to defend the value and relevancy of a destination organization was no longer a viable advocacy strategy. Instead, we argued, destination organizations need to support the message of ROI in terms of dollars and cents with an emotional and value-based appeal to convince political leaders and community stakeholders that without a destination organization, these returns will inevitably vanish.

In our policy paper “The New Tourism Lexicon: Rewriting Our Industry's Narrative,” we pointed out that our industry has unfortunately fallen for what George Lakoff, a professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, dubs the “Enlightenment Fallacy.” According to this viewpoint, you simply need to tell people the facts in clear language and they will reason to the right, true conclusions. The problem, as Lakoff puts it is, “The cognitive and brain sciences have shown this is false... it’s false in every single detail.”

The reality is that people tend to frame political arguments, and the facts behind them, in terms of their own values. What this means, essentially, is that words matter in politics, and those words need to be chosen carefully and need to carry an emotional connection that connects with people’s values and the values of our industry.

The Values of the Destination Organization Community

Values are important and lasting beliefs or ideals shared by the members of a community about what is good or bad and desirable or undesirable. They serve as broad guidelines in all situations and are important in the way we live and work. Core to our industry are those values we hold which form the foundation on which we perform work and conduct ourselves. These are so important to us that throughout the changes in society, politics, and technology they still are the foundation upon which we build our organization and develop our programs.

Destinations International identified the following eight values that our industry embodies (or should embody). Each organization within our sector has additional values that makes them unique and ties them to their destination.

  • Awareness: Concern about and well-informed interest in a situation, topic, or development. We are aware. We ask questions. We research. We engage. And most of all, we listen. We are well informed about our community, its past and its present, and we understand the hopes and dreams the people of our community - our home.
  • Passion: An intense desire or enthusiasm for something. We are passionate about our destination. We have a strong desire to strengthen the community’s economic position and vitality and provide opportunity for all its residents. And it is with enthusiasm and eagerness that we seek to tell the world the story of our destination, of our history, of our culture, of our community and of our people.
  • Relevance: Closely connected or appropriate to what is being done or considered. We are relevant in our community. Our leadership, expertise and acumen is understood and valued. Our community depends upon our programs achieving our mission.
  • Transparency: Open to public scrutiny. We gladly inform our stakeholders and the community about what we do, how we operate and our return on investment. This means that in addition to sharing our successes and victories, we also share when we have fallen short or failed. We seek to be responsible and accountable without any prompting or prodding.
  • Collaboration: 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.
  • Inclusiveness: Not excluding any section of society or any party involved in something. We welcome all into the fold. No one is turned away. We always strive to find ways to bring new people, new perspectives, and new ideas into our universe and through this, develop a clear, honest, and positive image of the destination’s brand that reflects everyone with our community.
  • Innovation: Make changes in something established, especially by introducing new 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.
  • Sustainability: The ability to be maintained; avoidance of the depletion of resources to maintain balance. We understand that we are building value not for ourselves but for our customers, members, stakeholders, and future generations. We understand that this must be done in a way that maintains our community, our assets and preserves our brand while growing opportunity.

The New Tourism Lexicon

If we are going to be successful in changing the narrative surrounding our industry, it starts with a values-based approach. That means talking to stakeholders in a manner that is simple and emotional and connects their values to your organization.

Utilizing Quorum, the world's most comprehensive database of legislative information, we were able to build a list of key words that were used repeatedly by elected officials when talking positively about travel and tourism. Positive words like “community,” “people” and “work” showed up repeatedly. We then ran an analysis of political discourse around related topics and public goods and found that many of the same key words were being repeated by political leaders. In 2018 we released a list of ten key words. A year later, we updated that list and expanded it to twenty words.

Today, we are releasing our 2020 edition and expanding the list to thirty words. This is an United States version with Canada and other countries in the works. This list is a result of running searches in five general areas that are public goods at the combined local, county, state, and federal level in the United States. The result was 1,585 words from 1,519,376 entries taken from the external communications, including social media posts, newsletters, and press releases of elected officials across the United States.

In selecting the words, we started by eliminating words that are numbers, people, places, and names.  We eliminated “shop talk” - words associated with government process. Then we eliminated connecting words like “and” or “to” as well as words that are clearly connected to but are not the actions and subject of sentences and thoughts – words like “going” or “say”. It is those actions and thoughts that are what we are after.

Lexicon During the Great Interruption

The 2020 search reflected the current events with words like COVID-19, pandemic, and others as well as words associated with activities to combat the virus, reopening plans, and a rise in health-related words like “cases.”  The word “health" came in #13 out of 1,585 words. The highest-ranking location to show up in the list is “New York” which was a center of the pandemic for many months. “Hospitals” replaced “schools” as a highly rank civic location.

Perhaps related to the pandemic and the federal government’s efforts to push authority down to the states, units of local government and states are highly placed on the list. The words “City,” “County” and “State” are all in the top ten. Words associated with the federal government are much lower. “National” shows up at #219 and “Washington” shows up at #446.

The current civil unrest that began with death of George Floyd is also represented in the 1,535 words with Floyd being the highest-ranking person on the search list.  Words associated with protest, marches, police, and justice are also highly ranked.

It is worth noting that the word “visit” ranked #215, “welcomed” ranked #313, and “travel” ranked #447 in our public good search. There remains work to be done to solidify our position.

But perhaps the biggest change is words moving to the top that are associated with what people need and want as well as the need for plans, information, and knowledge to address the problems before us. This leads us to the 2020 #1 word.

The 2020 #1 Word


To be aware of through observation, inquiry, or information; to have developed a relationship with a person or a people through meeting and spending time with them; to be familiar or friendly with.

Associated industry value: Awareness.

This is the first appearance of this word on Destinations International’s key word list and at first, we were not sure whether to include it.  But the fact that it was not only the number one word on the search list, but number one by a clear margin made it hard not to place it on the list. That combined with the definition -- to be aware -- sealed the deal. “Know” is a word that ties back to one of the key values of our industry - awareness. And in this time of pandemic and civil and economic unrest, it goes to the core of what people are seeking – to know what the problem is and to know what solutions may exist.

Possible uses:

  • A destination organization knows its community – better than any outside consultant can.
  • We seek to know the answers to key questions, such as: do our residents feel safe enough to invite visitors? Do visitors feel safe to visit our destination?
  • Need help exploring our destination?  We know our way around. We have this knowledge because we are a local.

The next 29 words are as follows in the order that they ranked.


Human beings considered collectively; the men, women, and children of a nation, community, or ethnic group; a group of people inhabiting an area or place; the people within a destination.

Associated industry value: Passion, Collaboration, and Inclusiveness.

Possible uses:

  • If you build a place where people want to visit, you have built a place where people want to live. If you build a place where people want to live, then you have built a place where people want to work.  If you build a place where people want to work than you have built a place where employers want to locate.  It all starts with a visit.
  • Destination organizations exist to help and support the people in our community.
  • A destination brand is not a slogan or an ad campaign, it is the sum of a the history, character and culture of the people of a destination.


A group of people living in the same place or having a characteristic in common; a feeling of fellowship with others, because of sharing common attitudes, interests, values, and goals; residents of a destination.

Associated industry value: Passion and Relevance.

Possible uses:

  • Tourism builds community.
  • Addressing the need for destination promotion is for the benefit and well-being of every person in a community.
  • Destination promotion is an essential investment to develop opportunities and build quality of life to benefit all the residents of a community.


To plan, schedule, or arrange when something should happen or be done; measure the time taken by a process or activity; an instance of something happening or being done; an occasion or a moment.

Associated industry value: Innovation, Sustainability.

Possible uses:

  • During this Great Interruption, it is important to take this time to plan for the Next Normal.
  • Destination organization employees are professionals who take the time to learn the industry, its trends, and its habits, and identify what opportunities exist for our community.
  • We understand that our history is a collection of times made up of individual moments that make us who we are.


The state of being free from illness or injury; a person's mental or physical condition; state of a community’s economic and societal position.

Associated industry value: Passion and Relevance.

Possible uses:

  • The health of our community’s economy depends on a strong travel economy.
  • Residents and visitors alike are understanding the health needs to embrace face masks and social distancing in public spaces.
  • The health of our residents is our number one priority!


activity involving mental or physical effort done to achieve a purpose or result; a task or tasks to be undertaken; something a person or thing must do; a job.

Associated industry value: Awareness, Relevance, Sustainability

Possible uses:

  • In 2019, we put 15.8 million people to work in big and small communities across our country.
  • Our industry puts people to work who have every range of education level.
  • One in ten people working in non-farm jobs are directly or indirectly relying on the travel industry.
  • We work to sustain our destination in a way that maintains our community, our assets and preserves our brand while growing opportunity.


A need or something concerning the people as a whole or done, perceived, or existing in open view.

Associated industry value: Collaboration, Inclusiveness, Transparency.

Possible uses:

  • A destination organization is a public good that fills a public need.
  • In the end, a destination organization serves the public. It is why they exist.
  • We operate in the public for the public. We share our successes and victories; we also share when we have fallen short or failed.


A person's regular occupation, profession, or trade; the practice of making one's living by engaging in commerce; an entity that creates jobs.

Associated industry value: Sustainability

Possible uses:

  • The travel industry creates and supports more small businesses than any other major sector. 83% of travel companies are considered small businesses.
  • Travel promotion is business development.
  • U.S. residents logged 464.4 million person‐trips for business purposes in 2019 spurring economic development everywhere.
  • We are in the business of community building.


To require something because it is essential or very important; a thing that is wanted or required.

Associated industry value: Awareness, Sustainability.

Possible uses:

  • Every community needs to compete with every other community for their share of the world’s attention, customers, ideas, and investment. This is the community need that a destination organization fills.
  • A community needs destination promotion just as it needs education, health care, public safety, and utilities.
  • Our travel economy must be developed with the needs of the community in mind.


Not existing before; made, introduced, or discovered recently or now for the first time; already existing but seen, experienced, or acquired recently or now for the first time; just beginning or beginning anew and regarded as better than what went before.

Associated industry value: Innovation, Sustainability.

Possible uses:

  • Our destination offers new experiences for visitors which results in new opportunities for our residents.
  • We welcome new ideas and fresh perspectives. We embrace and use new technologies and platforms to tell our story.
  • We work with new technologies, but our approach is rooted in our true and tested values.


A lack or deficiency of something; a desire for something; a community need.

Associated industry value: Awareness, Inclusiveness.

Possible uses:

  • We want everyone in our community to feel welcome.
  • We want our staff to feel appreciated and respected.
  • Our community wants information, opportunity, and jobs.
  • We appreciated and seek to address the needs and wants of all the communities in our destination.


the action of helping or doing work for someone; a system supplying a public need such as transport, communications, utilities, or destination promotion.

Associated industry value: Awareness

Possible uses:

  • Our success is our service to you and your experience in our destination.
  • An experience in our destination means a level of service above and beyond.
  • A destination organization does not operate to generate a profit, it operates as a service to the community.


A sentence worded or expressed to elicit information; feel or express doubt about; raise objections to; seek an answer or test an approach.

Associated industry value: Awareness, Innovation, Sustainability

Possible uses:

  • The two key questions now are do our residents feel safe enough to invite visitors and do visitors feel safe enough to visit our destination?
  • We are aware. We ask questions. We research. We engage. And most of all, we listen.
  • We seek to be the best and periodically, question our plans and strategies to make sure they meet the needs of our destination.


A set of related measures or activities with a long-term aim, an activity that solves a problem.

Associated industry value: Innovation, Relevance.

Possible uses:

  • A destination organization is a community asset responsible for programs promoting a community as an attractive travel destination and enhancing its public image as a dynamic place to live and work.
  • A destination organization creates promotional programs to share the brand of our destination.
  • We develop programs that solves problems and fills needs.


Facts provided or learned about something or someone; what is conveyed or represented by an arrangement or sequence of things; an answer to a question.

Associated industry value: Collaboration, Transparency,

Possible uses:

  • Currently, people need information on how to support our stakeholders and operate day to day in this current situation.
  • We are the number one provider of information about every aspect of our destination.
  • Our goal is to understand the needs and wants of our community and to provide information to address them.


A detailed proposal for doing or achieving something; a detailed map or diagram; decide on and arrange in advance.

Associated industry value: Innovation, Collaboration, Sustainability, Passion.

Possible uses:

  • Our continued success relies on our ability to plan to fail, but not fail to plan.
  • We will continually evaluate our mission and priorities based upon on our strategic planning.
  • We build plans and programs that maintains our community, our assets and preserves our brand while growing opportunity.


To make it easier for someone to do something by offering one's services or resources; the action of helping someone to do something; to aid.

Associated industry value: Awareness

Possible uses:

  • We are here to help.
  • Our mission is to help and advance our community.
  • Our goal it to help our community to create quality of place which directly influences the quality of life.


An assembly of people, especially the members of a society or committee, for discussion or entertainment; a coming together of people, by chance or arrangement.

Associated industry value: Innovation, Sustainability

Possible uses:

  • Meeting in person is paramount and our service to you and your opportunity will be unwavering.
  • Your first experience in our destination might start with a meeting but we will ensure it will not be your last.
  • Nothing has or will totally replace people meeting face to face and in person.


Coming immediately after the time of writing or speaking; coming immediately after the present one in order, rank, or space; the immediate future.

Associated industry value: Innovation

Possible uses:

  • We need to prepare for the future, the next normal.
  • For us, quality service will remain for your next visit.
  • Destination organizations are always looking for the next practical action or strategies for sustainable success in a dramatically changing world.


The provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or some place; serious attention applied to doing something correctly; look after and provide for the needs of.

Associated industry value: Awareness, Inclusivity, Sustainability.

Possible uses:

  • We care about the people in our community.  They are our number one priority.
  • Destination promotion is done out of care for the health and welfare of our community.


To bear all or part of the weight of; hold up, give assistance to; enable to function; material assistance.

Associated industry value: Collaboration, Relevance

Possible uses:

  • You have a story to tell about how travel supports your community and the economy.
  • Our community is supported by our programs achieving our mission.
  • We support our stakeholders.


an individual or collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned and designed to achieve an aim.

Associated industry value: Active

Possible uses:

  • Our promotional projects are carefully planned and designed to achieve their aims.
  • The success of our destination is our project.
  • We do not do marketing – we have destination promotional projects and programs.


Make available for use, to supply, or to make adequate preparation for something; to give a service.

Associated industry value: Relevance

Possible uses:

  • We provide the raw material for economic development – people!
  • We provide information, answers and help not only to our visitors but to our residents.
  • Destination organizations are a great entity to provide new civic ideas.


Allowing access, passage, or a view through a space; not closed or blocked up; officially admitting customers or visitors; available for business; frank and communicative; not given to deception or concealment.

Associated industry value: Transparency, Inclusiveness

Possible uses:

  • We operate in the open and are open to public scrutiny.
  • We are open to new people, new perspectives, and new ideas.
  • Our destination is open for visitors from around the globe.


the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household; a place where something flourishes, is most typically found, or from which it originates; the goal or end point.

Associated industry value: Passion, Sustainability

Possible uses:

  • Our destination is our home.
  • We understand that our destination is our home and therefore, we seek to maintain our community, our assets and preserve our brand while growing opportunity.
  • Our destination is our home and because of that, we seek to see it flourish.


Able to be used or obtained; at someone's disposal.

Associated industry value: Awareness, Inclusive

Possible uses:

  • We are available to offer our talents and knowledge to any civic endeavor.
  • We are available to help the meeting planner, event organizer, entrepreneur, and site selectors!
  • Our greatest strengths are our local knowledge and customer availability.


belonging or relating to an area or neighborhood, typically exclusively so.

Associated industry value: Relevance

Possible uses:

  • Destination organizations are locals working for locals.
  • We are your local expert.
  • We do not need to learn about our destination like a hired firm would need to do because we live here – we are local.


A group of people related to one another by blood or marriage; all the descendants of a common ancestor; a group of related things.

Associated industry value: Awareness, Inclusiveness

Possible uses:

  • A destination organization’s mission is at its heart, to help our community – our neighbors, our friends, and our families.
  • Our destination organization is staffed by professionals that live in our community.  They do what they do not for some bottom line – they do it for their own families in addition to everyone else’s.
  • A destination is a collection of families that we take great care with.

Economic Development

The creation of wealth from which community benefits are realized; an investment in growing the economy and enhancing the prosperity and quality of life for all a community’s residents.

Associated industry value: Sustainability

Possible uses:

  • Through destination stewardship and brand importance, destination organizations strengthen the community’s economic development abilities and its vitality which provides opportunity for all the people in the destination.
  • A destination organization is an economic development organization.
  • Travel promotion is an instrument of both short- and long-term economic development.


Money provided, especially by an organization or government, for a particular purpose.

Associated industry value: Sustainability

Possible uses:

  • Each household in America would pay an additional $1,398 in taxes without the funds provided governments through travel and tourism.
  • The results of travel spending funds, first responders, health professionals and teachers.
  • Funding a destination organization is an investment in our community’s future.