A Conversation with Jack Johnson

By Caitlyn Blizzard, Destinations International

As we are all stuck indoors and trying to make the best out of our time - while staying safe - for some of us, our coworkers and our work are what may be keeping us sane during these crazy times. In the absence of face-to-face meetings, we are all adapting and learning to work together in new and creative ways. 

For us at Destinations International, our team has gotten to know each other even better through our many Zoom calls since the pandemic began. I personally have really enjoyed our Zoom Happy Hours where I have met new babies and dog assistants. And, it is always a laugh when a certain team member's cat "Zoom bombs" during a meeting (you know who you are, LOL!). Since we haven't been able to see you in person these past few months, our team thought it might be fun to share a little bit about ourselves and what we have been working on.

Our first interviewee is Jack Johnson, Chief Advocacy Officer at Destinations International. Jack has been with Destinations International for four years leading our advocacy efforts and he is the mastermind behind the Community Shared Value strategy that many of our members have successfully put in place in their destinations. Jack's passion for our industry shows daily in his well-thought-out strategies for propelling destination organizations forward around the world. You've seen him on the main stage both in person and virtually and now, we pull the curtains back a little bit to learn a little bit more about one of our organization's visionary leaders!

Jack in action on the General Session stage at the 2019 Annual Convention

In one sentence, what is your job at Destinations International?

It is for my team as well as myself - Empowering destination organizations to excel on the front lines of public policy debates and achieving community relevance with the information, research, tools and resources they need to stay one step ahead.

How long have you been with Destinations International?

I came in May 2016 - shortly after Don Welsh came – he brought me from Chicago.

What was your first job in the tourism industry?

I like to say it was working in a pizza parlor in Chicago that tourists would come to but I guess my first industry real job was as an Assistant to the CEO for the authority that ran the McCormick Place Convention Center and Navy Pier in Chicago. I thought I would stay five years and move back into politics or government. Instead, I fell in love with our industry and never left.

What inspires you to keep doing the work you do for Destinations International on a daily basis?

I really believe that successful destination organizations are essential for the wellbeing of a community. The people who work in them are incredible, creative, hardworking people who are seeking to do good for their community. Helping them negotiate the way forward in this time of unprecedented challenges and finding the opportunities that are available is the greatest job I have ever had. 

Favorite Destination and why?

That’s a tough one – I don’t have one. Top five: Montreal is very special. I have been there several times starting when I went to the World’s Fair (Expo ’67) when I was a kid. I think it put me on the trajectory that my career took. Rocky Mountain National Park is another place that I have gone to several times. It is so beautiful. London is great – and a lot of people there look like me! Portland, Oregon (I can spend a whole day at Powell’s City of Books!) has such a great vibe. Charleston, South Carolina – great food, art and architecture. Honorable mention would be San Antonio, Texas and the Hill Country. It is an underappreciated city and region.

When you were growing up, what was your dream job?

I wanted to either be an architect or the Governor of Colorado (because of Rocky Mountain National Park). Though I remember once thinking it would be cool to be Vice President because unlike the President, they seem to spend a lot more time traveling the country and the world.

What is your favorite thing about this industry?

There is something special about travel, you open yourself up to new experiences, look at things differently, and to get to know new people without a second thought. And there is truly something special when people travel and meet.  It is amazing. I would always love walking the convention show floor at McCormick Place – you could feel the connective energy flowing.  We are all so lucky to work in this industry.

What is your bucket list vacation?

I have always wanted to go to Antarctica – the side by the Ross Ice Shelf where the early explorers based themselves.

What is one fact about you that surprises people?

I can be funny. 

What is your favorite restaurant/meal in the world that you have tried when traveling?

It was a calf’s kidney dish in a quaint little French restaurant in Montreal.  Not sure what provoked me to order it but it was one of the most amazing things I have ever eaten. I have never forgotten it.

What are two truths and a lie?

I ate my favorite Chinese food in Melbourne, Australia.  I ate my favorite Hungarian food in Marco Island, Florida USA.  I ate my favorite Indian food in Glasgow, Scotland UK.

Answer: It was an amazing asparagus & chicken dish in a black bean sauce in Melbourne, and a Chicken Paprikash to die for in Marco Island.  I ate nothing memorable In Glasgow but drank some great beer.

Finish this sentence … I am overly competitive about …

Winning a political or legislative fight.

About the Author

Jack Johnson headshot
Jack Johnson
Chief Advocacy Officer
Destinations International
Jack manages the overall public policy operations at Destinations International including member advocacy education and training, development of destination tools and best practices, coalition work with peer organizations, industry research and related public affairs activities. Currently, his work around positioning destination organizations as a shared value in each of their communities and speaking with a new lexicon based on the emotion-driven by those values has made him one of the leading voices of the travel industry.