Data-supported advocacy is critical to our success

by: Cassandra McAuley, CDME, Vice President of Planning, MMGY NextFactor; 2021/22 Co-Chair, Destinations International Advocacy Committee

After nearly two long years, being at the Advocacy Summit felt like attending a family reunion in Houston. As a (triple!) vaccinated Canadian who had been grounded by border closures, the Advocacy Summit was the first time I’d seen my international peers in person in much too long, and it was such an energizing experience.

In between catch-up conversations with old and new friends and colleagues, there were some very real takeaways from the thoughtfully curated sessions. Here are the key takeaways from my perspective:

  1. Virtual meetings are not the same as in-person events. The benefits of engaging in sessions, having offline conversations, digging deeper into issues and topics and fostering and strengthening connections just cannot happen in the virtual forum. As destination leaders (and as meeting delegates ourselves), the return of business events is critical for the recovery of our industry.
  2. Using data is critical to telling our stories with credibility. Now, more than ever, there is such rich data available to us; from visitor behavior to resident sentiment and everything in between. Using data to tell our stories, articulate our value, and explain our strategies is critical to our credibility with our Boards, elected officials, and residents.
  3. Fortunately, our industry is blessed with a supportive and collaborative group of partners who are committed to enhancing the success of destination leadership organizations. The support available from industry partners includes data collection and research, forecasting, analysis, strategy development, communication and so much more.
  4. Being advocates for our work and developing a deep understanding of the shared community value of destination organizations is critical. Anna Tanski from Visit Duluth was so gracious in sharing her story of how her municipality put the marketing of their destination out to tender, effectively eliminating the core functions of Visit Duluth. Thank you, Anna for sharing your story and the important reminder of asking deeper questions of our elected officials to ensure they understand how we contribute to our communities.
  5. Adam Sacks does a great Bono (you had to be there).
  6. Destinations International is deeply committed to the success of our industry and our destinations. They have developed so many resources, including the Tourism Lexicon, advocacy briefs, the Architects of Destination Advocacy podcast, strategic planning resources, and more. Be sure to bookmark the link and check it often as the resources are updated frequently:
  7. As an industry, we are very fortunate to have the Destinations International team behind us. A sincere thank you to Don Welsh and the entire team for all of their hard work and thought leadership.

Now that the borders have reopened as of November 8, I look forward to many more opportunities to gather as an industry. CDME offerings are back, Summits are back and the 2022 Annual Convention will be in Toronto, Ontario from July 19-21. See you there!

In the meantime, I would love to hear your takeaways from the Advocacy Summit. What have I missed?

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