Destinations International: Your Partner in Navigating the Destination Management Industry Landscape

Kate Skidmore with Destinations International interviews two industry leaders about their experiences throughout their membership with Destinations International.

Having access to the right resources, peer to peer connections and tools are key to navigating through the ever-changing destination management industry. Whether you are brand new to the industry, a veteran, a small budget destination or 1st tier city, Destinations International seeks to make you stronger through our core four pillars of community, advocacy, research and education. We had the pleasure of interviewing two individuals who are recent CDME graduates and have been active in their membership with Destinations International to discuss how they have engaged and what has influenced them.

Name, Title, Length in Industry?

NICK: Nick Breedlove, Executive Director of Jackson County,  North Carolina TDA, In role and industry for four years.

BRENDA: Brenda Hill, Vice President, Destination Services, 25 years in the Hospitality Industry, 13 of which have been at a destination organization.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your role at your organization? How has Destinations International helped you specifically address any of these?

NICK: One of our biggest challenges is advocacy. People understanding first, what we do, second, why we do it, and third, how it impacts them. We spend so much time and effort marketing the destination that we fail to do internal marketing to our constituents and residents. Through the CDME Advocacy Course with Deb Archer and John Groh, we learned some great tips in bringing the community along in the process and best practices when working with stakeholders. It was through a breakout session at Destinations International’s Annual Conference that Michael Novakovich, a fellow CDME and CEO at Visit Tri-Cities, mentioned they break visitor spending down by day vs. per year. That really resonated with me in the sense that for comparison sake, our visitor spending is $205 million a year. That’s a really large number that’s so intangible to most. However, breaking it down per day, it’s a half-million-dollar figure that shows the true impact of tourism on a community in a single day. There are so many learnable moments from Destinations International like this that continually come about. 

How has Destinations International helped you grow in your role?

NICK: This is my first year being involved with Destinations International. I always thought of Destinations International I as a forum of only tier-one cities throughout the U.S., however, there are lots of us smaller budget destination organizations in the rooms at these sessions. Apart from that, the issues major destination organizations face are the same ones we face. Networking with other leaders has proven the most valuable as they are your best resource to tap into and Destinations International brings all of us together in one room.

BRENDA: The education offerings provided by Destinations International through the CDME program, facilitated by industry leaders, have provided invaluable insights and connections that have positively impacted my growth at VisitPITTSBURGH.

What has been your favorite Destinations International face to face event to date and why?

NICK: Annual Conference. Hands down one of the best learning experiences thus far in my tourism career. With over 100 sessions, it leaves you wanting more time or being able to be in all of them. The theme this year of Evolve and Elevate was woven through all of the sessions, speakers and truly left you on an elevated knowledge base walking away from the conference. There are so many takeaways that you come home with that you want to roll out right away. Nothing that you’ve been doing wrong, but opportunities you hadn’t yet realized were out there.

BRENDA: From a personal perspective, nothing tops the recent 2019 Destinations International Annual Convention where I achieved professional and personal goals by both graduating with my CDME and having the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone to sing with the inaugural Destinations International house band!

Tell me a little bit about your experience with CDME? What was your favorite Core course, describe the networking experience and any advice you have for other industry professionals embarking on this journey?

NICK: When thinking about enrolling in CDME, I saw the requirements of four core courses, two electives and papers to write in between each core and thought there’s no way I’ll ever start or finish. It turned out that after the first class in Seattle, I couldn’t stop, because I loved the courses to the point I went ahead and registered for my next one almost immediately. I am a staff of one person leading a destination organization; if I can make time for CDME, anybody can. I knew that those courses were what I needed to go through to be successful in the tourism industry but more importantly, be able to handle anything that comes by way. My favorite course and I think many of us share this is the Advocacy Course with Deb Archer and John Groh. When they talk about advocacy it’s sort of a duh moment, reaffirming what you know, but also instilling in you many things you didn’t know and you have an ‘aha’ moment. The courses are valuable far after you go through them. You will apply most of what you learned with time; seeds for the future yet to blossom.  

BRENDA: My favorite CDME Core Course was on Advocacy. Not only did this course change the way I viewed the purpose of advocacy, but it also provided me with a desire to lead new advocacy efforts within VisitPITTSBURGH. The ability to network with my peers and executive leadership in similar organizations has been invaluable. If any challenges arise, it’s reassuring to know that I can depend on my classmates and instructors to assist me by providing suggestions or tested solutions. My advice for other industry professionals embarking on the CDME journey would be to cultivate the relationships you make along the way. Your experiences will be as valuable to your classmates as theirs will be to you.

As a CDME graduate, how do you hope to continue in your leadership role and contribute to our industry?

NICK: As a leader in the industry, I hope to bring others on this path of continual personal and professional development, alongside me, at which, Destinations International will be a core component of.

BRENDA: I will continue to use the knowledge and relationships I have gained along my CDME journey to benefit my organization and community. I believe that you are never done learning, and I look forward to doing so through additional educational opportunities offered by Destinations International, among others. Additionally, I hope to have the opportunity of sharing my knowledge and experiences with others through service within some areas of Destinations International.

Thanks for sharing Nick and Brenda! Your passion for the industry and thought leadership inspires us all!

About Kate:

Kate Skidmore joined Destinations International in October 2013. She now serves on our Membership Engagement team. Prior to her role at Destinations International, Skidmore spent seven years at the San Diego Tourism Authority. Her background includes marketing, digital media, advertising sales, IT implementation, and CVB/Hotel sales training for iLead.