Biweekly Update: September 22, 2017

Greetings from Washington, D.C.

Let me begin by expressing our deepest condolences for the millions of people that were impacted this week by Hurricane Maria and the tragic earthquakes in Mexico.

I know we are all searching for some inspiration and happiness during these challenging times. With that in mind, I had the opportunity to join 230 delegates at the 11th Annual U.S. – China Tourism Leadership Summit in Atlanta, Georgia. The Summit provides the opportunity to build and strengthen the relationships between the U.S. and China travel industries, as well as provide a platform for discussion between U.S. and Chinese tourism industry leaders and government officials. Participants addressed issues impacting tourism, shared best practices in marketing and received industry updates. Congratulations to Chris Thompson, President & CEO of Brand USA and his team for providing a very valuable and compelling Summit, which brought in a record attendance. Congratulations also to William Pate, President and CEO of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau and Kevin Langston, Deputy Commissioner of Economic Development for Tourism at the Georgia Department of Economic Development, for hosting this very important meeting for our respective countries. 

For those of you who have not spent much time in Atlanta recently, you may not recognize this great city as the downtown continues to reinvent itself with new attractions. We had the chance to be surrounded by breathtaking sea life at the Georgia Aquarium for our closing event. I also had the opportunity to take a quick tour of the new Mercedes Benz Stadium with Mark Vaughan, Executive Vice President and Chief Sales Officer of the Atlanta CVB. To say this is a game changer is an understatement. The opening event was held on Wednesday evening at the Porsche Experience Center which is located at Atlanta Hartsfield Airport. All guests including Mr. Li Jinzao, Chairman of the China National Tourism Administration and Roger Dow, President and CEO of U.S. Travel Association, had the opportunity to be passenger with a professional driver. At the dinner that evening, Chairman Li commented that it was the perfect venue with airplanes arriving overhead, fast cars and passionate people.

Again, during these very challenging times around the world, a song was played yesterday at the luncheon that was written by Chairman Li. I was particularly attracted by the last set of lyrics that I believe we can all relate to:

“Let’s go travel, right on the road!

No more worry and no more trouble!

Travel China and around the world

Round the globe to the moon we go!

Hey! Hey! Hey!

Brilliant future lies ahead,

Round the globe to space we go!”

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We are praying hard for those around the world who are experiencing crisis and natural disasters. We will continue to monitor our members and will keep our website up-to-date with ways you can help those affected by these catastrophic events. We are in regular communication with Milton Segarra and his team at Meet Puerto Rico, and Ms. Nicole Rodriguez in Governor Ricardo Rosselló's office as they continue to assess the enormous damage caused by Hurricane Maria throughout the destination. Many destinations throughout the world have experienced major natural disasters or acts of terrorism this year; however, Puerto Rico has endured Zika, a debt crisis and now the impact of two catastrophic storms. Throughout all these challenges, Puerto Rico has remained steadfast in their commitment to tourism and the understanding that they play a key role in our industry. We will do everything in our power to assist Puerto Rico’s travel and tourism industry during what is surely to be a long recovery period. The same is true for our friends in Mexico.

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Discover The Palm Beaches Florida informed us that they are prepared to welcome planners, groups, and convention events of all sizes after recovering from Hurricane Irma. This short video shows the area on September 15, 2017. In Houston, rebuilding efforts have begun, and progress is being made. You can follow along via this live webcam from the top of the George R. Brown Convention Center overlooking Discovery Green Park and Kinder Lake -- the front yard of Avenida Houston. Here is a message from Visit Houston. After avoiding a direct hit and a swift recovery, Miami, Florida and its beaches are open for business following Hurricane Irma. The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) has launched a new campaign to encourage travelers to return to Miami. 

In the midst of or even prior to an impending crisis, we understand the urgency to communicate to meeting planners about your destination’s current conditions and recovery response, as well as the ability to service tentative or definite meetings scheduled for your city. In our bi-weekly meeting planner newsletter, we are featuring articles such as this one that position the CVB as the best point-of-contact for the most accurate and up-to date information during a crisis. We plan to share this same message with meeting planners during our September and October webinars. We encourage you to visit our planner-facing blog, blog.empowerMINT.com, on which a wide variety of content is available to share with your planners articulating the value of a CVB. If you are an empowerMINT subscriber and wish to create a planner promotion in an upcoming newsletter, please reach out to Kate Skidmore at [email protected].     

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This week you received an email from us with an invitation to attend two new programs we have added to the calendar for this year: The CEO Session: Media Training Master Class in Savannah, GA with training conducted by Kivvit and the Immersion Institute in Havana, Cuba. Both events have limited space, so please be sure to sign up by September 30th to take advantage of these educational opportunities.

This weekend kicks off our Summit season with the Visitor Services Summit, taking place September 24-26 in Columbus, Ohio. A must-attend event for visitor services professionals, this is the foremost opportunity to connect with colleagues to discuss the issues and trends that impact you and the visitors you serve. Registration is still open! Congratulations to those who will be recognized in this year’s WOW Awards, which celebrates creativity, effectiveness, and adaptability in servicing the many visitors that experience a destination organization. The following organizations will be recognized:

  • Most Creative: Omaha CVB
  • Most Replicable: Experience Columbus
  • Most Cost-Effective: Visit KC

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Our friends at U.S. Travel Association recently released a revised version of the Travel Trends Index which shows that international inbound travel to the United States declined once again in July 2017. Needless to say, this is a major concern for our industry as global competition for visitors continues to expand. Despite a projected decline in international inbound travel, total U.S. travel volume is expected to grow by an average of 1.2 percent year-over-year through January of 2018, fueled by domestic travel. You may read the full report here.

Congratulations to Andrea Gardi, Senior Project Manager of Ontario Canada’s Regional Tourism Organization 4 Inc. (RTO4), for being awarded a scholarship by the Destinations International Foundation to attend the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux (AACB) Annual Conference that took place September 6-8, 2017 in Hobart, Tasmania.

Our membership is full of thought leaders and we want to hear from you at this year’s Annual Convention taking place July 10-13, 2018 in Anaheim, California. If you would like to be considered, please submit your proposal here.

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Last week Jack Johnson, our Chief Advocacy Officer, took our advocacy and research efforts on the road by speaking at the 20th Annual Upper Midwest Convention and Visitors Bureau Fall Conference in Dubuque, IA. He addressed the wide range of new political threats affecting our industry and conducted a deep dive on the new DestinationNEXT Futures Study. This week, Jack presented the results of Destinations International’s recent Weaponization of Travel Study at the Louisville CVB Customer Advisory Council in Louisville, KY.

In closing, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with those who are affected by the recent natural disasters and we will keep all of you up-to-date as new information becomes available.

Thank you and best wishes for a safe and enjoyable weekend!

Don Welsh
President and CEO
Destinations International