Takeaways from European Cities Marketing (ECM) Summer School

By: Marie Catherine Lacoste 

Following Destinations International’s participation in our C2 Montréal event, Tourisme Montréal received two Destinations International Foundation scholarships to participate in the ECM 2017 Summer School.

I was not only honoured to have been selected to represent Tourisme Montréal and to be one of the first North American representatives at this seminar, but I was also excited at the idea of seeing the city of Dresden, rebuilt. I had spent two weeks there in August 1989, just a few months before the fall of the Berlin Wall in the former East Germany.

The ECM Summer school was a true eye opener for me, and I feel that there is still so much I need to learn and understand about the destination organization industry. What were my biggest takeaways? It’s difficult to choose, but here is a shortlist of the three subjects that were most helpful, as well as the important take-aways for each.

The meeting industry: Coming from a hotel background, I found it most interesting to hear the perspectives of experienced senior destination organization executives on the importance of our industry. We learned about the importance of collecting and sharing data with key partners and stakeholders, and the value of meetings versus tourism. The average convention/meeting attendee will spend an average of about six times what a tourist will spent during their stay in a destination. I believe this represents a major opportunity for my organization, where the emphasis on the marketing of the destination has leaned toward tourists and leisure travelers.

Presentations and RFPs: How to present yourself, how to pitch your destination, how to respond to an RFP – again, with 15 years’ experience on the hotel sales side, you think you have it all figured out! We learned about the importance of trust, of knowing your destination’s value zone, of staying client-centric, and of becoming a true strategic partner to your clients searching for a host destination. We also explored how to make sure our bids are meaningful and how to ask the right and most important questions. The preparation of the bid presentation was a real challenge, but everyone pulled it off. It showed how, when putting a bid together, it is crucial to maximize the use of the team’s (and now our own destination organization's) resources. Returning to the office with the task of preparing my first two bid books, I made sure I reached out to my colleagues in marketing, to my peers, and graphic designers. In short, I realized that what I had learned will have a concrete impact on how I will approach the bid process from now on.

Understanding specific market segments: We explored how corporate and associations buy destinations and what is specific to American meeting planners/buyers. This was an incredible opportunity to have all this pertinent information distilled and presented by experienced and passionate professionals. We looked at the importance of managing expectations and how expectations are always different, depending on who the client is and where they are from. Many of the basics that were shared regarding trade-shows, RFPs, F/Us and the “dos and don’ts” were good reminders that I will be sharing with hotel partners in my upcoming sales missions. It made me think about how I can raise the bar and coach our destinations international members and hoteliers to become true partners and better representatives of our beautiful city.

Finally, being one of the most experienced professionals attending the EMC Summer School, I was eager to see what new things I could learn. I quickly realized that the element that would have the most impact, for me, would be the connections made over those intense three days. I am now blessed with new friends and colleagues from around the world. I can reach out to them for references, questions and ideas, not to mention the availability and generosity of the faculty members that have become excellent role models. Merci. Danke. Thank you again to my employer Tourisme Montréal and to Destinations International for this wonderful gift!

About Marie Catherine Lacoste:
Born in Montreal, Marie Catherine’s first learning experience aboard was in Cambridge MA to perfect her English. This encounter with people from around the world sparked the desire to travel and to experience the campus life away from her hometown. Marie Catherine’s university years were spent in Québec City studying communications and fine arts and it is by coincidence that she finally found her true passion: hospitality.

She was lucky to start her hotel career at Le Château Frontenac, the most photographed hotel in the world, and fell in love with the industry. After 20 years, including 17 in sales, Marie Catherine joined Tourisme Montréal in January 2017.