The Urgent Need for Relevance in Our Communities

by Jack Johnson, Destinations International Foundation

There remains a lack of understanding of what a destination organization does, why it is important, why it is relevant to residents, and stakeholders alike. We cannot be a shared value in our community and expect elected officials and resident to support us if they do not know what we do. And this continuing problem is having a negative effect on a destination organizations ability to receive public help to survive and do its work.

Last summer I raised this as one of four threats to destination organizations. The following is an excerpt from the speech and paper entitled Finding Our Cornerstone.

“Destination organizations are too often finding their relevance in a community is weak or non-existent. There seems to be a disconnect between the destination organization and the community it claims to serve.

Members of the industry often have joked that “not even their families know what it is that they do”—much less friends and neighbors. Unfortunately, in way too many cases, that is not a joke. It is the truth.

Additionally, rarely is the community, either as a whole or through its leaders, fully or even partially engaged. They most likely have not been involved in any brand development or seen promotional campaigns launched on their behalf. Mechanisms for collecting public input are regularly absent. The community doesn’t know the destination organization’s priorities or understand the reasons behind them. They have little understanding of what is involved in building destination awareness, business acquisition or driving visitation.

Few understand why a hotel development, sports facility or a convention center is so important in a community. This means that there is no community ownership of the destination organization or a community narrative about the shared value it represents. The community’s lack of familiarity gives grandstanding politicians and others a fertile ground to control the narrative.”

The full paper can be accessed here.

To combat this in this critical moment of crisis we are creating a grassroots campaign in the United States focused on explaining the role, importance and relevance of destination organizations. We want to showcase current resident focused efforts and encourage others. And we want to position destination organizations as an essential element in the economic and social rebound from the current crisis.

Our goals are to explain the role of destination organizations; build the visibility, attention and respect of destination organizations; connect destination organizations to their elected officials, stakeholders and residents; reflect this status in any COVID-19 or economic related relief legislation and annual budgets; and finally, integrate destination organizations in economy reopening and economic recession rebound strategies.

With legislation under consideration and an active lobbying effort lead by US Travel, our first step was to focus on the US Congress and blanket them with letters from Don Welsh focusing on the role of destination organizations and the need for rescue funds.  You can find that letter here.

Our next step calls on you to join the effort. We know how busy everyone is today, so we have made it as easy as possible. Just click here to send a letter to your members of Congress explaining the importance of the destination organization in your community.

Thank you. Together we can make a difference and move our whole industry forward. 

About the Author

Jack Johnson
Chief Advocacy Officer
Destinations International
As Chief Advocacy Officer, 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.