We Do These Things Not Because They Are Easy but Because They Are Hard

By: Jack Johnson, Destinations International

In a speech at Rice University on September 12, 1962, President John F Kennedy roused support for America’s mission to the moon with a stirring speech that celebrated the determination of American innovators and adventurers to “Climb the Highest Mountain.”  

The speech cited a litany of accomplishments made possible by a shining vision and unrelenting hard work and is most famous for this excerpt. 

We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” 

That quote has always resonated with me and has found its way into the approach I often will take on things. 

This week in Toronto, the Destinations International Foundation really steps into its role as the incubator of new ideas, research, tools, and advocacy.  Through the 2022 Destinations International Foundation’s Significant Issues and Opportunities Challenge, the Foundation will address the 1) need for a community indicator(s) so that residents can understand the work of a destination organization and measure its success, and 2) identify ways that destination organizations can play a role in helping their communities respond to increases in violent crime.  

We are doing this not because it is an easy task, but because it is a hard one. And as many people have pointed out, our six-month process seems like the hard way of doing it. 

You see, as in all its major endeavors, the Foundation will use a grassroots approach. This is an approach that uses the people in the destination organization community as the basis for a problem-solving effort. An effort that empowers every individual to share the responsibility of achieving excellence.  

This is different from putting a group of subject matter experts in a room and asking them to knock this problem out. Others have done this and provided helpful results. In terms of statistics and insights on key indicators, one has only to look at the UNWTO Tourism Data Dashboard which provides numerous statistics and insights on key indicators for inbound and outbound tourism at the global, regional and national levels. The data covers tourist arrivals, tourism share of exports and contribution to GDP, source markets, seasonality, and accommodation (data on number of rooms, guest, and nights). In addition, two special modules present data on the impact of COVID 19 on tourism as well as a Policy Tracker on Measures to Support Tourism. There are similar sites with information and statistics of the causes of violent crimes and criminal justice policies and procedures to address it.   

But that is not what we are after. We are not trying to identify industry measurements or metrics. They are more plentiful than hot days in a Texas summer. Likewise, we are not necessarily trying to identify the causes and solutions of violent crime. It is fair to say that both the causes and traditional solutions fall outside of a destination organization’s wheelhouse. What we are trying do is the following: 

  1. Identify one or more “community indicators” that are understood and accepted by the community. They need to be reliable and valid, as well as need to answer three questions: 1) What does a destination organization do? 2)How well did the destination organization do it? and, 3) Are the residents of the community better off? These are not industry measurements; these are public and political measurements. 

  1. Identify areas where the issue of violent crime intersects with a destination’s reputation and operations. Look for roles consistent with the strengths of the destination organization and their ability to carry out a community effort. Search for existing best practices and work to create new ones. Communicate best practices. Make the new ideas and practices clear to understand. Publish them in an easy-to-find place. And finally, try to measure the impact of the best practices and make changes as needed. 

For this work, the type of subject matter experts we are looking for are people who understand what it is to work for a destination organization – doing the destination promotion work day in and day out while dealing with pressure from residents, stakeholders, and elected officials. People who are passionate about what they do and the community they do it for. 

Over the last three months, the Foundation has started a conversation among destination organization professionals concerning these issues from the destination organization perspective. This is consistent with our focus on community that leads us to foster a strong, global community of destination organization professionals and promote the exchange of information, knowledge, and best practices. 

This week in Toronto, thirty (30) Destination Organization and Business Partner Leaders and thirty (30) Emerging Leaders from the 30 Under 30 Program will spend parts of two days diving into these two issues. They will dig deep into both issues, get their hands dirty and help us move the ball forward.  The Foundation will take their efforts and between Annual Convention and the end of October, we will polish and fine tune the work and release (hopefully!) final products at the Advocacy Summit in Bloomington, MN, USA.   

On behalf of the Foundation, we would like to express our thanks to everyone who has rolled up their sleeves and joined us in the unrelenting hard work to move toward these two accomplishments. 

About the Author

Jack JohnsonChief Advocacy OfficerDestinations International

About the Author

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. Jack is a 2021 Smart Meetings Magazine’s Catalyst Award winner and one of Successful Meetings’ 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry in 2018.

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