This is Why you Should be a Destinations International Member Now

By: Nick Breedlove, CDME, CHIA, TMP, CVENT-SN, Executive Director, Jackson County NC TDA

In this “New Abnormal” we are all faced with steep budget cuts, unexpected day-to-day changes, funding uncertainty, business closures and more. 

In the early days of the pandemic, we talked about pivoting. Now pivoting has turned into what we do all day, every day as an industry. There are enough changes on a local, state, and national level to make your head spin. Add in personal concerns about you and your family’s health and safety, social justice, politics, and this year makes for one of the most challenging personally and professionally. 

The good news, and silver lining, to all of this, is that there’s a guiding force in the industry which is leading us through these challenging times – it’s Destinations International. This year when we cut our budget by 30%, one of the first items that I wrote in ink in our budget was our membership renewal with them. 

We’re a small rural destination organization in the North Carolina mountains, located by the Great Smokies and Blue Ridge Parkway, about an hour west of Asheville. In a normal year, we bring in about $1 million in Occupancy Tax. I started out five years ago as a staff of one. We initially joined Destinations International because it was the only way to get a Compensation & Benefits Study to hire a second employee and know what the appropriate pay scale was. That was three years ago. Since then, they’ve provided invaluable support to our Destination Organization. 

Here’s How:

Despite the name “Destinations International,” they know rural and small-budget destination organizations. 85 % of their membership is small destination organizations. Early on, I thought that the resources and support they provided to their members were aimed at tier-one cities such as Las Vegas, Chicago, and New York. I quickly learned that many of their members are the “smalls” of the world. We all face the same issues as destination organizations, but you learn from the top experts in the industry and see how they’re tackling the same problems. As a small destination organization, the new pricing structure for membership is very affordable. 

1. While the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing, Destinations International got out there, front and center, with weekly webinars and resources to their members. Immediately, they gave us access to resources, insights, and top experts in tourism, which helped us understand the situation and how to best help our stakeholders. Their staff has continued those updates for almost six months now, keeping us apprised daily and weekly with the very best advice for how to recover. It’s through this leadership that we can help our industry locally. Since day one of the pandemic, they’ve been there to help their members. 

2. When it comes to supporting their members, Destinations International is genuinely there for them. I wrote a federal EDA grant application and was able to connect with Don Welsh, President and CEO of the organization, with an hour of emailing him for advice about our application. From there, he joined me with colleagues and resources that would help us in applying. That is personal service. 

3. Beyond the pandemic, which is what’s on all of our minds right now, the educational resources they provide are unparalleled. I earned my Certified Destination Management Executive (CDME) credential from Destinations International in 2019. Without a doubt, it was the best career decision I’ve made to embark on those courses. I’ve made lifelong friendships with those instructors, and I regularly talk with them when facing an issue in our destination. They will drop what they’re doing, even during the pandemic, to thoughtfully answer an email with advice. Without a doubt, the CDME certification empowered me to lead my destination through this crisis and help us be stronger and more resilient. 

4. One of the most valuable sessions was in destination advocacy, and as part of that, Deb Archer, of Madison, WI, asked us to outline a crisis/recovery plan in class. In that course, I talked to Cheryl Bagby of Ventura, CAa, who said she’d be happy to share their crisis plan with us, as they had just been through devastating wildfires. 

Over the next year, we took the framework of their plan, and adapted it to our destination and adopted it officially in December 2019, before the pandemic hit. We activated it as soon as COVID-19 hit. It empowered us to lead the industry at a time when they needed leadership and clear communication. That’s just one of countless examples of how CDME and ongoing friendships gained through Destinations International have benefitted us. 

5. Recovery is going to be a long road ahead. Nothing will happen quickly or easily. While a vaccine may be on the horizon, returning to “normal” and helping our partners, stakeholders, and leading the industry will take quite some time. Let Destinations International be your partner through this process. There’s no better co-pilot to help you lead during these times. When someone asks why you’re doing something – you can confidently tell them that you’re following industry best practices, knowing that Destinations International is genuinely that. They are here to help and support you in your efforts. The entirely redesigned online forums allow CEOs and destination organization leaders to collaborate, share best practices, and learn from one another. You can post a message about any issue a destination faces and, in minutes, have replies from across the country (and globe). 

Our stakeholders expect us to have the answers – when will this get better, when will occupancy return, how can you help us right now? None of us know the answer to these questions as the situation changes daily. But you can confidently lead your destination with a partner in recovery – Destinations International. If you haven’t joined or you’re debating renewing, it’s the best investment you can make this year as we move toward rebuilding our economies, bringing jobs back, and supporting those who need it the most. 

About the Author

Nick Breedlove headshot
Nick Breedlove
Executive Director
Jackson County Tourism Development Authority
Under Nick's leadership, the JCTDA was awarded the coveted Tourism Office of the Year designation by Southeast Tourism Society. He received the Travel and Tourism Research Association’s nationwide award for ‘Rising Star’ in the Tourism Research field as well as his Travel Marketing Professional certification along with the highly sought after Certified Destination Management Executive credential. In 2020, he was certified in Crisis Management, Communications, and Recovery Strategy for DMOs by Southeast Tourism Society.