In case you missed the discussion on June 24, takeaways are below and the webinar in full along with other past sessions, is on the YouTube channel.
Although the fireside was virtual for this chat, The Travel Vertical was extremely pleased to catch up with Don Welsh, president & CEO of Destinations International.
With 459 members, Destinations International is the world’s largest and most reliable resource for destination organizations. The organization’s focus is to inform, connect, inspire and educate members to drive destination economic impact, job creation, community sustainability and quality of life through travel. Our readers may know that Don comes from a destination organization chief executive background as well.
Q: Is it fair to say that lately, you’ve been in more airports than most of us. What have you observed in your travels?
A: My wife and I got stuck on a Hawaii vacation in mid-March and after being stranded for 54 days, our very circuitous route back to D.C. had us making connections all over. And business has taken me to Sarasota, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Columbus, Ohio. It’s almost as though each airport has its own personality; the country has a patchwork of protocols, which doesn’t make it any easier for travelers.
Q: We’re excited to talk to you about Destinations International 2020 Annual Conference on July 13-15. Because it’s shifted from Chicago to virtual, how is that fact impacting the event?
A: There’s a great turnout. Options like “All Access” are bringing more folks than might be able to attend an in-person event. Our professional development steering group has curated and developed meaty topics around a road map to recovery.
And we have a couple of do-not-miss keynotes from inspirational individuals delivering personal talks on two important themes: hope and kindness, fearless leadership. If you haven’t read the poignant “Tuesdays With Morrie” by Mitch Albom or seen the made-for-TV movie, you’re in for a treat; the author is joining us. Then there’s Carey Lohrenz, the first female U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcat fighter pilot, who knows what it takes to succeed in one of the most demanding, extreme environments imaginable – the cockpit at Mach 2.
Q: We cannot get too much good advice these days. Any other conference highlights you’d like to mention?
A: Yes, I’m looking forward to moderating an important and timely session on diversity, equity and inclusion. Also, our Global All Stars session with our partners at Miles Partnership is always a place where it’s exciting to hear from thought leaders about putting best practices in play that address the trend away from destination marketing toward destination management.
Q: If you had one piece of advice for destination organizations today…?
A: Actually, there are two things. First, in reflecting on so many conversations with our members, I can point out the importance of cities, counties, and states to have an engaged and active destination organization at the center of the conversation. Even while challenged by reduced funds and reduced manpower, the destination organization is the central repository for research and education, health & safety information and real-time data.
That brings me to the second thing: advocacy. Even when tourism was booming, over the past couple of years it’s become increasingly clear that we must all double down on our efforts to communicate our role and value proposition in the community…even beyond our stakeholders to elected officials, civic leaders, and definitely residents, too.
Unless funding of a destination organization is statutorily locked in, there’s tremendous vulnerability built into the funding model. Now in this crisis, with 97% of our members existing as 501(c)(6) nonprofit organizations, about 20% of them face a critical need for funds in the next 60-90 days. Because there’s currently no provision for destination organizations to benefit from forgivable loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, we’d urge everyone to lend their voices to the urgent call for congressional support for an expanded CARES Act that embraces tourism.
Q: Speaking of risk assessment, changing funding models, advocacy and laying the groundwork for future, would you mind getting out the crystal ball to talk about the fourth iteration of DestinationsNEXT Futures Study?
A: It’s a coveted global report, for sure. We undertake this project with MMGY NextFactor, typically every two years since 2014. In 2019, more than 520 industry and community leaders in 55 countries participated. Clearly, as a cornerstone study and a tourism masterplan, it’s certainly going to require fundamental changes in all aspects of its analyses and we’ll hope to produce it for the industry sometime in 2021.
Q: Thank you for the conversation, Don. Closing thoughts?
A: Well, I’m an optimist. I can say that as an industry, we’ve never worked more closely together. Everybody’s aware of the fact that this is also a highly personal matter for each of us; we all have pretty heavy emotional issues to carry right now. But, I do see daylight and I’m confident that we’ll get through this having built even stronger communities in the process.
No mask, no dice. Local entertainers are handing out branded face masks at McCarran International Airport, reinforcing “Vegas Smart” messaging and the mandatory requirement. “We want our visitors to feel confident that coming to Las Vegas is still a fun and healthy experience. We know how much our visitors miss Vegas, and we want to welcome them back to enjoy the destination as safely as possible,” said Steve Hill, president/CEO, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “The mask mandate is a necessary and smart step on behalf of Nevada Governor Sisolak to make sure we can continue to share the world-class experiences you only find in Las Vegas.”
Broadway theaters will remain dark until next year, with refunds and exchanges now being offered for tickets that were sold through Jan. 3, 2021. “The Broadway experience can be deeply personal but it is also, crucially, communal,” said Thomas Schumacher, board chairman of The Broadway League, in a press release. “The alchemy of 1,000 strangers bonding into a single audience fueling each performer on stage and behind the scenes will be possible again when Broadway theaters can safely host full houses.”
Cirque du Soleil has filed for bankruptcy. The company will create a $15 million employee fund to provide financial assistance for the almost 3,500 employees who have been laid off. “For the past 36 years, Cirque du Soleil has been a highly successful and profitable organization,” Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, said in a press release. “However, with zero revenues since the forced closure of all of our shows due to COVID-19, management had to act decisively to protect the Company’s future.”
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill to create the District of Columbia as the 51st state. In Washington, D.C., license plates declare “end taxation without representation” despite having a population of 700,000— larger than that of Vermont or Wyoming.
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order last week that removes the phrase “…and Providence Plantations” from all future communications and websites. The nation’s smallest state is now set to consider changing its official name from “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” if voters agree to amend the Rhode Island Constitution in November.
Mississippi will have a new flag. The only one of 50 state flags incorporating the Confederate symbol, lawmakers have approved its immediate removal. A committee will be created to approve a new design. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has signaled he will sign the measure. The National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Southeastern Conference had indicated that Mississippi would be precluded from hosting championship events until the change flag had a makeover.
Other side of the pond: The United States is not on the list of countries the EU will allow back into the European continent when reopening begins on July 1. Travel restrictions into the U.K. have been in place since June 8, whereby passengers are required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival.
Mixed Messages and Industry Updates:
- No to the Zoo: San Francisco cancelled plans for June 29 reopenings, including museums.
- Disneyland in Anaheim, California has postponed its opening. The planned date of July 17 has been pushed back.
- Tennessee Department of Tourist Development has partnered with some 30 local brands to develop the TN Strong Mask Movement, which has distributed more than 300,000 free or low-cost masks across the state.
- Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez issued an emergency order to close all beaches from July 3-7, no firework viewings, no parades.
- Throughout Florida, there’s an immediate suspension on the consumption of alcohol in bars statewide.
- Texas, Louisiana, California, North Carolina, Nevada, Kansas, Maine and Idaho have all delayed previously announced reopening phases.
- American Airlines will drop social distancing and start booking flights to full capacity from July 1. United Airlines is doing likewise.
- Delta Air Lines is capping at 60% of capacity; Southwest at 67%, both through Sept. 30.
- JetBlue will leave middle seats empty through July 31 unless the person is traveling with a passenger in an adjoining seat.
- Alaska will have a summer without cruises, which normally brings 1.4 million visitors to the state in May through September.
- Starting Aug. 1, out-of-state visitors to Hawaii will not be subject to 14-day self-quarantine if they have proof of testing negative within 72 hours prior to arrival.
- In New York City, mass transit ridership is inching up but remains 80% lower than this time last year. Cars are preferred, with traffic on bridges and tunnels down 20% Y-o-Y.
- Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Covid-19 Research Center is publishing new case trends in all 50 states plus D.C. and Puerto Rico in a 3-day moving average graphic. See neighboring states or pick one from the drop-down list shown below.
- The Facebook ad boycott is snowballing, impacting Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and Twitter. Closing their wallets: Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Starbucks, Diageo, Unilever, Verizon, Honda, Levi Strauss, Hershey Co. plus Adidas, Clorox, Ford, and HP now joining the ranks of earlier brands: The North Face, Patagonia, REI, Ben & Jerry’s. Here’s a running list.
- Tik Tok has launched TikTok for Business featuring “Brand Scan,” an AR effect, plus Brand Takeovers, In-Feed Video, Hashtag Challenges, Hashtag Plus, a shopping feature.
- The vacation rental company HomeAway, an Expedia Group brand, is being absorbed into Vrbo.
- Sonder, the short-term apartment rental startup, has raised $170 million in a Series E round of funding at a $1.3 billion valuation. Sonder leases and renovates apartments in trendy city neighborhoods, renting them to customers through Airbnb, Expedia, and its own site.
- Tripadvisor is beta testing Reco, a direct consumer-to-travel agent trip planning and booking app that could be priced at $199 per trip.
- Twenty years later, the Segway is out of production. The manufacturer, China-based Ninebot, will lay off all 21 staff at its Bedford, New Hampshire plant on July 15. With a price tag at $6-$10K and batteries at $1K, only police departments and tour groups could afford the electric people transporters.
Wieden+Kennedy Portland won a trio of top honors from the 2020 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity last week. Even though the festival was canceled, the first-ever Lions Creativity Report of the Decade produced global ad agency rankings for prizes over the past 10 years. Independently owned W+K earned: Independent Agency of the Decade, North American Agency of the Year, and second place in Agency of the Decade. Have you seen the Travel Portland and Travel Oregon ads?
People, Places & Jobs
Hawaii Tourism Authority is seeking a new president and CEO following the announcement by Chris Tatum that he is retiring on Aug. 31. Applications are being reviewed by Bishop & Company, a Honolulu-based executive search firm. View the job description at www.hawaiitourismauthority.org/who-we-are/careers. Interested applicants should submit a resume, cover letter and salary requirements to firstname.lastname@example.org by 4:30 p.m. HST on July 15, 2020. For any questions, contact Erinn Tomlinson at email@example.com.
Splash Mountain, the flume ride at Disneyland Park in California and Magic Kingdom Park in Florida is being completely reimagined. Replacing “Song of the South” is a new experience inspired by the animated film “The Princess and the Frog,” Disney’s first animated film featuring a Black princess.
In Pinellas County, Florida, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater has cut its budget by about $9 million for the upcoming fiscal year and reduced capital spending by nearly $11 million. Tampa Bay Times reported that the comeback campaign called “brighter days ahead,” has been put on ice because safety is top priority. The DMO just ordered Visit St. Pete/Clearwater-branded face masks and 50,000 bottles of 4-oz. hand sanitizer. “As it continues to get worse, people don’t want to hear from us,” said Leroy Bridges, VP Digital & Communications. “There are more important things.”
City streets are seeing record numbers of bicycle riders. Bike sales across the country were up 65% year-to-date over 2019, according to data from the advocacy organization PeopleForBikes, a Boulder, Colorado nonprofit. Its recent survey shows 9% of American adults say they’d ridden a bike for the first time in a year because of the pandemic, and a majority of those expect to continue. (BTW, there’s a full-time job listing on this site.)
In order to “invoke the Francophone culture and the warm hospitality that has established Québec as a unique and world-class destination,” Canada’s provincial Québec Tourism has rebranded from Québec Original to Bonjour Québec.
Visit SLO CAL in San Luis Obispo on California’s Central Coast is hiring a digital marketing specialist with 3-5 years’ professional experience in digital marketing—ideally in the tourism or hospitality industry.
Sean Dixon has been named president to head up Visit Topeka and the Greater Topeka Partnership. Dixon will join the organization in mid-July from the Springfield, Missouri Convention & Visitors Bureau where he has been director of marketing for more than 10 years.
Branson Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and CVB has announced the resignation of President/CEO Jeff Seifried, effective mid-July. Seifried has been with the DMO since 2015 and leaves to join Connell Insurance as Its chief executive. EVP Jonas Arjes will assume the role of president while the board conducts a national search for Seifried’s replacement.
In Ohio, Highland County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau of Highland County announced that Destiny Bryson, executive director of both organizations will be stepping down to transition to a new role with Ohio Southeast Economic Development. (The CVB board is currently accepting applications to fill Bryson’s vacancy. Interested candidates may contact Elizabeth Brennfleck, HR director, firstname.lastname@example.org or send a cover letter and resume to email@example.com.)
A tribute to Milton Glaser who died last week in New York City, age 91. The celebrated graphic designer created the famous I ♥ NY logo, granddaddy of all tourism branding. Glaser sketched the design on the back of an envelope while riding in a taxi in 1976 and contributed it free of charge at a time when crime and budget troubles deeply troubled New York’s image. The original in red crayon is in at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art.
Larry Alexander, president & CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau for more than 20 years, has announced his retirement effective Dec. 31, 2020.
Larry Sieg has been named as the new president & CEO of Meet AC, the DMO for Atlantic City, New Jersey from mid-July. For the past 22 years, Sieg has been an executive at the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, which facilitates economic and community development within Atlantic City’s Tourism District. Sieg replaces Jim Wood who departed from the agency in late 2019.
Eric Summe has announced his retirement as president & CEO of the Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau, effective July 1. The former longtime Delta Air Lines public policy executive has served nearly nine years at meetKY. Julie Kirkpatrick, VP sales and marketing at meetNKY will serve as interim president and CEO. She has been with the organizations since 2014.
Roger Dow, president & CEO of U.S. Travel Association writes, “The National Park Service got a major boost on Wednesday with the Senate passage of the Great American Outdoors Act (H.R. 1957) at $2.8 billion. Funding provided by the bill will support an estimated 100,000 jobs, $6.5 billion in labor income and $17.5 billion in economic output per year, as well as contribute $9.6 billion to U.S. GDP. “
Visit Sarasota County announced last week that its president Virginia J. Haley has been re-appointed to the Visit Florida Board of Directors through June 30, 2022. Haley currently serves as the 2019-2020 chair of the Visit Florida board.
Rebecca Barnes, a Lexington, KY-based consultant, has joined the ranks of volunteers at HTTA.US as the trade associations and DMOs outreach coordinator. HTTA.US is a benevolent non-profit, created to support Hospitality, Tourism, Travel and Activities jobs recovery. Read more about HTTA.US here.
Michael Seibel has joined Reddit’s board of directors. Seibel is partner at Y Combinator and CEO of the YC startup accelerator program, which first helped launch Reddit in 2005. In the VC world, Seibel is best known as an early mentor to Airbnb. At Y Combinator, he has backed and advised 1,800+ startups.
On June 5, Reddit Co-founder Alexis Ohanian wrote, “I have resigned as a member of the Reddit board. I have urged them to fill my seat with a Black candidate…It is long overdue to do the right thing.” The search took less than one week.
Hilton Worldwide is cutting its global corporate staff by 22 percent, representing 2,100 people. The company has also extended furloughs, reduced hours, and pay cuts for announced in March for another three months. “Never in Hilton’s 101-year history has our industry faced a global crisis that brings travel to a virtual standstill,” said Hilton president and CEO Christopher Nassetta, who is taking no salary in 2020. Among those departing is CMO Kellyn Smith Kenny who was previously CMO at Uber.
Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau is working on a cleverly worded new campaign featuring messaging that takes the form of “breakup” letters to homes, noting the “need to see other spaces.” Using billboards, digital and print, the campaign will be launched in getaway markets: Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.
“After spending a few months in self-quarantine, we think many people may welcome a break from their own homes to see new spaces,” said Jeff Miraglia, the DMO’s chief creative officer. of Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Visit Connecticut has launched a new $1.2 million marketing campaign expected to deliver 94M impressions to promote thousands of businesses impacted by the pandemic. “So Good to See You, Connecticut” is the multimedia campaign running June 22 through Labor Day, aimed at residents in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
In related news, the Connecticut Office of Tourism agency, Adams & Knight, received the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts award of excellence for the “So Much, So Close” quiz designed for social media.
Any DMOs involved in a debate about printed collateral? (At eTourism Summit, we’ve been involved in this conversation for 21 years, shining a light on Visit Indy, first to go 100% digital on a campaign in 2016.)
It’s June 2020; millions of travel industry jobs have been lost. Legislators in Iowa who argued that state taxpayers should not have to spend $242,000 to print 1.4 million of these multi-colored road maps—which are also available online—have also lost. That’s about 15¢ per map before postage; anyone can request a road map be mailed out. Arguments made by legislators who defend the quarter million dollar expenditure every other year include: apps might have outdated maps, phone batteries can run out, and mobile data plans have limits.
Summer cruises are cancelled. The resumption of cruises from U.S. ports has been pushed back again. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has issued a statement saying its members would voluntarily suspend operations until at least Sept. 15, 2020. “The current No Sail Order issued by the CDC will expire on 24 July, and although we had hoped that cruise activity could resume as soon as possible after that date, it is increasingly clear that more time will be needed to resolve barriers to resumption in the United States.”
Threshold 360 has launched Threshold Map™, a powerful new online digital tool designed to facilitate destination discovery for both meeting planners and consumers. The map displays visual content for hotels, restaurants, attractions, retail stores, parks and other locations, integrating social media tools. “The Threshold Map provides an exciting new way for meeting planners and potential visitors to walk through and understand a destination,” said Daniel Kraus, CEO of Threshold 360.
Yelp has added a widget to its restaurants pages to describe COVID-19 precautions. Self-reported listing options include “Hand sanitizer available,” “Contactless payment available,” and “Temperature checks enforced.” Other listing options are just basic things, some required by law, that every business must adhere to, such as “Social distancing enforced,” or “Masks required for customers.”
When Yelp laid off 1,000 employees in early April, Eater SF reported their restaurant traffic was down 64% and nightlife traffic was down 81%. Yelp created a PR fiasco by launching GoFundMe campaigns on establishments’ behalf without getting consent to do so.
The North Face has stopped advertising on Facebook. “We’re in. We’re Out,” high profile brand tweeted on last week, indicating its support of a Facebook ad boycott. The North Face immediately halted their own U.S. paid ads with Facebook, “…until stricter policies are put in place to stop racist, violent or hateful content and misinformation from circulating on the platform.” More recently, AdAge reports Patagonia has joined the boycott, also pulling ads from Instagram through July, at least.
Rentals within 200 miles currently account for more than half of the site’s bookings.
Airbnb saw more nights booked for its U.S. listings between May 17 and June 3 than it did during the same period a year ago, reports Bloomberg News.
Visiting family and friends, taking a road trip, staying at a beach resort or visiting a national park are on top of mind for people looking for emotional well-being with leisure travel, reports Yahoo Finance.
Now Airbnb is taking its first steps into recovery. The platform has penned partnerships with 15 DMOs around the world in a new initiative called “Go Near,” designed to reinvigorate local economies through travel.
In a survey commissioned by Airbnb, nearly half of US respondents said they will prefer to stay within a day’s drive for their first trip once lockdown restrictions lift.* Since the pandemic began, the percentage of bookings made on Airbnb within 200 miles, a round trip travelers can generally complete on one tank of gas, has grown from one-third of all bookings in February to over half in May. ” – Airbnb
The leading partner is US National Park Foundation.
Additional U.S.-based partners include Visit Florida, Discover Puerto Rico, and Visit North Carolina.
Global partners are:
- Dubai Tourism & Commerce Marketing, United Arab Emirates
- Visit Denmark
- French Association of Rural Mayors
- Hadong-gun, South Korea
- Zhejiang Tourism Homestay Inn Federation, China
- Guilin Bureau of Culture, Broadcasting, Television and Tourism, China
- State of São Paulo, Brazil
- Bermuda Tourism Authority
- The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation
- Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
- Wesgro, South Africa
Airbnb is also launching an email and social media campaign designed to highlight nearby destinations and online experiences. Read more in the Airbnb newsroom.
For the weekend of June 5-7, 2020, the top 10 trending destinations in the US were:
- Big Bear Lake, CA
- Miramar Beach, FL
- Panama City Beach, FL
- Smoky Mountains
- Hilton Head Island, SC
- Destin, FL
- Myrtle Beach, SC
- Branson, MO
- Palm Springs Desert, CA
- Port Aransas, TX
Other US destinations that have seen strong growth in Airbnb bookings include Idyllwild, CA; South Padre Island, TX; northern Wisconsin; Fredericksburg, TX; Tulsa, OK; northern Michigan; Lake Arrowhead, CA; and Burnet County, TX.
Get out the popcorn. Check out this sound track! It takes just 66 seconds to see a press release presented as an original movie from Darren Dunn and the team at Entrada Insights to show us that:
Ideation + Creativity > Covid Disruption
In a 2020 summer devoid of the usual travel shows, the year-old startup is taking the show on the road. Dunn writes, “I am super excited to make this video announcement on behalf of Entrada Insights.
Look forward to an epic journey with David Bahlman and Steven Cook. We will be posting all parts of the journey here in addition to twitter, insta, and yes…Tik Tok. You can tune in @entradainsights or @WheelsUpDDD. We miss all our industry friends and look forward to seeing you soon…”
More from Dunn about the spirit and the journey in Phocuswire: ‘”We knew potentially a lot of people wouldn’t be back in their offices yet, so we decided to get an RV, and we will put out the awning and literally set up a trade show booth. Every colleague in the industry that we’ve reached out to has said yes. They are so anxious to see us.'”
The RV is packed and the journey begins right now. As the movie says:
- 16 days
- 4500 miles
- 42 destinations
- 1 RV
Invitations have also been extended to Tripadvisor, Sojern, ADARA, MMGY, Miles Partnership, Longwoods International and Madden Media, which will have staff participating in the meetings.
“Let’s Take the Tradeshow to the People. It’s ‘The Road Back Tour.'”