Making the Most of Tailwinds in Destination Marketing, with Andrea McHugh

Episode 124

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Andrea McHugh is the senior communications manager for Discover Newport in Rhode Island. Andrea has been in the media and communication space for more than 20 years. Her experience as a magazine editor, copywriter and regular contributor to regional national, an international newspapers, magazines, and websites give her a unique and first-person perspective when serving her organization. In her role as senior communications manager at Discover Newport, the official Destination Marketing Organization for Newport and Bristol counties in Rhode Island, she has developed a comprehensive communication strategy ranging from amplifying key messages with media to conducting and coordinating all internal and external communications. Andrea was recognized by Providence Business news 40 Under Forty program and has served on the boards of PRSA Southern New England, and Habitat for Humanity, the editorial board of Engage Newport and the Marketing Committee of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce. She had spoken both as a presenter and panelist and multiple topics including public relations, communications, brand awareness and development, social media and more. On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Andrea McHugh about challenges that come during the off-season and when local officials are skeptical about the value of tourism. There is also so much opportunity out there right now. When tailwinds are strong, how do you capitalize on that momentum? Listen in and find out.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How to embrace and market your off-season
  • Making locals your allies in destination marketing
  • Working with local officials to educate on the benefits of tourism
  • Looking well beyond your region for tourism partnerships
  • How to manage the ebb and flow of visitors with greater consistency

Follow the Money

Sometimes local politicians do not see the value in supporting tourism. But when you show them the tax revenue generated, that makes the case for you. Andrea shared how, in her words, “Part of that solution is constantly sharing the data about the economic impact of tourism. In tourism, we can see exactly where the taxes have grown and when there’s an opportunity.” This education is not once and done. As new officials come into the office, the data needs to be shared and the case made all over again.

Thinking Outside Your Region

Sometimes opportunity for cross-pollination happens far from your back yard. When Bermuda, New York, and Co, and Destination Newport discovered they were all hosting sailing regattas, they decided to connect those dots for potential visitors who follow that distinctive recreational activity. What opportunities are there for your destination to partner with other places hosting similar events or attracting similar visitors? That can be a great form of coopetition!


Nicole Mahoney: 00:18 Hello listeners, I’m Nicole Mahoney, host of destination on the left. I am passionate about travel and tourism and love learning from the experiences of professionals in the industry and that is why I’m so excited to introduce today’s guest, Andrea Mccune, the senior communications manager for discover Newport in Rhode Island. Andrea has been in the media and communication space for more than 20 years. Her experience as a magazine editor, copywriter and regular contributor to regional national, an international newspapers, magazines, and websites give her a unique and first person perspective when serving the media needs demanded. In her role as senior communications manager at discover Newport, the official Destination Management Organization for Newport and Bristol counties in Rhode Island. This is where she has developed a comprehensive communication strategy ranging from amplifying key messages with media to conducting and coordinating all internal and external communications. Andrea was recognized by providence business news 40 under 40 program and has served on the boards of prs, say southern New England and habitat for humanity, the editorial board of Engage Newport and the Marketing Committee of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce. She had spoken both as a presenter and panelist and multiple topics including public relations, communications, brand awareness and development, social media and more. Thank you so much for joining me, Andrea.

Andrea McHugh: 01:45 Thank you so much for having me today. I’m very excited to be here.

Nicole Mahoney: 01:48 I am excited to have you as well. Before we dive into these questions, I’d really like it if you could tell us a little bit about your story in your own words. I find that you know, those bios kind of give the highlights, but um, we can switch more context when you can share it in your own words. So if you wouldn’t mind telling us how you got where you are today.

Andrea McHugh: 02:07 Oh sure. Absolutely. Well, I think when I was in college I was interested in, I’ve always been interested in media and I’ve always been a news junkie. Um, I wasn’t sure in college if that would be in broadcast media. Um, I knew, I love telling people stories at the time. I’m like you said 20 years, which, so I do go back a bit, but, um, you really had to come out of school and be willing to go to what are the smallest market, uh, in the country. Um, and that was, you know, still something I was passionate about, but the timing wasn’t something that I was really ready to go cross country or what did I really want to do. So, um, I started as a media buyer with time life. Um, and it was a really exciting time. It was just ahead of the AOL time merger, which ultimately made AOL Time Warner, the dominant media in music publishing, news, entertainment table, Internet.

Andrea McHugh: 03:02 Um, it was kind of, you know, when the Internet was really starting to skyrocket. I’m of course that bubble burst and years later the, there’s a lot of restructuring that AOL Time Warner. Um, and then now when I moved to Newport, I initially worked at a boutique PR firm, but I was always still writing on the side. I was either doing copywriting, which evolved into continuing my work with newspapers and magazines. And then the writing side really took more of a track and I was doing, I’m like you’d mentioned more national newspapers doing lifestyle is doing a lot of travel food and wine, um, some sailing coverage. Um, and I started reading travel guides. I’m doing him for CVBS and, um, that’s how I got really connected with the Newport CVB. Um, and then when they’re had an opening for and the organization had an opening for someone in communications, um, it was kind of taking off the writer’s hat and then becoming the resource for writers who I had worked for for so long. Um, so there was an organic trajectory and I’m, when I’m really just really honored to hold them telling people Newports stories. Um, certainly an honor and a privilege. So I’m excited to do it and tell everyone about it more today.

Nicole Mahoney: 04:14 Yeah, I think that’s great. I love to hear my guest stories, how they, you know, how they meander and ended up where, where they, where they belong ultimately. Um, and I think it’s interesting how you started with, you know, I was a news junkie and you knew you really liked media, but then kind of boil that down to you really liked the idea of telling people’s stories and a what a, what a great, you know, foundation in place to start, especially for the job that you have now. And, and really what, uh, what deemos do best, right? Is telling the stories of their destination. So I think that’s, that that’s just a really awesome path and I think you for sharing that with us. Yeah. So Andrea, I know you received our questions a little bit ahead. And as you know, we do like to focus in two areas on the show, creativity and collaboration.

Nicole Mahoney: 05:03 A lot of the times we end up talking about, um, both of them. It’s kind of hard sometimes, especially in travel and tourism. Uh, not to talk about collaboration because it’s so integral to most things that we do. Um, but I’m going to start with the creativity questions. And really the very first question it has to do with how competitive our industry is. And when I think about, um, you know, the traveling public, there are so many choices for them, so many destinations for them to choose from, not only choices and destinations, but just choices of things to do with their time, which could include not traveling. Right. And so, um, I’m just really wondering what you have done in Newport to really kind of help you stand out from the crowd.

Andrea McHugh: 05:47 Sure. As a destination. I think we’ve been doing a really good job of creating authentic visitor experiences here that you really can’t find anywhere else. And I know the word authentic does get bastardized off. Um, you know, but you know, as a DMO we’ve been crafting that story of what really makes sense destination different. You can go to a lot of different resort towns that, you know, have a beach and you know, have some, some interesting attractions. But here you can sail on a 12 meter that competed in the America’s Cup or one that won the America’s cup. You can champagne or a local brew at an international Polo match at the home of where international polo was really founded. You can run or take your time on cliff walk, a three and a half mile path, tracing the edge of the sea. You can explore the mansions that the gilded age elite people like the Astors and the Vanderbilts built for their summertime escape.

Andrea McHugh: 06:41 You can discover the country’s oldest lending library to redwood. We’re, you’ll see these beautiful centuries old books, but you’ll also see paintings and buses and sculptures and decorative arts and so much more. You can tour America’s oldest synagogue, Touro synagogue, which is a testament to religious freedom. You can taste, of course, locally, it locally made beverages like our barrel aged rum. And it’s what makes it different is that they make it here the exact same way it was done in the colonial era when Newport was considered okay, the rum capitol of the world. Uh, or you can drink that rum at white horse tavern. America’s oldest tavern dating back to the 16 hundreds, just around town. We have more colonial aerostructures here, most of which people live in now by local residents, um, than anywhere in the country. Um, we have wide range of low lodging from luxury boutique hotels. AIRBNB’s or you can stay in a lighthouse, you can stay at a carriage house, he can stay on a boat. A lot of destinations can’t claim the diversity of our lodging or our experiences for that matter. Um, so it’s really the destination itself, uh, is a unique place to explore and really choose your own adventure as a traveler.

Nicole Mahoney: 07:51 Yeah. I liked how you started with talking about the authentic visitor experiences, but then quickly went in to give us some examples of things that you can only do or find in New Port Rhode Island. It’s not the same as perhaps a culinary experience or maybe some of those more common experiences that you can have almost anywhere really honing in on these specific things that you can only find it, uh, here in Newport. And I’m curious how you deliver those stories. Can you talk a little bit about how you’re communicating that to, you know, to the visiting public?

Andrea McHugh: 08:30 Sure. From a marketing perspective, you know, I think that’s what a lot of demos are doing today is they’re really responding to the consumer because today’s travelers are savvier. Um, and, and that’s what they want today. They want to go deeper on all sensory levels that might be having a dinner from the lobsters they caught that morning with our local lobsterman. Um, that’s kind of how we’re really staying competitive on that end and frankly, staying on the forefront, I think, you know, what moves the needle is that we have these extraordinary answers. If someone says yes, what is there to do here? Um, so executing that message, I think like a lot of the Moz has been multifaceted. Um, we have a strategic digital marketing plan. Um, we do, uh, we’re really excited. We are putting together our first commercial in a long time. Um, we’ve been collecting B roll footage for about the last two years or so that showcase our destination and a lot of different lights, which includes during the off season.

Andrea McHugh: 09:25 Um, industry speakers, shoulder season. Uh, we had a campaign last winter. Uh, you know, we, we work so hard to say shoulder season in this industry, shoulder season, shoulder season, and finally made to pull back and say it’s the off season. It’s what people call it. So with the consumers know consumers saying, I can’t wait to travel in the shoulder season. Um, so we looked around and said, you know, what is it about our off season and Newports off season is on. And that became our tag. Uh, the off season is on everything that we’re not in the summer. You can get the best rest house, best seat in the house at the most popular restaurant you can cozy up by the fire with a locally made wine at one of our historic in, um, you can hear a band play and have a, again, a really up close and a view, you can really have time to speak with the people that are the makers here.

Andrea McHugh: 10:16 You know, when in the summer you may not have that opportunity. Uh, the city really breathes that, that time we exhale. Okay. And because it’s such a vibrant year round community, um, you’ll see locals and visitors alike intermingling and having conversations about what they love to do here. You know, one thing that really makes Newport unique is that the people who live here know they have a rare gem. Um, there’s no real locals go to the places that visitors go. I’ve lived firstly in destinations my whole life and there will be places that tourists go and we’re the local school here that’s coming completely intermingled and, and it makes it really exciting. You’ll see locals having, you know, cocktails on the rooftop deck at the Vanderbilt or being at Capitol Hill and taking in that spectacular view. So when it comes to our marketing with telling those stories, we’ve really relied on the community. I know that’s something we were talk about later a little bit more. Um, but we do it, uh, focusing on our drive market is a really important segment for us. So, um, throughout New England and the mid Atlantic. Um, and then we also, you know, look for, you know, broader scale with the direct flights from other destinations. International is really big. Um, and during our fall, a fall is always our biggest international time. So, uh, we do market with discover New England and we partner with other, other destinations to tell that story.

Nicole Mahoney: 11:43 Yeah, I think that’s, that’s great to know. And yes, you, you do have that, those fall cover colors, right? That everybody eats. Right. Last I got to get to New England. Aw, that’s right. That’s right. Yeah. So that’s a, that’s really awesome. Um, yeah, so I think that’s really interesting how you talked about the locals really understanding that they have a rare gem and where they live because I know a lot of deemos struggle with, you know, locals, um, really being those ambassadors and understanding what special things that they have, you know, in that particular destination. And I love that that you talked about how it’s intermingled and it’s not like, oh yeah, the locals, we all go, you know, we all go to this kind of side street place and nobody out, nobody knows about the visitors go over here. It truly is. I think that that is really a special thing that you have have there in Newport. And um, I’d be interested to know a little bit more about how you kind of leverage that, uh, enthusiasm from your locals, uh, into, you know, what you do it at the DMO level. Is, is there anything specifically that you can share?

Andrea McHugh: 12:54 I’m more macro level. We just came out with a, our destination do print pieces. Um, we know it’s still a very valuable part of our marketing scheme because, um, although digital is the future and we have, um, I think, uh, what are the best sites in the, in the marketing space. Um, websites. We, we have a very, of course responsive site and we’re mobile friendly and all those good things, but the printed pieces still a very valuable piece of collateral for the traveler. It’s services, different demographics of course. Um, but in that meeting planner, we have a section this year called local love. And it’s really taking folks from the community who share what they like to do, either when they’re having a staycation here in town or when they have friends and family visiting. Um, so, and you’ll see those people out. You’ll, you know, we have the, um, someone that works at the International Tennis Hall of fame telling what, what he loves about Newport and what, where he takes people.

Andrea McHugh: 13:50 And you’ll see him when you visit the Newport International Tennis Hall of fame there, you know, the real folks that make this, um, the heartbeat of the city really beat loudly. And, and that’s part of it is it’s having that, again, for lack of a better term, that authenticity. I’m the same [inaudible] that you see in the, in the marketing piece. You’ll see when you go to the brewery, he’s probably working that day and checking the hops and making sure all the different brews are hitting their KPIs. So, um, I think that’s part of what a lot of people are doing, are trying to implement, um, the excitement that people have for their destination. You’ll find a lot of carpet baggers here in Newport, myself included. Right. Um, there’s a lot of local pride because they really feel like they’ve landed where they’ve always belonged.

Nicole Mahoney: 14:34 Yeah, that’s, that’s really awesome. But one of the things that I like to explore when we talk about creativity is that creativity that appears in the face of, you know, some sort of, and a, I really love how creative, you know, we can be when we’re, when we’re needing to problem solve and I’m curious if there is a challenge or something that, that your community or organization has faced and maybe a creative solution that might have come from that.

Andrea McHugh: 15:08 Sure. And it’s, you know, getting our local politicians or leadership just to have a greater understanding of the positive impact of travel. Um, these include text generation jobs, quality of life. Um, there’s a lot of battles in many, in many places across the country. Um, because tourism is easy to beat up on it to interesting. People love to travel. Um, and they celebrate travel, but sometimes they don’t want to have travel in their own backyard. And some of the challenges that can come with that. Um, so communities can be averse to change. Um, so that’s, that’s just, you know, one of the challenges that we face, uh, in the industry that we’ve had to strategize on how to combat.

Nicole Mahoney: 15:50 Yeah. And what are some of the solutions that you’ve come up with, uh, you know, to, to address that?

Andrea McHugh: 15:56 Sure. Um, well, you know, here, just using Newport as an example of the 10 largest commercial taxpayers in this town, eight of them are hotels. Um, so our home, our CEO was spending a lot of time talking to our local and state politicians on the critical impact of tourism. And part of that solution is constantly sharing the data that we have to show the economic impact that there’s a lot of industries that you can’t have, um, you know, data that directly draw the conclusion. But tourism does have that benefit. We can see exactly where the taxes have grown and when there’s opportunity. MMM. You know, as a whole, travel generates around $158 billion in total tax revenue in the country, which includes 67 billion or so in state and local tax revenues. Um, on the average without these tax generated revenues, each household would pay about $1,200 more in taxes every year.

Andrea McHugh: 16:49 So seeing the great, the bigger picture when it comes to tourism, um, is something that we’re, you know, constantly trying. It’s the message we want to share and educate. And of course with government it can be a bit of a revolving door. So sometimes you get some headway. Um, and then you start all over with a new administration and new representatives. Um, so that, that, that’s a constant, constant point that we are, our CEO is working on. It’s really been his sweat equity over the years. Um, another solution that we had, um, a few years ago, um, just about three years ago, the state cut our funding by roughly $300,000. Um, so how do we make up that big loss? And, um, it became apparent that, uh, a tourism marketing district would alleviate, um, that revenue loss for the city without requiring any more investment from local government. So discover Newport became the pacemaker. Bye. Establishing the first tourism destination marketing district, which is a bit of a mouthful. Um, they’re kind of industry, well, I known as a tid, um, and we were first tid in New England. So the formation of this district, it was really great. It helped us secure this, these dedicated industry driven funding for targeted towards promotion efforts. Um, and that has been, um, taken years to get to that point. And it’s something we’re really excited about the future.

Nicole Mahoney: 18:07 Absolutely. Um, did it, did it launch already or are you, how long ago did it come into being

Andrea McHugh: 18:17 together? Yeah, no, we had to get some, um, a lot of hotel partners on board, which took our CEO and our team going out and talking to the GMS in town and, and showing, you know, where those dollars could potentially come from and how would they be used. Uh, so the kind of startup pointed that, uh, has already happened. And this is the first year that we’re seeing the actual revenues come in from the assessment. So, um, there hasn’t been a, a purchase with those funds just yet. It’s kind of its debut year. Um, but there’s a lot of different avenues that would better the entire community and what this tourism board, everyone has to be an agreement on it. So everyone sees it as a rising tide that will float all boats.

Nicole Mahoney: 19:01 Oh, we’re excited to see where it goes. I’m hearing more and more about that. And we actually had somebody from, I don’t know if that’s who you worked with, but on our show, I’m Tiffany Gallagher. I’m not sure if you worked with Tiffany, but yeah, so Tiffany was a guest on the show a few episodes ago and we really dove deep into what those tourism, um, marketing districts look like and how you go about, uh, you know, engaging the community and, and pulling those together. And I know it’s not an easy task, but I think, I think that’s a great long term, you know, solution and a great, um, opportunity for your communities. So that’s exciting.

Andrea McHugh: 19:43 We’re really excited for the future and we’re grateful to the buy in that our industry and all credit goes to the industry, um, that has been able to come together and see what can be accomplished if we work together to really answer the solutions to some of the challenges that we see coming. So really Kudos to the community for that.

Nicole Mahoney: 20:02 Yeah, absolutely. So now I’m going to give you a chance to talk about anything you want. I’ll know not have anything, but just really look to the future. Are there things that are coming down the pipe that you’re really excited about? Any projects or, or programs or new initiatives that you’d like to share with our listeners?

Andrea McHugh: 20:22 Sure. Newport as a, as a city a is going through when they’re very, very transformative time in the best way possible. Um, when, uh, we had some changes in around the 1969, 1970 era when the navy, um, left Newport doesn’t mean we still have the naval war college here and the Undersea Warfare Center. But really the, when we used to have the fleet of ships at was known for, um, change, uh, they, most of them are now down in Norfolk. And it was a big, it was a big, um, transformative time back then and that’s when Newport really became more of a tourism destination in the modern era. It was tourism in the gilded age, of course, around the turn of the century. Um, but it was after that it became, you know, as many places during the industrial revolution, you know, became a working town. Um, so when the navy has left the city had to it thank you path and how was it going to thrive?

Andrea McHugh: 21:18 And that’s when it became a tourism destination. We haven’t seen really until today that kind of transformation return, um, there and it’s just a lot of stars aligning at one time. But there’s a lot of development people can feel. There’s, I’m around at least five new hotels coming in, um, to the destination between Newport and our neighboring Middletown. There’s cranes in the sky. There are plans for an entire, a bridge alignment, which, um, that’s going to be the main entry into the destination via points from mainland Rhode Island. There’s really two entries into the island probably to make people know that iconic Newport pell bridge. Yeah. Um, it’s celebrating its 50th year, this year actually. And so we’re doing a lot around that anniversary, but okay. It’s going to be, you know, a time where there’s going to be new faces, new places. Um, and it’s all coming together.

Andrea McHugh: 22:15 It’s um, a time that I think we’ll just really uplift the city and that people really excited to see on, on, on many levels. Um, so we’re excited to see how that’s going to really, really pan out and be part of it. Um, our creative team, like I said, it’s also working on that new commercial right now that’s more on the, on the short term efforts. Um, so we have a new campaign that we’ve been rolling out called the classic coast because Newport, uh, is so, so often aligned with the kind of those, um, the way of life that’s here, the American achievements that have had hear that transformative cultural moments that have happened here in Newport. Um, you know, it’s associated with, like you had said, sailing on their games that they in the summer and, and the Kennedy’s wedding and, um, the things that you can do on here that you can’t do anywhere else. So the classic coasts is our, uh, uh, new campaign that we’re really getting behind and we’re sharing it across our social media channels and our digital marketing. Um, so there’s a lot of things that are a lot of irons in the fire that we’re really excited about.

Nicole Mahoney: 23:19 Yeah, that’s a, that’s really awesome. I love how you described cranes in the sky, right? Because that I can really see, I mean, that’s such a visual of, you know, growth and transformation and um, you know, these new projects, projects that you talked about and uh, I can really see how that can energize, you know, a city new things are coming and you use the words new faces and new places. Um, it sounds like just a really great, you know, time of, of change and evolution for, for Newport. Um, and you’ve got some of those mechanisms in place to, to, you know, um, support you for the future. Would that tourism, marketing district, it sounds like I can just feel from talking to you that things are really aligning, um, right now. And I think that’s exciting. It comes right through.

Andrea McHugh: 24:08 Well, I’m glad to hear that it’s, it is, you know, change is hard. Change is hard on any community and especially on a community that is centuries old. And I think the developers in the hotel space have been very cognizant of the architectural footprint that they want to have. Um, we’ve seen good architecture and bad architecture in Newport. Um, you know, the 80s were crazy for everything from fashion to build. My wardrobe can certainly attest to that. Oh, I dunno where everyone thought shoulder pads is a good idea. But you know, it certainly had buy in when I was yeah. Teenager, but the 80s was the best ever. I tell my children that you had to be there. Excellent. Architecturally we, so we had some a thumbs down. Uh, you know, so I think there’s [inaudible] a looking at it, the scope of the city overall, the destination, you don’t want to change.

Andrea McHugh: 25:06 What makes it so extraordinary. Um, so there’s been a lot of care in making sure that do anything that changes make sense in context of a historic American, a city. Um, so that, that’s been a positive. And um, you know, it’s good to have. Hmm. You know, companies see the bigger picture when it comes to a place as special as Newport. You don’t want to come in and, um, you know, make a radical change. Um, you know, if there was other businesses coming in and the tech sector or other sectors, you know, we saw say saw the, the planning, the writing on the wall, that this was a place for it, you know, that’d be great. But it’s really hoteliers and people in the tourism industry that are seeing, uh, you know, Newport’s market share grow. Um, so it’ll be, you know, our CEO was seen in the city, you know, going back to, um, a number of years over the past 30 years to really see it change. And he has said, you know, on record, he’s never really been more exciting, excited to see a new port grow right now. So it’s a good time.

Nicole Mahoney: 26:07 That’s really great. That’s awesome. Well, that’s a perfect segue actually for us to talk a little bit about collaboration because I’m sure, you know, no city can, can actually transform in that way without collaboration. And one of the things that I love about this industry and the, and you’ve kind of alluded to it a little bit, especially talking about your tourism marketing district, but it’s where, um, you know what I like to call coopertition where these competitors, uh, come, come together and cooperate to create something that’s bigger than what they can do on their own. And, and certainly your hoteliers needed to do that, um, for that tourism marketing district. Um, and so I’m wondering if you have an example of a collaboration perhaps that, um, that either you are part of, um, uh, or that, that you have experienced that you can share with us and our listeners?

Andrea McHugh: 27:04 We have a few, one of them was just last month, um, partnered with the Bermuda Tourism Authority in New York and company as we’re all three world class destinations and we share our similarities in the sailing and luxury market segments. So this summer as I’m Bermuda had kind of taken the lead and saw that, wait a minute, this summer, all three destinations are hosting premiere sailing regattas. So there’s a lot of opportunity in terms of cross pollination for audience. So I’m the marketing, marketing collaborative really targets those luxury travelers in these sailing events will be really be the anchor for these. So, um, we’re planning to do some digital placements, some social media, traditional PR, some giveaways, trip giveaways, um, because all three destinations really have so much, so much a synergy together. And that was just last month. Um, another partnership that we’re really excited about is with our friends in Newport beach, California. Um, this is with our meetings, um, department.

Andrea McHugh: 28:05 And as you can imagine, Newport what island and Newport beach do get confused sometimes of when it comes to consumers and planners more than you would think. Uh, for example, we both have a holiday boat parade, which is very popular. Ours is usually the weekend after Thanksgiving to kick off the holiday season. And a new port beach has one, um, that goes throughout five days for five nights. They have this parade and they can bring around a hundred thousand people where ours is about a 10th of that. And I, you can imagine my surprise when I opened up a major travel magazine last year and it said, Oh, Newport, Rhode Island expects a hundred thousand people,

Nicole Mahoney: 28:45 nearly four times our entire population.

Andrea McHugh: 28:51 We’ve had a, we’ve had a lot of laps over the years about many things. So our meetings department is coming together for an event in May to kind of celebrate both destinations and as a meeting, as a meeting location. Um, and you know, these are really opportunities for meeting planners to get in front of two world class destinations with a lot of similarities in their, in their sailing, in their hotel portfolios and the experiences that they can do. And we can kind of cross sell those lists and tell people about both and recommend one for the other. You know, every many, so many corporations have an annual conference or something of that nature, um, that they, you know, they, maybe they’ll go to one destination one year and then the other, the next or for their small border treat. Maybe they’ll come to Newport, Rhode Island, but when it comes to their industrywide conference, they’re going to be headed a beach.

Andrea McHugh: 29:41 So we love when we can kind of capitalize on that synergy and work together there really just a lot of opportunity. Um, another town that we’ve worked with before, or sales team, they’re known as the destination experts, right? They posted a joint, a meeting for a event for meeting planners in the DC and Virginia market with our friends that visit Annapolis, a Nepalis. We have a fun rivalry for years over which one is the sailing capital of the world. Um, but we, we have a good play on words with that and yeah, just, it’s an opportunity to really, to pool our resources and the meeting planners love it. Um, so we’re excited to continue those collaborations. All right. What was the word you used? That’s my new favorite. Yeah.

Nicole Mahoney: 30:21 Yeah. Coopertition good repetition. If we want to celebrate our, the basin and also in our own backyard.

Andrea McHugh: 30:32 Do you work with the state where we have for the smallest state in the country? Rhode Island has such a diverse spectrum of, uh, destinations within Rhode Island. Providence is such a fascinating city. And, uh, his home to Rizzy and Brown and this amazing culinary scene because at Johnson and Wales University down in South County, you’ll get this like beautiful, picturesque ocean front escape that’s, you know, more serene and Blackstone Valley has some amazing forestry and trails, all this stuff. So we work with our partners within the state. Again, it’s that rising tide philosophy. If travelers come to providence, they might also come to Newport. If people go to Narragansett, they might also go to the Blackstone valley to explore nature. So there’s a lot of opportunity there to work together.

Nicole Mahoney: 31:19 Absolutely. And collaborative collaborative session. Well the actually is coopertition you’ve got coined a new word. That’s awesome. What I love about all those things, samples, um, and I was, it was, I was laughing when you said the new Port Beach, California. Cause when I wrote your intro for the show, I specifically said up at the top Rhode Island before I got into your bio where you got to Rhode Island’s because I was kind of thinking people might think you were in California, so I can appreciate that. But what’s so cool is that you have found these partnerships. Um, and I’m hearing, you know, several different ways that you’ve found them and reasons why, but they, what I love about that is like the Newport beach and the relationship that you have on the meetings side. And instead of seeing each other as competition, you’re on two separate coasts. There could be different reasons for meetings on the east coast versus the west coast and, and kind of playing off of the confusion, right?

Nicole Mahoney: 32:23 And helping to kind of straighten that out and at the same time do a more thorough introduction of, of what each of you has to offer, I think is really cool. Um, and then this, the, this whole idea of sailing and the parallels that you have, not only with Newport but then you know, that a Bermuda tourism in NYC and company, I mean, at first glance you might think, why or why are you co-marketing right? Between very diverse destinations that are not necessarily nearby each other. Um, but then to understand you’re all attracting this luxury traveler and you have this message, right, that’s similar. Um, I think that’s just so creative in, you know, in finding those kinds of partnerships. And then to go as far to say that you have this friendly rivalry with visit Annapolis and the, and the same kind of idea around the sailing capital of the world and, and how you play off of that. So, um, you know, Kudos to you guys. I think that’s just really a great way to think about competition and it’s gotta be one of the best examples I’ve had on the show.

Andrea McHugh: 33:27 Wonderful.

Nicole Mahoney: 33:29 Yeah.

Andrea McHugh: 33:33 Such a critical cornerstone of our market. You know, one of the other challenges we face as a destination is kind of the, um, the ebb and flow that we have a visitor ship, you know, between the weekend and the midweek. Uh, it’s, it’s one of those things are filling, filling those hotel rooms midweek. Is, is more of a challenge for, for destination. So the, the meetings market, is it sustainable? Um, it comes in for multi day is it can range from 30 people to 300 people. Um, and working together it’s something that we, we can see it’s going to benefit us all in the long run is, is to see what’s the right fit and also to recommend places that if something, if, if it’s a 3000 person conference that all have to stay in one hotel in our destination and experts are going to say, you know, we don’t have that capacity.

Andrea McHugh: 34:18 We’re not going to try and be something that we’re not, let me, let me recommend that you want to. A Beautiful Waterfront, a classic American classic coast city that that’s gonna, um, be able to do that. Let me give you my, my colleague’s name and Annapolis or Newport beach or, or place that that can accommodate them. Um, it’s really, uh, maybe a karmic kind of philosophy, but it is seeing how and that’s going to ultimately help the client. The client’s going to remember that, um, you know Patricia and yeah, death and, and discover Newport helped her find the great place in Newport beach and when they are going to plan that board retreat for 30 people, there might think of Newport, Rhode Island first. So it’s really, again seeing, like you said, that cooperation

Nicole Mahoney: 34:59 petition, it helps us. All right. That’s a really great point. So Andrea, I have one more question I’d like to ask you before we say goodbye, but this has been just a really wonderful conversation and I appreciate you know, how much you’ve been a, how open you’ve been and how much you’ve shared with us. I know, I know our listeners are getting a lot out of this conversation and where I’d like to end is with this question about the evolving role of the DMO. It’s, it’s a benefit topic of conversation for several years. And, um, specifically, um, this whole idea of the DMO, um, kind of evolving to be more of a community manager, um, and engaging more with locals, uh, and, and not just focused on those visitors. And so I’m wondering, and I know we’ve already touched on this a little bit, uh, earlier in the conversation, but I’m curious to know your perspective on how your role at the DMO is, is really evolving and changing.

Andrea McHugh: 36:08 Do you mean in terms of kind of an organic approach to working within the community itself, be your brand ambassador? Is, is that,

Nicole Mahoney: 36:17 yeah, that’s one, that’s definitely one piece of it. I think just what I have been seeing is, uh, traditionally deemos are very focused on heads and beds. We’ve got to get those out of town visitors and we have to get the overnights. And I think there’s been a shift, and I, I have this hypothesis of my own, but where tourism is being seen more as, um, that kind of economic generator within the community. They’re being recognized more as, um, you know, creating that being responsibility or being responsible for offering such a high quality of life, which can also lead to say new people moving there or a new businesses moving there or, or whatever. But it’s not so much about the heads on beds entirely anymore. And I’m just curious as to what you’re seeing and if that’s an evolution that you’re experiencing as well.

Andrea McHugh: 37:11 I think it is part of that, that we’ve, we’ve seen that you, like you said, it’s a more holistic approach, um, versus, you know, just the more analog heads in beds. Um, we’ve seen that in a lot of different capacities. I’m just going to use, for example, we have had the Volvo Ocean race here twice. And, um, this is, the conversation has been a little bit more feeling oriented than, you know, Newport, the sailings just one faction of it. But it’s a good example because the Volvo Ocean race is an international around the world race where the team’s eighteens leave Alicante Spain and they literally make their way around the globe. And, uh, for the last two editions of the Volvo Ocean race, Newport has been the only North American stop. Um, but this is a huge undertaking for a destination. Um, you know, it’s almost right at that capacity level for us because we can see, you know, around 100,000 people over the course of the 10 day event.

Andrea McHugh: 38:06 Um, that’s a lot of capacity. We will, we’ll have 10,000 people a day say for the Newport folk festival, which is, you know, the world renowned folk festival that gets some of the best artists in the world. That’s just over the course of a weekend. But over the course of 10 days, uh, you know, for one, if you, for lack of a better term, it’s a conference really with sponsors coming and support and where are we going to put them? Um, we know we have a lot of fantastic, uh, opportunities for lodging when it comes everything from full service hotels to dance your airbnb’s. Um, so the community really came together to make the bid for sure or this and, uh, you know, there was a bit of a nail biter, you know, can we, but it really came everyone together, chamber of Commerce was critical and you know, becoming the business advocate for how businesses can get in front of these visitors every single day.

Andrea McHugh: 38:57 And you know, for the tourism perspective, we were marketing this event, uh, throughout the northeast, uh, from all the way up to me and all the way down to Washington DC. We knew everyone from sailing enthusiasts will come, but this was really a visitor experience so you could not know, you know, the board from port side and still go out to the festival like atmosphere that we had at our Fort Adams state parks. So it’s just one example of all the different facets and, and silos of, of the industry coming together to ensure the success of this event. It became the most successful stopover in the race, which explains why they want it to come back. And they had never repeated a destination in North America. So it was just one example of a really everyone playing a part and being able to kind of shoulder there their portion of the success of the event and then

Nicole Mahoney: 39:50 okay,

Andrea McHugh: 39:50 post success. It was really, um, sharing, sharing the victory amongst each other. You know, the GMS were of the hotels were saying how well the transportation folks did in the transportation. Folks were saying how well the hospitality organization was. So, um, I think it’s one, just one example of, you know, really working together with other organizations to ensure that the visitor has an experience so that every person leaving that event becomes a destination ambassador for you. If you ask any one of you been to Newport and they say yes and you said, what’d you like about it? That you’re going to get 10 different answers. You know, someone might say, I stated that I sit on the beach for 10 days. It was fabulous. So when we might say, I saw 12 in the Newport mansions I saw were there Vanderbilt’s slab, then we’re Alva Vanderbilt held her rallies for women’s suffrage.

Andrea McHugh: 40:37 And, you know, someone else might say, Oh wow, you’d need went stand up paddle boarding around the entire island. Um, I caught my dinner and then, you know, we had a lobster feast, I had a lobster clambake at the edge of the sea. You’re gonna get a lot of different answers. But if those ambassadors are telling their story, I don’t need to tell you and your listeners how valuable that is, you know, versus us putting a, a commercial on TV, which we are excited about. But those people that become your, your voice are really invaluable. So giving people that elevated experience so that they can help spread your message is, you know, something that we can’t capitalize on enough.

Nicole Mahoney: 41:14 Yeah, absolutely. No, I think that’s a fantastic example. And, and I love that you pointed out that there was the post event or the post race, you know, success sharing that, you know, kind of those high fives, if you will. I’m among the community and, and really, you know, recognizing each other for, for a job well done. And then also recognizing what you accomplished together. I think that’s, uh, that’s really fantastic. This was a really rewarding experience. Yeah, absolutely. Well, Andrea, this has been a fantastic conversation. I really appreciate you taking your time out of your busy scheduled it to be with us today. We have learned so much and um, there are so many things now I need to get to Newport and do, we’ll be excited to welcome you for sure. Like, um, are there any final words, anything that you’d like to share that maybe I didn’t ask you and you, you had wanted to share before we say goodbye?

Andrea McHugh: 42:09 Well, I really enjoyed our conversation today and it’s always a pleasure to speak on the industry level. We, you know, do so much. I’m speaking really on the Leisure and meeting travel markets, but to speak to colleagues that have these shared experiences is a really been just an absolute pleasure. And I, I can’t thank you enough, but when you want to invite everybody to come to Newport, whether it’s when the off season is on or what, it’s the summertime to really find their own Newport story to see what really hones in for them as something that’s really out of the ordinary. So we’re excited. We want to come here and choose their own adventure.

Nicole Mahoney: 42:44 That’s awesome. Well, thank you so much, Andrea, and we’ll look forward to connecting with you. Again,

Andrea McHugh: 42:49 thank you so much for having me.

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