Ending the Tourist vs. Townie Divide, with Bob Provost

Episode 121

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Bob Provost, president, and CEO of New York Tourism and Industry Association (NSYSTIA) has been pretty much everywhere in New York State, from Long Island to the Thousand Islands. He currently resides on a small farm in northern Rensselaer County. When Bob joined NYSTIA as a member in early 2017 he had no idea he would be joining the staff as president and CEO in September of 2018. He felt that there was tremendous potential yet to be realized in the organization and terrific people to work with. Prior to joining NYSTIA, Bob enjoyed success as chief marketing officer with the Hearst newspapers in Albany, New York from 1987 to 2005. He then served as CMO of the Star-Ledger, Newjersey.com. During his time there, Bob campaigned for a more structured, proactive tourism infrastructure in the Garden State. In 2015 Bob transitioned from his role as a media executive to become president and CEO of the Greater Newark Convention and Visitors Bureau where he dramatically upgraded digital marketing and international outreach, achieving increases in occupancy, average daily rate, and welcome the first new hotels in that market in decades. Bob has worked with students throughout his career as a faculty member at Sienna College and Rutgers Business School, and with hundreds of interns. He has served on the boards of many institutions, colleges, cultural and arts organizations, chambers and CVBS, as well as social service organizations. On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Bob about the economic impact of tourism, and how to really listen to residents and help them understand and embrace the positive impact of tourism. He says, improve the visitor experience and you will improve the resident experience. Find out how to get neighbors and business owners on board and treat tourism as the economic development engine it is. What You Will Learn in This Episode:
  • Why best practices are more important than industry experience
  • How to help a community understand that good tourism means an economically healthy community
  • How internships from outside hospitality can be a win-win
  • The 8 Ps of Tourism Marketing
  • The importance of embracing change as communities and tourism itself evolves

Tourism as Economic Development

Too often, the wider economic impact of tourism is overlooked by residents. Bob wants to change that by helping people involved in tourism change the narrative. Bob shares how if your tourism sector is successful, then you will have revitalized downtowns in small towns as well as jobs and small business success. Tourism also reduces their tax burden and increases employment opportunities. It enhances the quality of life choices that are available to them by supporting restaurants, attractions, and other leisure opportunities. Bob wants the business community to understand how they can hitch their wagon to that visitor economy and increased sales and success.

Embracing Change

Bob ended our conversation with this message: “I’m a big believer that healthy organizations are very much like healthy organisms. They need to embrace evolutionary change or they will not survive the competition of the fittest.” If you don’t evolve, change is going to be a lot more traumatic. Making a smaller, incremental change on a consistent basis allows you to move forward as an organization and thrive. That’s the philosophy he is embracing for NYSTIA and one that we all have had to learn – hopefully not the hard way! Resources:

Nicole Mahoney: 00:20 This is 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, Bob Provost, president and CEO of New York Tourism and Industry Association, born in Bay shore long, Long Island. Bob Provost Loves New York vacationing everywhere from both castle and the thousand islands to New York City. Lake placid to Corning with stops everywhere in between. He resides on a small farm in northern Rensselaer county. When Bob joined Nicea as a member in early 2017 he had no idea he would be joining the staff of Nestea as president and CEO in September of 2018 when the position was posted. He explains why he applied because he felt that there was tremendous potential yet to be realized in the organization and terrific people to work with. Prior to joining this idea, Bob enjoyed success as chief marketing officer with the Hearst newspapers in Albany, New York from 1987 to 2005 moving to New Jersey in 2005 as Cmo of the Star Ledger, New jersey.com Bob campaigned for a more structured proactive tourism infrastructure in the garden state.

Nicole Mahoney: 01:37 In 2015 Bob transitioned from his role as a media executive to become president and CEO of the Greater Newark Convention and visitors bureau where he dramatically upgraded digital marketing and international outreach, achieving increases in occupancy, average daily rate, and welcome the first new hotels in that market in decades. Bob has worked with students throughout his career as a faculty member lecture at Sienna College and Rutgers business school and with hundreds of interns. He has served on the boards of many institutions, colleges, cultural and arts organizations, chambers and CVBS, as well as social service organizations. He is a member of the national board of selectors for the Jefferson awards. The nation’s most prestigious award for public service and volunteerism. So thank you for joining me, Bob. I really appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to spend some time with us and our listeners today. And I’m, before we get started with some of these questions, I find it so much and so much more context to our conversation. If you can tell us a little bit about your story in your own words, um, if you could share with us a little bit about your journey and how you got to where you are today.

Bob Provost: 02:46 Sure. Let’s just say I didn’t take the direct route. I actually started my career, uh, the day I started college, I began with the Times Union and Albany. And so I spent three decades there before retiring out of the Hearst group. And, um, about midway through my career there as I was named chief marketing officer, I advocated for successfully the fact that the newspaper needed to be deeply engaged in a catalytic role in economic development. Uh, you know, as they say, you can either shape your future or you can let the future shape you. And, uh, I, I felt the newspaper, uh, as a medium is so deeply rooted and in such a, uh, I’ll call it symbiotic relationship with the economic health of the community. The newspaper wouldn’t prosper if the community did. And that’s how I ended up, uh, in a foray into tourism working with the Albany County Convention and visitors bureau for the better part of 15 years and learning a great deal about what tourism could do to positively impact the community.

Bob Provost: 04:02 Uh, I took that lesson with me when I went to New Jersey in 2005 as chief marketing officer for that state’s largest media company and found out that there was no infrastructure outside of a state office and to State Managed Convention and visitors bureau and had the great good fortune to have very collaborative partners in state government. And over the course of a three or four years established the first four local DMO slash uh, CVBs convention and visitors bureaus in the state and help them lay the groundwork for an infrastructure that eventually became 19 deemos in 21 counties. Uh, it was a very exciting time. Uh, we also, uh, established the first two tourism improvements in the state of New Jersey and had a great record of success addressing the transition from let’s say, economic development by default rather than design to a program that truly had a strategic structure and a design for growth. Uh, that in turn led me to, you know, I never left my home here in Albany. I was commuting for 12 years and, uh, I decided I wanted to reengage and spend a little more time with my family and, um, I joined [inaudible] in 2017 to begin to network in the local tourism community. Never expecting that I would end up actually on the staff of Nestea. So that’s how I got to where I am.

Nicole Mahoney: 05:43 Yeah, that’s a, that’s a really, really great story. And I want to back up, I just love your perspective on, uh, economic development and you know, where you came from, from the newspaper and thinking about the newspapers role in economic development and why that was important. Um, and pointing out, I love how you described it, the symbiotic relationship that the paper had with the community and how that kind of led you into, into tourism. I think that that’s just such a great example of just really how broad the tourism industry really is and, um, how, how far reaching, I guess, right into different communities. Even in such a place where you were at a newspaper thinking about economic development and quickly got to, oh, tourism, it really has a huge impact on economic development.

Bob Provost: 06:33 If you think back in Albany to that period of time, uh, between let’s say 1985 and 2005, Albany was, uh, and an economic doldrum and, uh, pretty much, uh, suffering the same declines that you would have found in other upstate cities at the time. And we basically made the case with our corporate parents that if we could get involved catalytically not as newsmakers, but as the people who convene the discussion. And if you think about a focus group where we’re the ones guiding the discussion, uh, and bringing people together to develop, uh, solutions. And that was the period of time where we were very supportive and, and I’m going to say catalytic, but we actually were in a, uh, a low profile leadership role, kind of leading from the middle of the room with the development of a new airport, a new train station, uh, the construction of a new arena in Albany and, uh, you know, ultimately creating the infrastructure we needed to grow, not only through tourism but also at the time through the development of the concept of Tech Valley. So there was a lot going on.

Nicole Mahoney: 07:51 Absolutely. I think that’s just really awesome. And then, and then how you took that, uh, with you when you transferred to New Jersey and, um, kind of saw the lack of what you call the tourism infrastructure there. Um, but then the opportunity, right, to really create some structure around that so that they could, they could gain traction there. And I think that’s just phenomenal. That went from pretty much no deemos to 19 DMLS, um, in, in such a short period of time. So I think that’s, that sounds really exciting. And another exciting period of your career.

Bob Provost: 08:28 It was, it was a lot of fun. It was, I w I would have to say a uniquely facilitated by the fact that, uh, nj.com in the star ledger are such pervasive, a pervasive media presence throughout the state that I could, you know, pick up a phone. Uh, it all started when I picked up the phone and called the secretary of State’s office and she got right on the phone and made an appointment and let me come to talk to her. And, you know, we, we talked about, uh, the fact that New Jersey suffered, uh, kind of from being a second or even third tier state. I, everybody viewed New Jersey as a bedroom community to New York or Philadelphia. Uh, and, and part of that, I, I did some research. I did, did over 201 on one interviews and a whole series of informal focus groups. But I, I basically said, you know, we get a plus in this state for affluent suburbs, but we get an F for cities.

Bob Provost: 09:35 And if you look at the state at the time of Newark and Asbury Park and uh, Trenton or Camden, it was grim. And, and I said, you know, if you, you look at these, I’m going to use the analogy of, of the Bastow physics here, uh, New York and Philadelphia at great cities. And I loved them, but as far as the state of New Jersey were concerned, they were black holes that kind of suck all the light out of the state. And, and I advocated that New Jersey needed its own center of gravity at needed, a metropolitan slash cosmopolitan urban, okay center that, that had vitality and energy and was attractive and you needed a destination city to step up to that role. And Newark was the city that was uniquely situated to do it. The only problem is newer cad in incredibly damaged brand that we needed to address. And I think we did so very successfully.

Nicole Mahoney: 10:39 Oh, that’s great. Well, maybe we cannot learn a little bit more about that as we go through this conversation. I’m sure there was a lot of creativity and collaboration that I’m sure it had to happen in order for that. Um, you know, and, and in order for that to happen and for new to become a destination city. Um, but before we get there, I want to kind of shift gears and talk about your current role as the New York State Tourism Industry Association and you have a conference coming up in a few weeks and I, I’d like to kind of have you talked to us or share with us, um, what’s happening at that conference. Cause I know since since you’ve taken over in the leadership role, there’s been some changes happening within the organization and what can we expect at the conference in a few weeks?

Bob Provost: 11:30 I’m only halfway kidding one of the essence, at least in my mind, of, of creativity as a certain amount of chaos. Change is the status quo. And I’ve been an advocate for decades of what I refer to as a culture of constant learning and constructive change that you’ve, you’ve got to stay on the leading if not the bleeding edge of knowing what’s going on. And, and you also have to have a skillset that allows you to filter out those things that are interesting versus those things that are strategically important, that necessitate, uh, you embracing some form of change in your organization. You, you run the risk of being a puppy chasing the bright objects, you know, and, and you’ll have to strategically select those things that are significant to you. Um, as it relates to Nestea, uh, the New York State Tourism Industry Association, I was very fortunate to inherit a terrific organization with a very strong foundation, uh, that was in good fiscal health.

Bob Provost: 12:40 And, uh, what was troubling Nestea when I joined it was just this incredible wave of a transition as it related to staffing. Uh, virtually every member of the team had been offered and accepted a really terrific position in another role in the tourism industry. And, and so the organization was kind of on autopilot for the better part of the six or eight months. And, and so very little planning had been done for 2019 and that was both a challenge and an opportunity because it gave me an opportunity to work with the board and, and to confer with the former staff members and uh, our new partner, my new partner there, Christine Hoffer, our chief operating officer and immediately chart the direction we felt was appropriate to build on that base. Um, big part of it, uh, quite frankly, Nicole is to change the narrative of tourism amongst our members.

Bob Provost: 13:50 Uh, one of the things I noticed right away is, is everybody was talking about we need to get people to support tourism. We need to get people to fund tourism, we need, but they always talked about tourism as if tourism was the end goal. What we were trying to achieve was more tourism. And the reality is that tourism, and maybe I have this perspective because my genesis was from outside looking in from the media side, I got involved in tourism because I saw it as an economic development engine and people weren’t talking about economic development. So we went from a, a statement of purpose for the organization that said, we represent the tourism industry in matters of advocacy, collaboration, research and marketing to a statement that says we advance economic development, job creation, standard and quality of in pride of place across New York state by realizing the potential of the tourism industry and facilitating the success of our members.

Bob Provost: 15:01 And, and not being shy about saying, you know, we’re here to make our members successful. Why? Because if they’re successful, then you will have revitalized downtowns in small towns and you will have wilderness trails and wine trails and you will have jobs and small business success. Uh, when you look at the outcome of what our people work on and develop and support, it’s, it’s really, uh, an opportunity for them to leave the world in their local community a better place than they found it. And I truly believe that the people I’m working with, okay. Although they may not consciously think about that, they deep down they understand it because they’re also passionate and proud of what they’re doing. So the, the theme this year is inclusion. Taking that narrative out into the community, to the people who live there. So they understand how the visitor economy benefits the local resident.

Bob Provost: 16:02 It reduces their tax burden. It increases employment opportunities. It enhances the quality of life choices that are available to them by supporting restaurants and attractions and other, uh, leisure opportunities. It, it’s also a story, a narrative we need to take to the business community so they understand how they can hitch their wagon to that visitor economy and increased sales and success for them. Yeah. And, uh, it’s also the story we need to take to the local elected leadership and civic influentials so that they to, uh, realize the dividends that, that tourism is paying for them. MMM. I’m running off at the mouth here.

Nicole Mahoney: 16:53 I know. I’m right. I’m actually, I take notes, you know, when we do these interviews and I’m writing Mamluk, somebody takes notes. Well, I, I would, I would expect my listeners take notes too, unless they’re listening to us as they’re driving. But, uh, but no, you just gave us a lot to think about in a, and I’m really excited that this is where this conversation is going because, uh, on this, uh, show, actually just at the beginning of this year, I started asking a question of all of my guests, usually the question I, I closed the show with, but I want to explore this further with you right here because it really does relate. Um, but it’s this whole idea of, um, destination marketing organizations becoming more like community managers and having that broader reach and a, this speaks exactly to that topic and what we’ve been exploring on the show. Um, and so I’m so excited to hear you talk about in this way. Um, and it’s not surprising to hear, you know, to listen to you talk about where you came from and when you started with that, you know, that role that you had back in the eighties and nineties, and in the Albany area with the newspaper and you’re focused on economic development and how you’ve kind of really brought this right back around to the role you have today. So I think that that’s just awesome.

Bob Provost: 18:13 Yeah. I should also add that the concept of inclusion also covers the consumer and the increasing diversity of the domestic consumer, both in ethnicity, lifestyle and other aspects, but also the increasing opportunity for New York and all of New York, not just New York City to attract international visitors and you know, essentially import money. Uh, and, but you’ve got, if you’re going to be successful at that, you have to prepare your community and your tourism partners to receive that, that a different consumer. Okay. So that’s another aspect of it along with workforce development.

Nicole Mahoney: 19:01 Okay. Absolutely. So, um, let’s just, let’s talk a little bit about that workforce development piece. Cause I know that’s something else that, you know, I’ve, I’ve been hearing a lot about recently and kind of understanding where do you see these folks in the tourism industry, these folks that make up Nicea and, and of course beyond Nice Dia that are part of the industry. Um, where do you see them making an impact on that whole idea of obviously job creation, but workforce development?

Bob Provost: 19:31 Well, workforce development as it relates to our industry. I’ll tell you anecdotally, I sat down with an association that represents all of the private colleges and universities in the state of New York to talk about workforce development. And, and they were very receptive, uh, gave me an appointment immediately. Um, and I’ve been involved throughout my entire career, uh, working with colleges and universities. I worked with 18 of them when I was in Albany. Uh, I’ve taught for the better part of three decades at business schools in Albany, at Sienna College at Rutgers. But when I sat down with them and said, you know, we want to talk not only about scholarships, but we want to be engaged because there already was a scholarship program at Nestea, a, as you’re probably aware, uh, started by Charlie daily and Dave Thorton. But we need to get involved in internships. We need to reach into the appropriate curriculum and disciplines and, and engage college students as they emerge and prepare for the workforce.

Bob Provost: 20:43 And they looked at me and they said, oh, we have culinary programs. We’re all set. And, and I was like, you, you don’t understand, you know, culinary is like a slice of the pie. If you want to use a culinary example. But we have digital marketers, we have videographers and, and creative writers and we have strategic planners and executives and, and um, you know, this is an incredibly diverse industry with very strong curriculum tracks that, you know, transcend many different fields of study and that blew their mind. Uh, they never thought about tourism outside of serving food. Uh, which was interesting, but when, when I talked to them about, you know, the infrastructure of the state, every county having its own tpa, the, you know, several dozen major demos and CVBs the trade and travel shows, the sophisticated digital campaigns, a pervasive print marketing and everything that goes on, you know, on the private sector side, much less what’s happening with our colleagues at, I love New York. Um, that was kind of a, uh, very broad mind broadening experience for them. I have another meeting scheduled with them later this month before the conference and the DOL, the Department of Labor for the state, uh, to come together and develop a game plan. But, um, the folks who manage the scholarship program at Nestea and the membership have embraced the idea of, um, expanding our engagement to include these internships and essentially experiential work opportunities to bring people into our organizations that would otherwise not have been aware that we exist.

Nicole Mahoney: 22:43 Yeah. And I think that’s such a great initiative and exciting to hear that, that you’re being proactive in that space. You know, what makes me think about what you said when you started, when you started to talk about your own journey and you said to me, well, it was not a direct route and I’ve got to say, and uh, pretty much nine times out of 10, my guess will tell me it was not a direct route. I didn’t even know that tourism was a field that I could be in. Right. I just kind of happened upon it. And so, um, I think that’s really exciting about the opportunities that could be out there. If folks maybe took a more direct true, right. Some of this tale.

Bob Provost: 23:26 Yeah. Know there’s two, two perspectives on that. I mean, um, I, I would argue I probably took the least direct route of anybody who spoke to, because I didn’t get fully engaged in this industry until I was turning 60. But, you know, I guess it took me a long time to train. But the, the reality is that when I’ve tea, I’ve met with a number of colleges and universities already directly, uh, and, and they say, oh, should we have it tourism major? And I’m like, I’m not sure that’s the best solution. You know, um, I don’t want to put blinders on the industry. You know, we need best practice in consumer marketing. We need best practice in membership marketing. We need best practice in destination management as well as marketing. And, um, you know, if, if we put the blinders on, you know, if somebody’s, I’ll refer back to my, my history.

Bob Provost: 24:30 Uh, you know, the, the last person I wanted to hire in the media world was somebody whose education had media blinders on it. You know, if you wanted somebody with a culinary background and strong English language arts experience to write about food, you didn’t want a journalist who had no food knowledge but knew how to write according to the guidelines set down by a school of journalism. Um, and so we need to cast our net widely. Uh, and I always refer to internships as a terrific opportunity to test drive an employee. And, and it gives you the opportunity to identify and develop top talent without extending any longterm obligation to, uh, beyond the, the, the semester to, to people who may not be right for the organization or for the industry. And so it’s not as structured and clear a path to your point, you know, nobody gets here or very few people get here directly.

Bob Provost: 25:45 Um, but in, in many fields, you know, let’s face it, you’re a tourism market are you, you have many clients and a lot of expertise in this area, but I doubt you went to school and got a degree in tourism, marketing and, and, and we need all the tools and resources and best practice that experience and other industries can, can bring you. When I was engaged in applying digital technology to Hearst at the Times Union in the 90s, we changed the way we produce the newspaper. Uh, we went from mechanical production, digital production, but we also changed the way the newspaper was packaged and delivered. And in order to, to, to find the best practice, I mean, I, I visited newspapers in Texas and Virginia. I, um, you know, was looking for, uh, newspapers that really set the bar high in terms of how to package and deliver the product and then ultimately not finding anything that we thought looked like best practice in our industry. We went to the price shopper, supermarket warehouse and looked at how they packaged their product and ultimately went to the companies that built there machinery and tools. And, um, totally changed the way newspapers, uh, you know, prepare their product to, to reach the consumer. Um, it was, it was, you know, we found best practice in the supermarket industry.

Nicole Mahoney: 27:21 Yeah. I think that’s a, that’s a really great example and that’s, um, you know, that’s creativity at, at, at its best, I think. Right? You’re of course looking for those best practices, but also thinking outside of the box and not having those blinders on is, as you said, and I think you make a really good point. And actually that’s the premise actually of this podcast even, is, you know, to get perspectives from all different, um, you know, all different viewpoints, right? All different pieces that touch the tourism industry. It’s, it’s not necessarily just staying with tourism marketing for example. So, um, I think you make a really good point and, and they love how you’re thinking broadly about, you know, education and workforce development and how we can really kind of build that funnel of those future leaders in our industry. Um, I think that’s, that’s really awesome.

Nicole Mahoney: 28:14 Um, so Bob, I’m wondering, you have such a great perspective and, and kind of clear vision on and this whole idea of inclusion and how tourism is everybody’s business. And, and it sounds to me, and, and I love this, that, that Nice Dhea is, is taking the, you know, the lead in getting this conversation started a little bit like what you had said before about the newspaper convening, the discussion, right, that low profile leadership role leading from the middle of the room. Um, but I’m curious what you’re seeing or what you will hope perhaps the business community or the tourism community will, will take away from this conference. Um, and, and this conversation,

Bob Provost: 28:55 well, I’ll, I’ll tell you, um, at the conference, uh, they’re going to find the best practice, but they’re going to find it as already expressed in different parts of the state where, you know, here I am relatively new. I mean, I was very much engaged in Albany and tourism for a number of years and then in New Jersey, but I had no idea what was going on around the state. So in the course of fourth quarter, um, my first 90 days as it were, I did a lot of listening tours. Uh, I followed up on that with even more travel around the state to see who was doing what in January and February. And I realized that in many cases, using the analogy I just used, you know, we went to the supermarket to find the solution for their newspaper. The solutions we’re here. Um, you know, I, I what I experienced with the visitor industry council, uh, I was invited to one of their meetings in Rochester by the folks at, uh, visit Rochester and, and, and Greg Lee Duka and Greg Marshall said, you should, you should attend this.

Bob Provost: 30:05 Well, I didn’t know why until I was there. And after a two hour meeting, that sound, it felt like it took 15 minutes. I realize, you know, they had fully energized and engaged the entire business community to engage on a monthly basis, have a dialogue about what are we doing to improve the visitor experience. And in the process, they’re, they’re improving the experience for the resident as well. There were over a hundred people at this meeting and most of them went to the microphone and spoke in that two hour period. But what they all went up to say is, you know, what am I doing right now? What is my next plan? And every one of them had a game plan. And I said, why, why don’t the other markets have this kind of business community engagement? And when I was down in Orange County, uh, to, to visit the Lego land construction site and spend some time with Phil royal from legal in New York, he met me in downtown Goshen and we spent some time at their office there and here they are hosting trick or treat for the entire downtown for the community.

Bob Provost: 31:13 They’re not even going to be open for two years. And, and, and then I find out this isn’t the first year they’ve done it. And I got a list of all the other things they had done to become good neighbors in that community and to get the word out and to have a forum for people to come and ask questions or challenge them if they had a misconceptions about the, the development that was occurring. And then I had a followup conversation with Amanda Dana, who’s, uh, you know, the new head of the tpa in Orange County and she validated everything Phil was talking about. So Phil and Amanda are going to come and they’re going to talk about, you know, how to engage the community. Um, on the residential side. Um, Josiah Brown from New York welcomes you, was going to talk about the new nomenclature, the vocabulary of tourism and how that has to be tuned to who you’re talking to.

Bob Provost: 32:13 Not in the sense that you change the essence of what you’re saying, but you, you have to look at it through their lens. You have to look at tourism through the lens of a resident or a business owner or a elected leader in order to understand what’s in it for them, what matters to them. And, and so there’s a whole series of programs like this. We’re going to have programs also about things that you might expect to hear about under inclusion in terms of diversity and Ada compliance and, and things of that nature. But, um, you know, it’s, it’s a different, um, more of a 360 degree perspective than a lot of people anticipated.

Nicole Mahoney: 32:59 That’s awesome. Well, I, for one, I’m really excited that I’m going to be attending the conference and I can’t wait to hear all of those presenters that you have lined up, but it’s going to be, it’s going to be a great conference, um, and just a few weeks. So thank you so much for going really deep in describing what to expect there. And um, I love that. That seemed just really let us into a really good dialogue about this whole idea of inclusion and kind of the evolution of tourism and how community is, is engaged. So that’s really awesome. Thank you so much. Um, so Bob, I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about collaboration. Of course, a lot of what you’ve already talked about, um, could not happen without collaboration, but I like to make sure that we focus in on this a little bit on an every episode. Um, and what I love about this industry is, um, what I like to call this whole idea of coopertition where you see, you know, uh, perceived competitors coming together to create something that’s bigger than what they can create on their own. And so I’m wondering if there are some examples of where collaboration has really made a big difference, um, for you or for, you know, an in any of your roles that you’ve had throughout your career.

Nicole Mahoney: 34:22 So many great.

Bob Provost: 34:24 Um, uh, I was going to say, um, I took that, I’ve already mentioned that I taught marketing and, and if you’ve ever taken a marketing course, you, you understand that in the textbook they tell you there are four p’s, price, product, promotion and placement. And the typical textbook analogy is, is that these are the four legs that hold up the table of marketing. And, uh, I taught marketing for one semester yeah. Uh, before going back to the dean of the business school. And it’s saying, you know, if I do, I have to teach exactly what’s in the textbook. And they said, well, um, we have to teach what’s in the textbook, but you don’t necessarily have to limit yourself. And I said, okay. And they said, could you elaborate a little bit before you throw us any curve balls? And I said, well, you know, the marketing mix, you know, uh, okay.

Bob Provost: 35:20 Is, is a little, uh, I think out of touch with practice. And they said, tell me what you mean. I said, well, the fifth P in my marketing mix is people. And, and to me that means that if you’re truly involved in the marketing of your organization, you’re working closely with HR and the talent pool that’s available to you, the dedication, the loyalty, the culture of the organization. Uh, it’s all part of the people. But the, the sixth P is partners. And how you view your vendors, how you view your customers, how you view the people in your public and to that matter how you view your competitors. And, and, and many cases the people you compete with on certain fronts are also the people you need to cooperate and collaborate with. And, and Nestea if Nisi is about anything, Nicole, it’s about collaboration. It’s about all of these different, uh, tpis at tourism promotion agencies and attractions.

Bob Provost: 36:29 Realizing that the sum of the parts, uh, is, is greater than their individual values and that, you know, if we can cooperatively put programming and marketing and, um, presence of travel shows and sales activity together, uh, the outcome will be stronger for everyone. And you’re very intimately familiar with this. Uh, as a part of the brand USA campaign of the last two years where Nestea is market, New York grant enabled the members of Nestea to, uh, take, uh, about $125,000 investment and turn into a $2 million international visibility campaign. And that all happened through cooperation and working together and, and realizing that, you know, we have a better complete picture a working together. Then we do a showing just the, the pieces of New York individually. Um, that’s, that’s maybe oversimplification. But when, when I was in the media world, uh, in the early nineties, I opened up a full service ad agency at the Times Union.

Bob Provost: 37:45 We were buying a broadcast and cable television, radio, outdoor direct mail. We had several hundred web clients that we were hosting for. Um, because I realized that we needed to provide solutions for our clients and providing those solutions wasn’t something that we could do as a standalone single media company. We needed to be able to provide a full array of services to them. And, um, you know, I could, I could point back to, uh, the idea when I got things going in in New Jersey that establishing the destination marketing organizations was a very good step. But establishing those silos without establishing the New Jersey Dmo organization so that they would convene, come together and collaborate would have been way under realizing the potential of those organizations. Um, I don’t know if I’m answering your question directly, but

Nicole Mahoney: 38:56 oh, absolutely. In so many different ways to actually, um, I want a bay back up. I just love this whole idea about the four p’s having a fifth and a sixth and I think that’s just a really great, um, you know, illustration. Yeah. My, my, my marketing mix has 8:00 PM. Oh well you need to tell us the other two

Bob Provost: 39:15 surely in teaching express it as a uh, yeah, kind of a calculus formula, some function of price plus some function of placements plus, uh, so you get past the price, product placement and promotion to the people and the partners and the, the seventh p is a plan that that if there isn’t some sort of plan and shape as to where are we going and how are all these things going to work together. Um, then you truly do have chaos. Uh, what I refer to as the fog phase, you know, all these different things are working, but they may be bumping into each other and working at cross purposes. And on the other side of the equation, you know, any equation has an equal sign, right? The other side of the equation is profit. And even for a nonprofit like Nestea, there’s a beneficial outcome that you’re working towards.

Bob Provost: 40:15 In our case, uh, facilitating the success of our members to realize the potential of New York’s tourism industry and drive economic growth and all those other benefits that I’ve enumerated too many times. Um, you know, that’s the benefit that we’re bringing to the state. Um, when I presented to the Tourism Advisory Council at the State Capitol on March 12th, uh, I talked about the brand USA campaign market. New York gave Nestea $375,000 to leverage along with the funding from our, uh, members that brand USA campaign. And we were able to document, okay, in a 42 day period, 10,452 a hotel nights booked. Now the dollar value of the hotel nights was about one point $6 million. But when you build into it, the projected spending on food and beverage, uh, entertainment tickets and access to things like museums, retail spending, local transportation spending, uh, I was able to show the state that they’re $375,000, drove five point $1 million in sales and yeah, and we had 39 members of Nastia investing in that together with the state together with brand USA. I mean there’s 41 partners right there. And I have an included break the ice media yet cause you guys were a partner. Miles media was a partner. Um, you know, it’s at times it can feel like herding cats and I know you have that experience under your belt, but the, the outcomes are so gratifying and worth the effort.

Nicole Mahoney: 42:08 Absolutely. Uh, and, and what a powerful message to, to take to that tourist tourism advisory council. But, um, the, the other thing I think is great about this, these four p’s, and I wish you were my marketing, my strategic marketing teacher when I, cause I actually struggled with the four P’s. I mean, I was like, what? I didn’t get it. It felt too boxy. Like that’s it. That’s all there is to it. But I love the whole idea of profit at the end because you know, there’s nothing wrong with profit. That’s what makes the world go round. You have to have outcomes. Um, so without it, if you’re not focused on, you know, and that kind of goes back to the whole theme of this conversation with this, the whole idea about the economic impact, right? Why do we want a thriving tourism industry? Because we want, you know, economic development, economic impact. And so, um, I, I think that’s really awesome and I love that you have eight ps in your model.

Bob Provost: 43:06 More complicated, but maybe, maybe it makes more sense. The other thing I will, mmm. Add to this mix and, and it’s, it’s an analogy that I’ve used for many years and teaching is the strategic plan, you know, has to begin with, and I use a travel analogy, it has to begin with defining a destination. When I launched the Convention and visitors bureau in 2008 in Newark, I gave them what I referred to as 2020 vision for the year 2020, and where do we want to be in 12 years? And, and we want 25% more hotel rooms. We want 5% higher occupancy, we want 50% higher room rates.

Bob Provost: 44:00 We want to have driven x percent increase in the tax revenues that sustain the city. And we want to reshape the narrative or brand of Newark, uh, proactively rather than allowing the coverage of New York news media to do so. Okay. And, and so, you know, that’s something that has resonated in discussions with my colleagues. It as I travel around the state is, you know, well, that’s, let’s define the destination. Where do you want to be in five years? Where do you want to be in 10 years? How do we get there? How do you route the trip? What are the milestones, uh, tactically, what are the things we need to do? And it, it helps a great deal. So that’s that planning aspect of the 8:00 PM

Nicole Mahoney: 44:53 absolutely. I love it. Well, Bob, you and I could probably go on and on for quite some time and you have so much to share so we’ll, we’ll probably have to have you on the show again so that we can wait, we can learn even more from you, but I want to be mindful of your time and our listeners’ time and um, I, I’m afraid we’re going to have to wrap up unfortunately. But, um, before we do wrap up, I like to ask you if there are any, any other things that you haven’t shared or anything that you’d like our listeners to know? Um, before we say goodbye.

Bob Provost: 45:27 The, the only thing I am going to give you two, two more brief comments or anecdotes. One is about the difference between management and leadership. A management and leadership are both essential to a organization and, and that okay isn’t to say that they are the same thing. Management is the ability to make sure that everything that needs to happen happens in, happens. Uh, well today it’s managing the status quo, but leadership is identifying that more desirable point B that we are on the journey towards and how we’re going to get there. And, and that’s what, um, I think all of our members are embracing as they think about this inclusionary narrative, uh, shaping their future and defining a destination in and leading their communities, even if it is from the middle of the room. The other thing is I mentioned change has a new status quo.

Bob Provost: 46:26 Um, okay. Uh, I’m a big believer that that healthy organizations are very much like healthy organisms. They need to embrace the evolutionary change or they will not survive the competition of the fittest as it were. And, and the reality is, particularly coming out of the media industry, but having seen this and for instance, the photography industry, the camera industry, et Cetera, if you don’t embrace evolutionary change, sooner or later, you’re going to have to endure revolutionary change. And it’s far less desirable and much more traumatic. And so it’s easier to make your changes in small increments in on a constant basis. And that’s, that’s the philosophy that I think we’re going to embrace.Nicole Mahoney: 47:12 Yeah, I think, I think that’s awesome. Um, two really great pieces of advice, some words of winds, wisdom and, and to give our listeners to contemplate the whole idea of, uh, differences between management and leadership and, and really get us thinking about, you know, where are we? Um, and, and then secondary to that, how are we going to get there and then embracing change. I think that’s, uh, that’s just really awesome way to wrap up our conversation. And Bob, I’m so appreciative of you sharing so much with us and, uh, I will look forward to seeing you at the tourism conference in a few weeks and, um, we’ll also look forward to having you on the show again in the future. And I, I actually think I’ll be seeing you at the Manny conference in a few days, so you’re right. Yeah, you’re luck has run out. You’re going to have to deal with that, right. Thank you. Thank you.

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