The Rebirth of the Waco Brand, with Carla Pendergraft

Episode 179

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Carla Pendergraft is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has a B.A. degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and has a master’s degree in business from Texas State University. Since 1990, she has worked for the Waco Convention Center and Waco Convention & Visitors Bureau, first in the convention sales area and for the last 4 years, as Director of Marketing. Carla is the proud grandmother of Aviana, who is 8 years old, and Rosie, 2 years. In this episode of Destination on the Left, Carla Pendergraft, the Director of Marketing for the Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau, discusses the growth of tourism in Waco, Texas. She walks us through the introduction of tons of new attractions like Magnolia Market at the Silos, and she explains the impact that television shows like Fixer Upper have made on Waco’s community and brand.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Carla’s journey into the travel and tourism industry
  • What Carla has done to help Waco stand out from the crowd
  • How Waco overcame its negative image and increased tourism
  • How the Waco brand has changed over the last thirty years
  • The main drivers of tourism for Waco and how Carla has leveraged them
  • How CVBs can do their job while serving the locals
  • How destination marketers are playing a role in local support instead of just tourism alone

Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau

Carla Pendergraft is the Director of Marketing for the Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau in Waco, Texas. Since 1990, Carla has developed a broad perspective on the success of her community and the Waco brand. She was there for the Waco Siege of the Branch Davidians compound and witnessed the rebound of the Waco brand after the smoke cleared. There is a lot to be said about a community’s willingness to band together and thrive, especially in times like these. That is why Waco continues to stand out after years with Carla at the helm. In this episode, we talk about the success of the Waco brand and how it has changed throughout Carla’s career. We also discuss the significant impact Magnolia Market at the Silos and Fixer Upper has made on the growth of tourism in Waco.

An Uphill Battle

Carla fell into the CVB world by accident, but she has been there for thirty years now. There are certainly some glamorous elements to the job, but for the most part, it is all about getting in the trenches and figuring out how to make your destination stand out. Because of Waco’s history, standing out was never the problem. It created an uphill battle for destination marketers like Carla who were tasked with shedding Waco’s negative image. Texans have always known Waco well, but people across the world determine the appeal of smaller destinations in one or two thoughts—if they are negative, it is a lot harder to market the destination.

Putting Waco on the Map

As time went on, the Waco community began to develop organically. Baylor was always a major driver of tourism and as the school grew, so did the travel market. Waco became home to many new attractions like the Waco Mammoth National Monument, the Texas Rangers Museum, the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, and it is the birthplace of Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Fixer Upper on HGTV. Everyone in Waco has a story about how the television show impacted their life. It completely changed the public perception of Waco and made the CVB’s job so much easier. Instead of fighting a negative image, they could focus on using creativity to grow. There is always a way to cut through the noise with creativity and collaboration, and Waco is a testament to that.

Nicole Mahoney: 00:19 Hello listeners, I’m Nicole Mahoney, host of destination on the left. Welcome to this week’s episode with another smart guest, Carla Pendergraph, director of marketing from the Waco convention and visitors Bureau. When Carla agreed to join me on this show, I was so excited. I am a big fan of fixer upper and chip and Joanna Gaines and I was eager to learn about the community and how the Waco brand has benefited from being home to such. We talked at length about how Magnolia market and chip and Joanna Gaines have been a game changer for Waco. We also discussed ways that the CVB is balancing the needs of all of their stakeholders well, maintaining a great relationship with their biggest attraction. Carla’s perspective is broad. Having started at the Waco convention center and Waco convention and visitors zero in 1990 first in the convention sales area and for the last four years as director of marketing, she was there through the tough years that followed the seizure of the branch Davidians compound in 1993 and she has seen the comeback of her destinations brand.

Nicole Mahoney: 01:23 And what happens when does Carla puts it, your community gets the gold load fixer upper. Carla is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has a bachelor’s of arts degree from the university of California Santa Barbara and he has a master’s degree in business from Texas state university. Carla is the proud grandmother of Avianca who is eight years old and Rosie two years old. Now let’s dive into the interview. Carla, thank you so much for joining us and uh, I really appreciate you taking some time out to share your insights and your creativity with us. Um, but before we get started, can you share a little bit about your story and your journey in your own words? I find it adds so much more context to our conversation. Sure. Um, so I started out as a in Minnesota, that’s where I was born and I got out of there as fast as I could to go to college in Santa Barbara, California.

Nicole Mahoney: 02:22 And then I somehow ended up in Texas visiting. My sister visited her in February and it was beautiful as Austin, Texas in, I hate to say it in 1982. And uh, I just fell in love with Texas and everything about it. So I went to several other towns as I, as my career progressed, those with Civicorp Diner’s club and uh, various places. And I just always wanted to get back to Texas and I saw this job advertised and back then what we would do is we would get subscriptions to newspapers. It seems like a thousand years ago now and saw my job advertised and that was 30 years ago. So I came to the CVB world really sort of by accident and we all hate to admit that, that we fell into it. I didn’t really know much about CVBs. I think I wrote await to one for information in fifth grade as part of a class project. And that introduced me to the world of CVBs, but that was about as much as I knew about them. But since then, um, my gosh, it’s been a wild ride and I don’t think I could do anything for 30 years. That wasn’t varied. And it has been absolutely varied. I’ve never had the same job from year to year, even though I’ve been with the CVB for that long. Also run a convention center too. So that’s, that adds some interest in spice to it.

Carla Pendergraft: 03:40 Absolutely. And, um, you know, it’s funny, most of my guests do tell, do, tell me that they’ve stumbled into the world of, especially CVB guests or DMO guests, but they kind of stumbled upon it and they had no idea it even existed until they somehow, you know, ran into it and some, some part of their life. So I find that to be a common theme and Mmm. And it’s no wonder, because you know, what, if everybody knew about it, that would be so much more in high demand that we are to get them right. Cause they’re so great.

Nicole Mahoney: 04:14 Oh yeah. All of us have been told, Oh, I want your job, you know, on the outside. And there is, you can say that there’s glamour to this job. I mean, we’ve met several presidents. We’ve hosted just a couple of weeks ago, we hosted this, uh, some people from the state department who were visiting Magnolia market here in Waco. And ah, we got a beautiful gift from them of this thing that looks sort of like an ashtray, but we’re not sure. So we’ll just put it in the box on the wall. But you know, it’s, if you could say that a job has definitely, definitely glamorous elements, I think our jobs can have that. And that’s, that’s really a fun thing.

Carla Pendergraft: 04:52 Yeah, absolutely is. And, and I also know it is a lot of hard work, but, um, it’s a lot easier to do the hard work when you have such a, a fun, uh, industry to work in and really great people that surround you. So I think that makes all the difference.

Nicole Mahoney: 05:08 Certainly does.

Carla Pendergraft: 05:09 So Carla, I wanted to first start on the topic of creativity and, uh, as you know, you’ve been in the industry so long how, uh, competitive the tourism and hospitality industry is and, and there are so many choices of things to do and, and actually as the years go by, they’re just various things that are pulling our attention and it’s, yeah, it seems to be getting really hard to grab someone’s attention. And so I’m wondering what kinds of things you have been able to do in Waco to really help your community stand out from the crowd.

Nicole Mahoney: 05:43 Okay. Well we’d have to go back to how Waco has evolved as a destination to really answer that. [inaudible] and uh, if you go back 30 years, some of your viewers who are your listeners would be too young to remember, but there was a pretty bad standoff in Waco back back in the early nineties with the branch Davidian compound here, which by the way, most of us had never heard of before any of that happened. I had no idea who those people were. We all learned on TV about all of that. And, um, so going back to there, you know, we, we had to market a destination that really didn’t have a very positive image. Uh, we always had a good image with Texans because Texans were very familiar with Waco. They knew that Baylor university was here. They, they knew that the Texas ranger museum was here and a new zoo had recently been built.

Nicole Mahoney: 06:35 So there, there were ways that Texans knew us for more than just the branch Davidian compound. But, um, the world as a whole, that’s there. They’re going to just really look [inaudible] [inaudible] a specific destination other than the really big ones. But some of us mid-sized and smaller destinations, they’re going to have one or two thoughts about you if that, and if it’s something negative, it’s very, very hard to market it. And we had to get very creative. But it was Dustin uphill slog for year after year. Uh, basically Baylor was our main driver of, of tourism with students visiting. And as of today, it’s about a 15,000 student school. So it’s, it’s still a pretty small school. But there they had a good football team and they brought in lots of events and symposia and things like that. So, so Baylor was a pretty good driver.

Nicole Mahoney: 07:25 We don’t have a lot of companies. Um, so we marketed what we had and slowly but surely we got more attractions that helps. You know, we had the Texas sports hall of fame come into the mix. Um, we had historic homes and I look back and I think, Oh my gosh, how did we ever do it? As time went on, our community develop organically. [inaudible] got even more attractions. We’ve had a Waco mammoth national monument added just a few years ago. And, um, Ben, we got, we, we basically got the gold load when chip and Joanna Gaines started there. TV show fixer-upper and everybody’s got a story about how that impacted their life here in Waco. Um, for myself, it was going to the little shop on Bosky, which you’re, um, listeners may or may not know about, but that’s where Joanna Gaines got her start with a little retail shop. And I walked in there shortly after the show started and just became a huge hit on cable.

Nicole Mahoney: 08:24 In fact, it was one of the top rated shows on all cable channels and certainly top rated on HGTV. And I went in there and it was packed walled wall and I just couldn’t understand it. There was no room to move. And I talked to a couple of people there and I said, are you all together? The only thing I could imagine was maybe they all came to there together as a motor coach or something. I just, I just couldn’t even even imagine why all these people would be in this little tiny shop. And she said, no, we’re just, you know, we’re from, or one said, we’re from New York, we’re just visiting. We want to see Joanna’s shop. So that completely changed our image and it made the CVBs job so much easier. We didn’t have to fight [inaudible]. That filter of the image that we had before, whether it was deserved or not, doesn’t make any difference to the, to the person out there who might visit your destination.

Nicole Mahoney: 09:19 You may not, um, deserve that good image or that bed image, but the images, whatever it is. So we didn’t have to that when we go to conferences back in the 90s, when we went in, I went to conferences. They would just, sometimes he’d been back away from us because they weren’t sure if we were a Davidian or not, you know, very weird reactions and any, any destination that’s had something tragic like that happened, which sadly it’s happened many times since then that you’ve got Eldorado and all kinds of places that have had awful things happen. Just don’t even want to go there. But Mmm. Now when we go to conferences, everybody says, Oh, do you know what you’ve been Joanna, have you met them? Can I get an introductions? You know, we just don’t have that resistance that we once did. So, so the marketing creativity for that is all we have to do is make sure that we’re supporting Waco brand and we encourage people to come and visit.

Nicole Mahoney: 10:17 Anytime we repost something Magnolia cause they have constant events there. Uh, then we get, we get great shares. Great engagement on on that and people get very, very excited about coming here. It becomes a bucket list item, but it also causes a lot of challenges as well. So, uh, we can go into that if you’d want to. Oh, absolutely. I want to actually ask so many questions about this. You know, I’m so, I’m so glad that you brought this up because I think, you know, as you and I were talking in our pre-interview chat, uh, when I saw that I was interviewing you today and I thought Waco, the first thing that came to mind was chip and Joanna Gaines, and I am old enough to remember what happened in the early nineties, but that had to completely fallen out of my brain until you started talking. I had forgotten all about that.

Nicole Mahoney: 11:08 So, Mmm. I think that’s just remarkable how your community brand has evolved. And I don’t really think it’s by accident necessarily, or you called it the gold load, but as I was listening to you, um, you know, you talked about how back in the 90s you started with your strongest assets with your university [inaudible] okay. And this kind of organic thing happened, but in your community where all of these new attractions started develop. And um, I know just as an outsider listening, I’m curious if this is a, if this is a valid observation, but um, I’m wondering if it’s, you know, that kind of community pride and that organic development which really eventually gave and Joanna Gaines, the, um, I, I don’t know what the right word is but, but the intention to try to pursue their dreams within Waco and create now what they’ve created, it comes so huge.

Nicole Mahoney: 12:08 Yes, absolutely. So all of us CVBs have to always look to our locals first because what we do serves the local, and I know that’s going to go against what a lot of people think, but it’s, it’s true. Now we focus on marketing our assets to the world, but, but we’re doing it on behalf of the local and the locals are the ones who are going to really, if they support you, you can do so much. If they don’t support you, you are really handicapped. So imagine that you have this town. We have about 130,000 people and this couple comes in. They, they join. I was born here, but chip came here from Dallas and they didn’t meet at Baylor. They met after Baylor. And uh, everything they touch turns to gold. And so then what, what happens is you start looking at, um, what that causes for parking issues, downtown traffic issues.

Nicole Mahoney: 13:05 Um, there were lots of businesses downtown that were impacted because suddenly we had 30,000 people a week coming into Waco, 30001.6 million visitors a year just to go to Magnolia [inaudible] that the local didn’t necessarily see the benefit to them of that. All they saw was the hassles. Then you see [inaudible] property tax going up because, and that’s actually happening everywhere. But wait, who got Waco got especially hard hit because, well, let’s face it, if you’re next to the silos, your property that may have been more $250,000 a couple of years ago is now worth $1 million. So that is going to impact values overall. [inaudible] Mmm. You know, we have to have a unified voice with our locals of this being a positive thing because they’re the ones who are welcoming or not welcoming the people that come in and it is all done to the benefit of the locals.

Nicole Mahoney: 14:05 I think sometimes we as CBeebies focused too much on the visitor and, and we forget that benefit to the locals because we serve on their behalf. So I’m a little passionate about that as you can tell. Absolutely. Yeah. I think that’s an important point to mention because, because here you have this does Magnolia brand, which is tied so closely to the Waco brand, but then you do also have to be Mmm. A sensitive to what that is, the true local impact that that is having. It has its pluses and its minuses and being able to manage that I think. Right. So we have a close relationship with Magnolia. My boss, Todd burka, the CVB director is, uh, you know, can directly call Doug McNamee, the CEO of Magnolia and they can talk about things of mutual interest. And that’s been really important. And so we, we try to support them.

Nicole Mahoney: 15:01 They support us and we’re a big sponsor of their silo district marathon. So that, that keeps that communication going. Because when you have, it’s kind of like if you had six flags and your destination, that’s going to be the big player, but you can’t forget about all those other attractions that were with you when you weren’t the prettiest girl at the dance. You know. So Cameron park zoo in the sports hall of fame, dr pepper museum, we have to make sure to give them plenty of love, even though Magnolia is really the a thousand pound gorilla in the room, right? So we get that best engagement when we, when we share and we talk about Magnolia and uh, that, that’s really on a lot of people’s bucket lists to come to Waco and do what we call the Magnolia trail. That’s one way that we really capitalized on Magnolia phenomenon is we put together, okay, a webpage or a list that talked about all the places that were shown on the, on the show, not, not private homes, but only private homes if they were an Airbnb, just the places that she would shop. And, um, the different their vacation rentals that Magnolia owns different, different places within Waco that you could go and make it make sort of a [inaudible] pilgrimage and a lot of towns that have had a TV show shoot there have done that. And uh, I encourage any CDBs that have that sort of thing. People are very interested in it. They’re interested in following those trails based on these TV shows and things.

Carla Pendergraft: 16:29 [inaudible] yeah, I, I love, I love that. And so I’m curious, um, and maybe it’s not with the Magnolia trail, but Mmm. How are you then encouraging the visitors to also experience those other things? You know, you mentioned those other, the dr pepper museum and those other attractions that you have within your community. Are you finding that folks who are coming for the Magnolia pilgrimage, if you will, are also then seeking out other experiences while they’re there?

Nicole Mahoney: 16:59 Um, some do and some don’t. I’ve spoken to so many Magnolia visitors. I ride our, our trolley, we have a little free trolley that picks people up from there. And that’s one of the ways we tried to get around and get them around to the rest of Waco. Um, so we will, we’ll ride on the trolley and just chat with them. And if they’re on their way to the silos, you cannot get in their way. They are on a pilgrimage and I mean I use that term intentionally, you know, they’re on a pilgrimage. They nothing’s going to get in their way. They spent a lot of time and money coming here and they could be from any of the 50 States, some overseas visitors, mostly from the 50 States. And they just are single-minded in their determination to get to the silos and experience that stand where Joanna and chip have stood and just experience it for, because it is a sight and sound experience.

Nicole Mahoney: 17:51 When you go there, everything has been attended to. You walk through the Gates and you see these huge silos on, you’re right and they’re rusty. And some people, I used to think they were very ugly. I don’t think they’re ugly anymore. The way they are as beautiful. And there, there’s smells from the bakery and hot coffee from the coffee shop they recently opened and just teaming with people. And the people are, there’s a lot of similarity between the people, the demographic that goes there, just like six flags is going to attract families with kids. [inaudible] ladies from maybe 25 up to 65 years old. And they may be bringing their husband along and the husbands sometimes become fans because of the experience. But most of the time it’s, it’s the ladies. And so there’s just really, really a lot to see. But trying to get them to see the rest of Waco is very hard.

Nicole Mahoney: 18:48 So we, uh, because again, that’s, that’s not what they were here for. And there’s only so much you can do. You can’t force the visitor [inaudible] want something else. You can try to influence them. You can present it to them. And uh, but that’s about the most you can do. So we encourage people to download our app, which has every attraction in there. Uh, the silo trolley helps a printed maps and that talk about everything in Waco that there is to see. And do and then, and I think people get out on their own and they walk around. And so there’s just been a cottage industry that’s sprung up again from those very important locals. People have started all kinds of businesses. Everything around the silos is aimed toward that Magnolia visitor, whether it’s a company selling cute signs that you would have in your home or, um, a candy shop or, uh, just, just everything is clearly aimed at the Magnolia visitor.

Nicole Mahoney: 19:48 So they help a little bit because they help people see that there’s more in Waco than just the silos. And then, like I said, we do everything we can to get them out there. Um, and we’re, we have to, because not only is it our obligation to do that, but, but also our locals watch us like a Hawk. That’s how I see it. And there, cause there it’s kind of like, you know how you, you as a CVB, you tend to lead with your biggest hotel and your strongest hotel, but you really have to be careful of those other hotels because they’re going to get upset. And, uh, I’ve, I’ve had travel writers write about the destination and go on and on about Magnolia, which there’s a lot there on them. I know you’re trailing, you can take two, three days to go see everything on the, on the show.

Nicole Mahoney: 20:32 And they, if they don’t cover the zoo, there’s going to be a local that comes in and says, we have a beautiful zoo. You have to go see the zoo. You know, it sounds a tiny bit negative when they do it a little defensive. Like, why didn’t you do this? Why didn’t you do that? You just can’t that approach to a visitor, you just can’t, you’re not going to bully a visitor to visit something. And I would say the only issue is that most of our attractions are there. They’re great for Magnolia visitors, but they’re not exactly what they were looking for, right. When you’re a Magnolia, that demographic may not be that interested in the Texas sports hall of fame. Maybe the husband would. But again, if you’re from Alabama or New York, do you have an interest in seeing Texas sports? Great. And that’s not to denigrate that museum.

Nicole Mahoney: 21:17 It’s an awesome museum, but it’s more, it has its own market. It’s a niche. And that niche is not necessarily the Magnolia visitor. So that, that’s been a challenge. And I think sometimes [inaudible] our community would love, would love it, that just, Hey, we put it out there and they go to see everything. But that’s just not going to happen. And all of us work in every destination against that. We have our strong assets, we lead with those, we try to support the other ones. But you know, we can’t, we can’t force people to look at some of those other things.

Carla Pendergraft: 21:50 Yeah, I, I totally agree. And I think that that’s a really great point is to really understand who that visitor is, what it is that they’re looking for and you know, build the product around their interests. So as you have done in the Magnolia trail, and also as this kind of cottage industry has [inaudible] opt up around it, it seems like it’s okay very in tune with who that visitor is. I’m curious, do you have other, uh, marketing programs or other target audiences that you also then market too as a way to kind of balance this out?

Nicole Mahoney: 22:29 Absolutely. Absolutely. So we work very hard since we run a big convention center. Well to us it’s big. It’s 144,000 square feet and it’s the biggest one in this, in central Texas. It’s the biggest one between Austin and Dallas. And so we market the heck out of that and we have very few weekends during the year that are available because there’s, you know, we’ve very strong with the [inaudible] Texas state association market. And that is something that we’ve emphasized because just as the wheel of fortune, you remember from your, uh, high school English or college English, that the wheel of fortune was, was a concept that really dictated so much to the ancient world and it dictates our world. It’s just a matter of fortune, whether you’re at the bottom of the whale or at the top of the wheel. And we were at the bottom of the wheel when we had the Davidian standoff.

Nicole Mahoney: 23:23 And we’re at the top of the wheel now. Not necessarily, it’s just due to some dumb luck, the wheel of fortune. And that can just turn an instant. So let’s just say something just happened and I don’t even want to talk about this, but you know, for some, let’s just say chip and Joanna decide to leave Waco, that’s like the worst thing that I can think of. But then what would we do? How would we fill those hotel rooms? Because we have about 1500 hotel rooms under construction right now on a base of 4,000 hotel rooms. So we have a huge increase coming in and we have to have these other markets that we work with, such as the convention industry, the sports event market, all of those have to be there because they’re going to be there regardless of whether chip and Joanna decide to stay in Waco or not.

Nicole Mahoney: 24:16 And I think all indications are that they will stay with us forever. They love Waco, but you have to prepare and um, they’re not, they’re not gonna fill it every weekend. For example. What we observe is that if it’s rainy or cold, of course their visitation goes way down at the Magnolia market because they’re a bit weather dependent. It’s an outdoors, open air, sort of an area. It’s a two city block area that has several different shops and things and uh, and a big lawn that people can play on and play lawn games and things. But if it’s 110 decrees or it’s raining or it’s 35 degrees in the middle of the winter, then they go back, they go way down. But conventions are not really weather dependent. We get them on the schedule no matter what. So, and they’re very identifiable in the hotels. Love that. So, so definitely our hotel community says, let’s keep [inaudible] marketing to conventions and sporting events and, and we do a lot of work in those markets.

Nicole Mahoney: 25:18 Um, and then we market to not just the Magnolia visitor. You know, you can, you can, just because you have a certain demographic doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t in your digital campaigns really kind of try to get more of a diverse audience. When we work with travel writers for example, we [inaudible] we definitely favor those that bring diversity to the table that I have a different experience. You know, we have a lot of, of people have a [inaudible] the Magnolia demographic that asks to come here and talk about Magnolia [inaudible] visit all of these things, but we liked it to invite more diverse travel writers to come because they’re going to have a different experience and they’re going to bring a different visitor to Waco. So that’s, that’s a way to kind of diversify what you’re doing is looking at all those different aspects of how people feed into your market.

Nicole Mahoney: 26:08 Absolutely. I think you just gave our listeners a lot of really great, um, food for thought and different ways to think about balancing out your market. Everything from conventions, just hard to men. Thinking about your leisure and your digital campaigns and your travel writers. Just a really great orange. Mmm. Okay. Sarah, I want to make sure that we get to the topic of collaboration because it’s one of my favorite things to talk about and I’m sure there was a lot of collaboration that happens within your community. And, uh, one of the things that I really love about our industry is this idea of what I call [inaudible]. Mmm coopertition that’s kind of idea where, you know, perceived competitors really come together and build something bigger than they could do on their own. I’m curious if there, if you’re seeing collaborations like that in Waco and if there’s any that you can share with us that come to mind.

Nicole Mahoney: 27:06 Sure. Well, there’s several that we, we have intentionally put together monthly. We have a meeting called marketing Waco and it is where we actually invite our greater Waco chamber. Our Sintex Hispanic chamber of commerce are African American chamber. Um, the various heads of tourism related organizations like our downtown organization, city center, Waco and Magnolia comes to that and several other people that are really the heavy hitters in tourism. And we go over what projects we’re working on, what’s the messaging that we’re using. We make sure to use the same hashtags. Waco, TX is our main hashtag that we use and just just making sure that we know what’s going on with each other. Now sometimes I was [inaudible] would just give a word of advice because I’ve been doing this for a lot of years. Sometimes people can get to goal oriented in those meetings like we have to put on seminars or we have to accomplish this or accomplish that.

Nicole Mahoney: 28:08 To me the communication is absolutely the noble goal and what we should all be doing is just talking to each other. What are we working on? Just share an ideas rather than having those groups become a task oriented group and I, I went through that a couple of times over the years and I’ve just decided that it is a noble goal just to communicate with each other and and share and that’s, that’s real effective. Then we have a quarterly tourism forum that we run and that is a completely open meeting. We don’t monitor who comes to it, even though we’re really just the city of Waco and we have several outlines, suburbs and you know, all that about who pays you hotel tax or whatever. We don’t look at any of that. You want to come to this meeting, you’re interested in tourism come to it.

Nicole Mahoney: 28:52 So there’s a lot of shop owners, there’s hoteliers, there’s risk tours, there’s, you know, attractions, people, just everybody. And um, that, that to me has been a very valuable thing because the people that are new to the industry that are just starting out a business, there’s that, what did you call it? Coopertition they cooperate with each other because it makes us stronger destination and it’s great to know what everybody’s working on. So a lot of the newer businesses will come that are trying to get some of that tourism dollar and they can learn from some of these people who have, we’ve made mistakes or who have tried different things in Waco and they share what works and what doesn’t. So I think every destination should try to run one of those. And it’s just so easy to do. We, we have a short agenda where we go over some of the things we’re working on and some of the trends that we see and hotel occupancy and some of those typical things that we do [inaudible] talk about as CVBs, but then we turn it over to them and we just go around the room and everybody just talks about they give a little commercial or they just talk about what they’re planning to do or, or what they need help with.

Nicole Mahoney: 30:02 And that is, that is, it has been a great, great format. Everybody just loves it. So I would say that that makes us a stronger destination. Absolutely. I love both of those examples and I think what’s important of everything that you just described to us as, I love how you framed it. It’s a noble goal just to communicate. And you know, I, I think you’re right. Sometimes we, we’re listening and then we so quickly try to internalize that and maybe come up with a new idea or you know, some sort of action on whatever it is we just heard instead of just let’s take it all in. Let’s all share. Let’s communicate and then moving on from there. So I think that’s just terrific advice. You bet. This one hard experience, believe me. Yeah, I do believe you. Absolutely. So Carla, I knew this would be a really awesome conversation.

Nicole Mahoney: 30:56 I’m so thankful for the time. I’ve, one more question I’d like to, I asked before we say goodbye and um, this one really, I, I’m really interested in your perspective on this really kind of seeing how destination marketing organizations are being more, uh, leaned on or local support and not just thinking about external, bringing those visitors in. And I’m curious if you can talk about what you’re seeing in terms of the role that your CDB plays and, and maybe how that’s evolving. All right now. Yes, that is something that I have struggled with as a CDB or, and the way that I was brought up in the industry was, you know, you don’t even hardly think about the local, you just concentrate on that visitor cause that’s your job and that’s your mission. [inaudible] in recent years. I think I’ve definitely nuanced my view and realized how important that local is because if they’re out there and they’re hostile to the visitor for whatever reason, that is going to kill your product is going to kill, kill your future.

Nicole Mahoney: 32:02 So yes, local support is absolutely important and I think if you can get them on board, they can improve your product, they can create new experiences for the visitor and, and really enhance it. So just that, that awareness of tourism as a viable career option, a place that an entrepreneur could come and make some money and serve the needs of the visitor. I think that is crucial for us as CDPs to foment that and to encourage them in any way that we can. And, uh, so, so I’ve really turned around my views on that over the years and I see myself as, especially during this time and we can’t avoid talking a little bit about coven that’s been going on. Um, during this time, we’re focused very much on our locals because that’s why we’re here. Sure. That visitor pays our salaries. [inaudible] the local is, is uh, supporting Waco and supporting our destination and creating economic development.

Nicole Mahoney: 33:00 And our destination is the ultimate goal. And that is serving the local. So whatever, whatever serves the local within, within the constraints of how Oh, hotel texts should be used, that is what we should be doing. So I, that is where I’m very focused and especially during this, this time. Yeah. And so I think that’s such a great point because in, you know, especially in these times, you find yourself in the middle of something that’s out of your control in the middle of this [inaudible] a virus endemic, how important it is that we do have the CVB and we do have our community brand and we do have these cheerleaders that can really help support the local businesses and, and kind of have their back. And I think that’s a lot of what you just said in terms of talking about engaging with the locals even then more normal times.

Nicole Mahoney: 33:49 And I’m having them encouraging them to be entrepreneurial and to open businesses, variances for the visitor and [inaudible] and all of that really does contribute to the overall a local economy, but also, yeah. [inaudible] community spirit that you have. But I think that’s just really awesome. Yeah, absolutely. We have such an important role to play and I love how all the CVBs are really looking to how can we support our locals and our local businesses during this time. So you see a lot of hotels that are putting aside rooms for first responders so they don’t have to go home to their family families and, and they have a, you know, special rate for that. And the, all of us pretty much have lists of dining options, whether it’s pick up, carry out, Oh drive throughs, all of that stuff. And I think all of us are doing a very, very good job of that.

Nicole Mahoney: 34:39 We just have to stay really flexible and not ever think that the CDB job is just, just sort of that one thing or booking hotels, booking hotel rooms, that is, that is just a means to an end of supporting our local economy and supporting our locals. So just flexibility and adaptability. And we’ve seen that in spades lately. Everybody is adapting to this new reality. And I encourage everybody, again, you talked about coopetition that also goes with other CVBs. So here in Texas, Mark Thompson of Plano is doing it excellent. Shirtsleeve session via zoom or, uh, audio conference every week and all of us CVBs get on it and he’ll ask questions and everybody just, they raised their hand by typing their name in the chat box and everybody answers what they’re doing. [inaudible] to combat all of this stuff. So it’s, it’s pretty neat because you can learn from the best and collaborate with these other CVBs and make sure that we’re serving both the visitor and the local to the best of our ability.

Nicole Mahoney: 35:39 And that’s how we stay relevant. 2020. Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. And, and I love your advice. Stay flexible and stay adaptable and uh, Carla, I’m so thankful for this conversation with you. It’s been a joy I speaking with you and as I had mentioned before the interview started, I just, I love recording these podcasts. It’s so refreshing to talk about the industry that we love so much. Thank you so much for spending some time with us. You bet. Thank you. Thank you for listening all the way to the end of this week’s episode. This gives me a chance to tell you about our influence or ebook. It gives you the inside. Look at how my agency break the ice media implements influencer marketing for our tourism clients. The book goes into detail on all of the tools that we use to find ditch, manage, and measure influencers. You’ll find information on key follower benchmarks. How did that influence their channels? Getting your destination partners on board, creating itineraries, managing influence or expectations, and measuring for ROI. Does it break the ice forward slash influencers to download the full ebook? Let’s break the ice. influencers.

Speaker 1: 36:56 It’s time to hit the road again. Visit destination on the during your travels for more podcasts, show notes and fresh ideas.

Speaker 4: 37:41 [inaudible].

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