Insights from the Destinations international 2021 Annual Convention (Part One), with Nicole Mahoney

Episode 242

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For this first episode in a special three part series of Destination on the Left episodes, I visited the Destinations International 2021 Annual Convention and spoke with several attendees who are experts in the travel and tourism industry. These guests shared remarkable insights in their mini-interviews, and our conversations were focused on the bright spots and silver linings they were able to discover during this unprecedented and challenging period of global pandemic. The brilliance each of these leaders shared is certain to be invaluable as we continue to navigate the pandemic.

In this episode, you’ll hear from these extraordinary leaders:

  • Andria Godfrey – Vice President, Longwoods International
  • Bree Nidds – Vice President of Sales, Discover Lehigh Valley
  • Brian Bossuyt – Executive Vice President and COO, Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau
  • David Holder – CEO, Clarity of Place
  • Jamie Furbush – President and CEO, Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Josiah Brown – President, New York’s Best Experience (a division of Famous Destination Marketing)
  • Kurt Krause – President and CEO, VisitNorfolk
  • Valerie Knoblauch – President and CEO, Visit Finger Lakes

Visionary Travel and Tourism Leaders at the Destinations International 2021 Annual Convention

The Destinations International Annual Convention is an incredible yearly event that brings together experts from both within and outside of the travel and tourism industry, to exchange ideas and collaborative solutions for the many challenges our industry faces today. This year’s convention was uniquely focused on the challenges and opportunities we have experienced over the past two years, and it was my honor to speak to some of the extraordinary guests to get their insights into where we started as the pandemic began, where we’ve been, and where we’re going in the future of our industry in a post-pandemic world.

Andria Godfrey from Longwoods International

Andria shares some of the key statistics and insights Longwoods International has been able to gain from their American Travel Sentiment survey throughout the pandemic crisis. Respondents have reported a high pent-up demand to travel, even during the most difficult periods of the pandemic outbreak. Andria sees this as an opportunity as we navigate the pandemic and beyond. The younger traveler demographic is a growing segment that presents many new opportunities as we move forward, and our messaging should keep these younger travelers in mind.

Bree Nidds from Discover Lehigh Valley

Bree discusses the rapid changes affecting our industry, and she shares how the Discover Lehigh Valley team developed new skills and strategies to adapt to the speed of these changes. This team growth has allowed people to truly shine in new ways. Discover Lehigh Valley has made a conscious shift toward content creation, and as team members have honed their on-screen presentation and writing skills, this has created extraordinary new ways to highlight the destination.

Brian Bossuyt from Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau

Brian shares how close partnerships and collaborations with stakeholders and business leaders have been instrumental in his organization’s success and their strengthened messaging. By bringing together so many interested organizations, the Visitors Bureau has been able to amplify their message. And these collaborations have had a positive effect on the community as a whole, creating a powerful ripple effect. Brian also discusses how their TV station has proven to be a valuable asset and an extraordinary communication and education channel, both before and during the pandemic crisis.

David Holder from Clarity of Place

David shares how the key to this challenging period has been the opportunity it has presented to re-examine everything we do and innovate new solutions. David shares how the greatest destination leaders have used initiative, new content development strategies, and a different approach that goes beyond destination marketing to drive their organizations forward through the pandemic. He also shares how it has become important for organizations in our industry to become more than just cheerleaders for their communities but to serve as a bridge between the community and the destinations within it. David says it’s critical for us to develop a comprehensive and integrated approach to marketing as we move forward.

Jamie Furbush from Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau

Jamie discusses how even simple, little things have become necessities through the pandemic and its restrictions, and she shares how seeing our spaces in a new light and finding new uses for these spaces can become a powerful opportunity even after the pandemic. Jamie highlights the role that collaboration has played for Frankenmuth, and she discusses the stronger connections that facing the many challenges has allowed her community to forge.

Josiah Brown from New York’s Best Experience (a division of Famous Destination Marketing)

Josiah shares why the biggest lesson he has learned through the pandemic is how much we all truly need each other. He discusses how the pandemic has brought both times of clarity and times of confusion, and he explains why collaborations have been crucial for helping each other navigate the moments of fog and take advantage of the moments of brilliance. Josiah discusses how generosity and idea-sharing have been hallmarks of the pandemic that have served to universally strengthen the industry. He also discusses how video conferencing tools like Zoom may continue to be valuable even after the pandemic. He talks about how the tourism industry is shifting to a “play, live, work” economic development model for the first time.

Kurt Krause from VisitNorfolk

Kurt shares how the initial challenge for his organization was timing their programs without knowing how long restrictions would last or how long the pandemic would impact travel. He shares how focusing on Norfolk’s strengths and highlights has been key. He discusses the pent-up travel demands, and he shares how his community partnered with nearby Virginia Beach to create an outreach campaign to increase awareness of the area’s features and destinations. These two communities worked together and became stronger together than they would have been independently. He shares how $1 million in investment turned into $6 million in hotel room sales, and he highlights some of the other benefits this program provided to Norfolk and Virginia Beach.

Valerie Knoblauch from Visit Finger Lakes

Valerie shares how the pandemic created a unique opportunity to truly lean into the diverse skills of her staff, but also to “lend out” those skills where they were most needed. She shares how the county government needed help with their early pandemic safety messaging to travelers and residents, and she explains how helping the county with this messaging has created powerful new relationships and new opportunities for Visit Finger Lakes.

Collaboration is Key

As these extraordinary leaders shared, collaboration has been one of the key recurring themes that has helped each of these organizations chart a new path forward through uncertain waters. From working with other nearby destinations to coordinating their efforts with their larger community, collaboration has become a powerful resource for everyone involved.

I hope you enjoy this first part of the three part Destinations International 2021 Annual Convention series. Next week, we’ll hear from even more remarkable leaders and we’ll take a look at more of the bright sides, silver linings and moments of brilliance that have helped our industry move forward through this challenging period.

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