Insights from the 2021 eTourism Summit (Part Two), with Nicole Mahoney

Episode 253

podcast photo thumbnail



For this second episode in a special two part series of Destination on the Left episodes, I visited the 2021 eTourism Summit held in Las Vegas, Nevada from September 20-22. At the summit, I was privileged to speak with fourteen attendees who are experts in the field of digital marketing for travel and tourism. In my conversations with today’s guest experts, I asked them to each answer one question:

“Looking into the future, what innovations are happening now that you think will impact digital marketing for your organization or destination?”

I’m so delighted to share their insightful and sometimes surprising answers with you in this week’s special podcast episode. In this episode of Destination On The Left, you’ll hear from these fourteen extraordinary digital marketing experts:

  • Chris Lukenbill – Co-Founder, Shrpa
  • Ed Harris – CEO, Discover Lancaster
  • Emilie Harris – Director of Marketing Operations, Bandwango
  • Jake Brown – Content Manager, Visit South Bend
  • Jason Holic – Vice President of Business Applications & Insights, Experience Kissimmee
  • Kyle Johnson – Digital Strategy Manager, Indiana Destination Development Corporation
  • Leena Riggs – Director of Marketing & Partnerships, Visit Rancho Cordova
  • Marc Garcia – President & CEO, Visit Mesa
  • Maria Skrzynski – Marketing Coordinator/Office Manager, Destination Ann Arbor
  • Mark Romig – Chief Marketing Officer & Senior Vice President, New Orleans & Co.
  • Nicole Stacey – Director of Marketing Communications, Visit Pensacola
  • Ralph Thompson – Executive Director Travel & Tourism, Streetsense
  • Tim Ash – Marketing Keynote, Trainer & Advisor
  • Victoria Simmons – Senior Vice President of Travel, BVK

Innovative Digital Marketing Experts at the 2021 eTourism Summit

The eTourism Summit is a one-of-a-kind conference that exists at the intersection of destination travel and tourism with cutting edge digital marketing. It’s a unique opportunity for industry leaders, marketers, and destinations to come together and exchange ideas, collaborate, and brainstorm new solutions together. This year’s eTourism Summit was held in Las Vegas from September 20-22 and offered insights into digital marketing trends, advertising innovations and new ways to connect travelers with incredible experiences. I asked each of these experts the same question: “Looking into the future, what innovations are happening now that you think will impact digital marketing for your organization or destination?” Here are the insightful answers they gave me:

Chris Lukenbill from Shrpa

Chris discusses how the many disruptions our industry is facing create new opportunities for Shrpa’s clients to tell their stories within their own communities. He discusses why an increased focus on local communities has moved from “nice to have” to necessary to navigate the pandemic. He talks about why stronger communication is going to be an increasingly critical component of travel and tourism marketing going forward.

Ed Harris from Discover Lancaster

Ed talks about the juxtaposition of digitally marketing the simple life of the local Amish communities through modern technology and social media, and he discusses why innovations in technology like AI and machine learning are transformative tools that will reshape digital marketing in the future. He talks about the power of data in informing what content destinations and marketers share, and he discusses the importance of adapting to and embracing these emerging technologies to help meet travelers where they are.

Emilie Harris from Bandwango

Emilie talks about how the industry’s broad focus on innovation is creating new opportunities to integrate various products, experiences and locations into full experience packages. She discusses how important it is for marketers to understand how the process of booking travel is changing as consumer expectations are shifting. She shares how the “niche” audiences of the past are dissolving and how authentic, unique experiences are becoming the cornerstone of travel and tourism marketing.

Jake Brown from Visit South Bend

Jake talks about the role of data in travel and tourism digital marketing, and he shares why being able to track the success of campaigns by how much revenue they have generated for the area is going to be a sea change for digital marketers going forward.

Jason Holic from Experience Kissimmee

Jason explains a calculator tool his organization developed to help track key data metrics that they have made available to other DMOs, and he shares how it helps track media impact of your messaging through transparency and the dynamic narratives it can create. He explains how the tool uses 30 different data points to fine tune visibility over your metrics and help you communicate with four key stakeholder groups using language they themselves use to help you demonstrate the value you’re driving to them.

Kyle Johnson from Indiana Destination Development Corporation

Kyle shares how his organization’s transition from the Indiana Office of Tourism Development to the Indiana Destination Development Corporation has allowed the organization to expand their goals and cast a wider net. He shares why their goal isn’t just to attract visitors but to also attract talent to the state. He discusses the important role location tracking serves for the organization, allowing for targeted messaging. He talks about how Indiana has seen big success bringing corporations to the state, and he shares how the next goal is to bring more workers to the state as well.

Leena Riggs from Visit Rancho Cordova

Leena shares how her organization is focused on more and stronger data collection, and she shares how Visit Rancho Cordova is exploring options for engaging with and messaging in-market. She shares how the data is powerfully informing how Rancho Cordova plans their future growth.

Marc Garcia from Visit Mesa

Marc shares how his organization is focused on accessibility in travel as part of Visit Mesa’s larger Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts. He shares how Mesa, Arizona has worked hard to become the nation’s first Autism-certified City and is now seeking to become a city known for its accessibility programs and initiatives. He shares how Visit Mesa has recently established the Mesa Regional Foundation for Accessibility, Diversity and Inclusion, which will be used to purchase accessibility technologies. He also talks about how his city is building what will be the largest youth and amateur sports complex in the country.

Maria Skrzynski from Destination Ann Arbor

Maria shares how her organization is working to strengthen its local partnerships and collaboration with other organizations and sectors to elevate the energy of the community. She also discusses the importance of unity within Ann Arbor.

Mark Romig from New Orleans & Company

Mark discusses how people are using handheld devices far more than tablets, desktops and other large devices, and he shares how his organization is focused on developing their integration with phones and other handhelds. He talks about the importance of focusing on the consumer’s needs and obstacles and staying ahead of the curve by meeting them where they are.

Nicole Stacey from Visit Pensacola

Nicole talks about how Visit Pensacola is reallocating their budget to use connected TVs to better reach people. She talks about the importance of transparency and honesty in messaging, and she shares how Visit Pensacola is utilizing targeted marketing strategies and messages to reach niche traveler groups.

Ralph Thompson from Streetsense

Ralph talks about how Streetsense is creatively using podcasts to build relationships with travelers in a more casual way than traditional messaging. He explains how even smaller, resource-challenged DMOs can take advantage of established podcasts to amplify their message.

Tim Ash, Marketing Keynote Speaker, Trainer and Advisor

Tim discusses how travel planning can take advantage of Alexa, Siri and other voice assistants and the casual, conversational way they work. He shares why it is important to understand the psychology behind how people make decisions, and he explains how evolutionary psychology can be the key to anticipating and guiding people’s decision-making processes.

Victoria Simmons from BVK

Victoria talks about how DMOs and destinations are becoming better at having in-market conversations with travelers and connecting them directly to travel partners. She shares how geolocation data is becoming a powerful resource for enhancing this connection with travelers.

Technological Innovations and the Role of Data

As you can see, many of the leaders I spoke with hit upon recurring themes around emerging technologies and new ways of collecting, collating and analyzing data. The outbreak of the global pandemic has created major strains and challenges on travel and tourism, but it has also given us a unique opportunity to reevaluate how we market destinations to travelers and how we can share our messages in more targeted ways and with larger, more diverse audiences.

I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing insights from the 2021 eTourism Summit and from these extraordinary travel and tourism marketing experts and leaders. As our world slowly begins to turn the tide against the pandemic, one thing is certain: by embracing new innovations and outside-the-box ideas, the future of travel and tourism looks bright!

We value your thoughts and feedback and would love to hear from you. Leave us a review on your favorite streaming platform to let us know what you want to hear more o​f. Here is a quick tutorial on how to leave us a rating and review on iTunes!

Related Podcasts