A World-Changing Collaboration, with Jillian Blackbeard

Episode 184

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Jillian Blackbeard’s passion lies in Africa Tourism and Conservation. She has been leading the industry for over 10 years in various marketing roles, first for a Southern African hotel and resort chain, followed by five years as director for marketing and product development at Botswana Tourism Organisation, and Director for Africa for The World Travel and Tourism Association. Jillian is now the CEO of The Victoria Falls Regional Tourism Association, the first purely private sector driven organisation representing the entire KAZA region (Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe) which is undertaking an ambition destination marketing strategy and campaign at all levels of the tourism supply chain. Jillian’s passions extend to conservation, managing the Tlhokomela Endangered Wildlife Trust for five years and continues to support projects that link tourism with conservation. She has spoken at international conferences and events on the importance of Intra-African Travel and opportunities and challenges for the sector across the African continent. On our podcast, we are joined by Jillian Blackbeard, CEO of The Victoria Falls Regional Tourism Association, the first private sector-driven organisation representing Africa’s KAZA region (Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe). During our discussion, Jillian shares how her association is creating a powerful, collaborative network to promote the many travel destinations worth visiting throughout the region.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How Jillian’s career led her to travel and tourism, and how she helped form The Victoria Falls Regional Tourism Association
  • How female mentors within and outside of the industry have had a profound impact on Jillian’s career
  • Why women in the travel trade, especially in Africa, face unique challenges and obstacles
  • Why networking and forming relationships can create remarkable new opportunities
  • Why Jillian’s organization was formed to address a deep need in Africa’s KAZA region
  • How collaboration among many groups has become the backbone of Jillian’s organization
  • How the network has helped members more efficiently reuse their limited resources
  • How the association takes a multi-destination approach to the region at all levels of the supply chain
  • How broad reach and participation is helping position Africa as a desirable travel destination

Creating a Powerful Collaborative Network

Jillian Blackbeard, CEO of The Victoria Falls Regional Tourism Association, the first purely private sector-driven organisation representing the entirety of Africa’s KAZA region (Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) and the region’s many enticing travel destinations. During our discussion, Jillian shares how her association is creating a powerful, collaborative network to promote the many travel destinations worth visiting throughout the region.

One Region, Many Destinations

As Jillian explains during our conversation, one of the integral elements of her association that sets it apart from others like it is its focus on promoting the entire African region rather than one or two specific destinations. The association works to involve businesses at all levels of the supply chain to help cross-promote them and to help them share and repurpose their content and limited resources. By working together, each business is able to amplify its reach and minimize its marketing costs, while still reaping profound benefits and helping to elevate the entire region and its many destinations.

The Power of Networking and Collaboration

A theme that Jillian comes back to time and again during our discussion is the power of collaborative and mentor-mentee relationships. As she explains, women in the travel trade often face challenges different from male counterparts, especially in developing regions. Working together and forming a network of partnerships and mentorships can benefit everyone involved, as Jillian illustrates when she shares the profound impact other women mentors within the industry have had on her own career and opportunities. So too, forming a strong network of collaborators has helped The Victoria Falls Regional Tourism Association and its individual members pool resources to develop a unified message highlighting the region’s many attractive qualities.

Nicole Mahoney: 00:22 Hello listeners, this is Nicole Mahoney, host of destination on the left. Welcome to this week, this episode and another brilliant guest, Jillian black beer CEO of the Victoria falls tourism association. I met Jillian several weeks ago when she reached out to me with an idea for what I would call a world changing collaborations that will help her destination and Africa’s Eden survive and thrive do the COBIT 19 pandemic. In this episode, Jillian shares her vision for the creation of a digital destination that can be used as a model for destinations around the world. We talk about the importance of mentors, the strength of collaboration, and how travel does good Jillian’s passion lies in Africa, tourism and conservation. He has been leading the industry for over 10 years, specifically in marketing, first for a Southern African hotel and resort chain siloed by five years as director of marketing and product development at Botswana tourism organization. Followed by a role as director for Africa for the world travel and tourism association.

Nicole Mahoney: 01:27 She is now the CEO of the Victoria falls regional tourism association, the first purely private sector driven organization representing the entire a region which is undertaking an IM, this just destination marketing strategy and campaign at all levels of the tourism supply chain. Jillian’s passion extends to conservation, managing the till Hokkien Milo and dangered wildlife trust for five years and she supports projects that link tourism with conservation over the past several years. She has spoken at international conferences and events on the [inaudible] African travel opportunities and challenges for the sector across the African continent. Now let’s get into the interview. Jillian, thank you so much for joining us. Our listeners are in for a real treat with this conversation today, but before we get started, can you share a little bit about your story with our listeners? Find when we hear it in your own words, add so much more overall conversation.

Nicole Mahoney: 02:34 Well, thanks Nicole. Thanks so much for having me on your podcast and really thank you so much for coming up and collaborating with me, which we’ll talk about later. My story. Well it is quite a lot to tell, but I think for those the snows who are out there, I’m from Botswana, I’m born and bred eight generation from Botswana and I started my career within the tourism industry only about 15 years ago, which for me seems quite recently before that I was traveling and working in Europe in the aviation industry and teaching financial English and working with large organizations around the world. Um, and eventually after I had raised my children, started to raise them in Europe, but the need to go back to Africa. And one of the things that you have an advocate if you’ve been brought up here is this, Oh, it’s the same indescribable smell of Dustin sunshine that you have Africa and loose guys that you can never find anywhere.

Nicole Mahoney: 03:42 Certainly not in Europe where I lived. And so I came back to Africa and I started to work as a marketing manager for a group of hotels called Piermont for Botswana. And I, and I did that for about four years, looking at their marketing strategies working within the industry. And one day I was sitting there and a family friend who was at the time working as the minister of tourism had suggested, well, you know, there is an opening you could apply for position of marketing manager at what’s one or tourism. And you know, me going and getting it and saying, well why not? So if I do I go and do the interview process. It was actually a really lengthy process to go through the government institution of how to hire people. But I did in the end you get the position and I say that puts on a tourism who almost five years and we really did some amazing things.

Nicole Mahoney: 04:40 Tourism, everything from partnering with ITV where we, we put on a live show of 75 dancers and catered Botswana food for over 4,000 members traveling trade in the street. We will races with airplanes in salt pans too. Actually we had a, a show in New York where we bought dancers to Broadway. It was called Botswana on Broadway. Um, two years ago. So we did some really amazing things and I’m very proud about the linkages that I grew up around in Botswana tourism and yeah, the time ends as everything does you, you, you look for new challenges and some very close mentors of mine. Well, to my attention, a position at the world travel and tourism council. Um, the WTTC is the world’s largest, most prominent, um, private sector association, which is made up of 185 top CEOs, everyone from the CEO of Hilton and Marriott and visa, et cetera.

Nicole Mahoney: 05:47 And they were looking for a director for Africa to drive their African strategy, which for me felt like the next step. And I certainly just took it on with Gusto. It was, it was pretty amazing experiencing all the different African destinations and the different perspectives of the private sector. And I did that for a year. I created this strategy. Unfortunately there was a move to London, which I, I didn’t want to take. And so I filed out after, after that part of my life. And at the end of the year, it was actually gearing up to look at moving to Rwanda to work with Rwanda tourism and a former colleague, somebody I’d met along in all these wonderful trade shows as you do. Um, Mr. Ross Kennedy foaming said, you know, we’re looking to form a private sector association in the region. We’re really struggling with negative publicity.

Nicole Mahoney: 06:47 We have, I’m sky news talking about the Victoria falls drop drying up. We’re really struggling. Do you think that this could be something you’re interested in? For me, I jumped at the this opportunity. I said, of course. And Ross says, what will you do on the plane and come to us tomorrow? I’m like, okay. So off I went and the Victoria falls regional association was formed at the time. I said to them, we have an opportunity to be the first private sector association in Africa that works with them, the region not just tied to one nation. Let’s break that barrier. That’s our tourists don’t just come to one destination. So why should we Mark it as one destination? And yes, they were very happy to do that. And this was the beginning of January this year and we formed that. And that’s pretty much my story of where I am.

Nicole Mahoney: 07:45 I think that’s it. That’s a good place to take a pause cause I know everything you just said that happened over the last 15 years. Just kind of what I worked speed all that between January and here we are in the beginning of may in the middle of a world. Uh, so we’ll, we’ll get to that soon. Jillian, I just love your story and one of the things that I hope listeners I picked up on is, um, as you were describing your journey, referring to a colleague introduced me to this opportunity or a friend mentioned this to me and just how important it is to have that network. Um, and to be open to conversations as I was listening to you, that’s what I was thinking about, you know, open to new ideas and open to new opportunities. That sounds like is really then something that led you, uh, you know, from where you started with.

Nicole Mahoney: 08:39 That’s fine. A tourism to where you are today in Victoria, Victoria. You know what I think in any industry, this, this wonderful, um, amount of mentors and if you stay open to mentors guiding you along your career path, there really is some amazing people. I think in today’s well we often tie ourselves off and we close ourselves off to, to learning from different avenues and different people. And one of the things that I felt the most important was just staying open to two people who could help me along the road. And often some people tell me, Oh Jeanette, you know, whatever you’ve done, you follow them with your bum and butter. And it wasn’t so much that. I think the key here was keeping myself open to mentors and working extremely hard when it came forward. And I think at this point, especially being a woman in tourism, women make up almost 65% of the workforce in tourism, but only 20% of them are in middle to high management positions.

Nicole Mahoney: 09:49 And so therefore being part of it, what you would say the higher level positions in tourism, especially in Africa, it is still some challenges, quite a few challenges for women in tourism or women in any industry. It was so important to work with other women who had taken that journey and, and there’s a few and if you don’t mind, I’d love to recognize them and just say give your listeners an idea because sometimes it wasn’t necessarily the traditional person who would have helped me along the way. Sometimes it was sometimes it wasn’t done. I’m one of the people that really taught me so much that I know from the trade perspective was a lady called Dawn Wilson and she ran my international representation in London and she had a background in NPR and in fact one of your previous guests, Julia from unmanaged travel training and those are pretty well and she always remembers a story when we, we hijack to WTM London. There was a certain character we were both trying to avoid because he really wanted us to take him up on a, on a filming project. We didn’t want to do a really creepy character.

Nicole Mahoney: 11:08 So Julia got in front of us and we had a little table, which we kept her talking because we could see this gentleman character at the corner of our eyes, but Dawn was somebody who had worked for at least 10 years working this relationship with the trade and what you did to us and I think what benefited the work we did at when we came on board and we really worked hard to keep those trade relationships as much as the world is changing, we getting online bookings, OTAs, things are changing. The travel trade is still important, especially in our industry. So she was somebody who introduced me to it, boss network of people, and if I ever have an opportunity, even with the big falls is to bring dorm back on board. Then another woman who was just amazing was Helen Murrano, who at the time I met her, she was heading up WTTC government division.

Nicole Mahoney: 12:11 But before that I believe she worked in the us department of state for tourism and she was such a powerhouse, adjust the most amazingly passionate person in terms of government policy and how governments and institutions look at tourism. And she was just amazing. Uh, I met her at um, the world travel and tourism council summit in Bangkok, which was about, what was that three years ago when Botswana won the destination of the year and she was just fabulous and she has been, no matter how important this lady is, always has time to reach out to me. Always has time to have a lunch with me when we, when we, I happened upon each other or, or send a comment. It was so touching that somebody or just, I mean, I don’t think there’s that many more people that you can get high in the world of travel and tourism.

Nicole Mahoney: 13:12 And she just did so much to opening up my eyes with such humility because I remember we were also again at WTM, lots of things happen and we had come back from lunch and there was some British students asking about travel and tourism. We were all in a hurry, but she took the time and it must have been 10 minutes to speak to these students, talk to them about where they were going, et cetera. So I just think that she also reminded me the feeling that no matter how far you go, however important you become, it’s the people who are younger than you are next generation that are going to create this wonderful travel and tourism industry that we see. And so she was just such an inspiration. And lastly with another colleague from, um, WTTC Caroline Moultrie and he headed up the commercial department, which I worked for and run, but at the same time she also left and she’s now managing, um, the destination account at, uh, Hills Balfour, who is part of the partnership that we are working together for.

Nicole Mahoney: 14:22 And again, it was just somebody who was so passionate and she came in from a private sector perspective and really opened my eyes about what tourism isn’t just about doing the travel. It’s about the supply chain is about all the different elements that come on board to creating a tourism infrastructure. And there’s so many more women. But I just feel that we need to recognize where we come from. And it might not necessarily be somebody who is terribly important. There’s, there’s a wonderful organization called travel impact and what’s one of the, but talks about small community projects that work with the tourism industry. So she helps communities and especially the women who live in communities create crafts and create different activities that would help these women in the communities and then they sell them onto tourism. This is somebody who’s developed something from nothing and she’s so inspirational and, and we need to recognize them.

Nicole Mahoney: 15:25 Absolutely. Um, no, I think those are fabulous examples and I love how you have such a broad array, you know, of mentors and, and uh, I’m sure our listeners are probably thinking of some who have influenced them along their journey as well. Um, but so interesting that you know, you have, um, Don who you talked about really helped you understand the trade and, and now the importance of the relationship building. And I, I made a note that you talked about the OTAs and the online bookings and I know we’re going to be talking a little bit about, uh, your new project with the digital destination. And, um, I think that those relationships with the trade are going to become so important, so much more important as we come out of this pandemic. Um, so I, I’ll be interested to explore that with you a little bit, but then you, then you’re like talking about the policymakers and, uh, you know, just kind of really all parts of what goes into having a healthy tourism economy.

Nicole Mahoney: 16:27 Um, you know, and then the example with, uh, Caroline and the private sector and then finally with this a woman that, you know, the travel for impact that’s really helping those people in those communities, um, start businesses that can serve the industry. So I think that’s just a really great overview and good example. Uh, and I appreciate you taking us down that road. Hmm. No, and I think that everybody needs to really think about their network. Nicole, you and I met on LinkedIn. It’s, it’s a network. It’s working and looking, taking the time to investigate people who you might not know, but everybody has a part to play and it’s really having the courage to reach out no matter how far, why they are. Um, maybe postcode at 19. We will have that courage to just reach out and create those linkages. Yeah, absolutely. And we did meet on LinkedIn and you did reach out to me and I really am excited for you to, to share with our listeners about this very creative project that you are working on.

Nicole Mahoney: 17:36 Um, one of the things that we focus on the show is creativity. The other is collaboration and what you were putting together is just such an amazing example of both of these things. So, um, could you talk a little bit about, you know, we, we kind of ended your story at January, 2020 when you all felt like they were right and uh, and so much has happened since then. So talk about what’s happened with Victoria falls is as you took on your new role and then of course we landed right in the middle of a world pandemic and how you’re pivoting with your brand new association. Great. What I would, I would call a world changing collaboration. Sure. So basically what we found as many tourism associations, many private sector found that, Oh my goodness, kind of a 19 his kids, most of my members, potential members, existing members, was shutting down their operations.

Nicole Mahoney: 18:43 They were putting people on paid or unpaid leave. It was a dramatic situation and, and liquidity was terribly short for everybody. And yeah, it took the same time, the need for a region, why destination marketing campaign almost. He came so much more important because if you think about it, yes, we know it’s not going to end. But we also know that recovery is very reliant on how you top of mind, how you keep inspiring your travelers, how you keep engaged with your trade. So on one hand you were having companies closing up and really holding onto their loss, bottom dollar and not able to spend on destination marketing. Yet at the same time needing it, and this is why I think we lead with this concept of collaboration and linkages. I basically said to the board, who I’m responsible to was, let me try this.

Nicole Mahoney: 19:38 We have a UN WTO challenge coming up right now about dealing destinations. Why don’t we put something together in terms of a digital strategy? Because really, if you think about digital, if you’re looking at creating content, we could be used repurpose content. It’s a lot, lot less difficult to do. Let’s work on a digital solution and ask all these people that we built up relationships with over the years. Mmm. If they would be willing to come on board and do some pro bono work in order to revive the destination when we get through the survival period. So I spent a couple of, yeah it was about a week or so making a lot of phone calls and talking and really okay talking about what we needed and I, and I think it wasn’t just coincidentally that we managed to get such a wide array of wonderful players, which on this just now, it was also looking at the situation.

Nicole Mahoney: 20:42 This association is the first time we’ve had regional collaborations, not bound borders. It’s not bound by certain elements in the industry. Everyone is a competitor, but everyone is working together. So already it is a shining light in collaboration. On top of that, we really are looking at probably one of the last natural Edens and the campaign is called Africa’s Eden in the world. It is pristine natural resources. There’s one seventh world, one natural world wonder the Victoria falls two world heritage sites. It really is absolutely amazing destination that just deserves work and help. Um, and thirdly, there was an element of collaboration. Let’s see how we can work together. This is not the end of the story. This is the beginning of the story. And what if we do now there’s two reasons why I want you to come on board. The first one is we would like to create a template for any crisis, for any destination, so that us as a group, as a collective can work to Greg together to create a public relations and communication strategy and platforms that help the destination in any crisis.

Nicole Mahoney: 22:02 So not just this one, can we do plicate this around the world? Can we create a proof of concept? Um, and it wasn’t just for destinations in crisis. A lot of ideas came up when I was talking to, to a friend of mine, his name is Kojo Benton Williams and he runs a wonderful publication in Africa called LeFrak. And he had said to me, well, you know, we can also use this as a template for developing countries. Just don’t have tourism destinations. So for example, South Sudan, which is ravaged by and still is possibly one day in the future, might resolve some of their conflicts. And they would like to develop a tourism, um, network and promote the destination and create this tourism infrastructure. So this digital collaboration template that we’ve created, it’s something that even some way like South Sudan could take as a turnkey solution and implement it.

Nicole Mahoney: 23:03 So, so that was one of the reasons why I felt this was something absolutely amazing to do. Um, yes, it was just something that is needed. It’s community and let’s move on forward. Um, the partners and they come from all sorts of arrays. We’ve got everybody from PR companies like Hills Balfour and green team global. We have a newsletter being produced by Peter who is from taco creative, Julia from online travel, training yourself with virtual, um, travel trade events and your podcasts. We have Jed who’s looking to promote low season travelers to Thomas who’s looking to, um, keep more spend through direct bookings within the destination. Cool. And his team at wit too, who look at digital to Moses, who’s a local journalist who’s creating an online magazine and general too, who created this wonderful video. And everybody’s working together and everybody, even when you have two PR companies, very interesting during social media, they working together to help solve this destination.

Nicole Mahoney: 24:16 And I think that this is an impact element too, our collaboration and our creativity. And one of the other things that I found when we, when we worked in, in my past careers, whenever we looked at digital solutions, we would take a digital solution and look at it as a sign of, we would say, okay, let’s build a website. Let’s create the content, we’ll do the students. We finished this and then we kind of put it on the side and leave it and it would become out of date and would move on to the next one. There was very little collaboration and reuse of material, which just seems odd to me, but I think it was the time when we were creating these different platforms that we had the sign of retailer. This collaboration allows us to what current, um, content content produced by our members.

Nicole Mahoney: 25:10 Repurpose it and then move it across the different networks and each network feeds into the other. So where you have online travel training, training the trade about the destination, they can then use the way to itinerary platform who can then all of these people can make come and meet the different operators, active virtual travel training event. And this is all things working on the same basis of content. So it was a very efficient way to use, ah, limited resources in such a desperate time. Yeah, I think, um, you’re so right. You just gave, I’m sure our listeners are writing furiously probably as much as I am, but, um, and I’m part of it and I’m still writing furiously. Um, I love how you kind of just, right. Okay. I love the way you described this entire program. Um, but how you just ended it with this idea of kind of a continuum of content and how you have all of these partners, these, um, you know, vendors, marketing professionals, you know, different service providers, um, solution providers who are now rethinking how do we collaborate and work together and where does my part that I’m working on lead to your part that you’re working on and really, really connect.

Nicole Mahoney: 26:35 Mmm. All of it. And, and um, especially the way you said, it’s just a very efficient way for you to use limited resources. Yeah, it really is. And from a, from a service provider perspective, it isn’t so much we just giving our services. No, because there’s so much more that you can do once you’ve established that connection. So therefore, you know, for example, the itinerary builder might not make a huge amount of money now, but you know, they have access to all the people in the destination. They also promote themselves to a wider market with other peoples markets. So it really is just opening your mind and opening up to different opportunities. And one of the other reasons why I really love what we created. What’s the feeling that regardless of what happened with covert 19 regardless how terrible it is, it really has to be awful in our destinations.

Nicole Mahoney: 27:37 Mmm. I feel what the help of yourself and all these wonderful members, we can bring the destination to a place that it is better than even before covert 19 so it’s not just a solution to crisis. It’s a solution to uplifting this whole destination and that really is something that I feel is more sustainable. It’s not something that we’re just fixing something right now for the moment. The relationships that are formed now between yourself, between yourselves and our different partners, we’ll keep on giving, you know, they just keep on going for the rest of the foreseeable future. I don’t see us only doing a virtual travel trade conference as a one source. I see this as being something that’s going to happen year after year because we have seen a change. There has been a paradigm shift in the way we do business and therefore maybe all the things that we talk about now will help us move on to the future.

Nicole Mahoney: 28:43 We will continue using them, will most probably be better at using them every year and they become part of almost a toolbox for destinations. I love to think of everybody being a little tool in a large tool all working to fix this wonderful a fine tuned engine that just keeps on generating wonderful content, whether it’s content but the trade or contempt for the consumer and mixing that because so often we used to keep our trade away from our consumer away from the media and you’re like, really isn’t the messaging all relatively the same? It’s just how you repurpose it. So yes, I think that this toolbox will make us a better functioning engine even outside of COBIT 19. Absolutely. Um, so Jillian, I wanted to ask you a little bit about the suppliers and um, you know, the, the tourism businesses and infrastructure within your region.

Nicole Mahoney: 29:44 And I’m curious, um, I know, I know this is a very new council, but I’m curious what kinds of things you have done to engage with them. And then I’m also wondering, you know, and maybe this digital destination concepts a little bit too new, you know, to be, um, broadcast widely through your region. But I’m just curious, what does this really going to mean to those businesses and those suppliers within your five countries? Right. Was the five country region, okay. Yeah. No, it just five countries or those [inaudible] and Bobby Sambia and go to East part of the region. It’s still starting to create a tourism proposition. So we haven’t got anybody there, but that’s on the plans and the people who are part of this association, when we formed it, we wanted to form an association that was fully representative of the destination. And why I say that is that so many associations focus on a single path of the destination.

Nicole Mahoney: 30:50 So therefore you might have tourism providers, so those people like hotels and resorts, et cetera, as one association, or you might have two operators, that’s another association. Mmm. What we wanted to do was look at the entire supply chain ecosystem of tourism in the region. So our members spanned from tourism operations for hotels and resorts and camps, groups of camps, two activity providers to operators, two smaller activity providers, for example, small crafts and you know, um, tours, et cetera, to restaurants F and B providers to add lines to railway taxi services. Yes. Houses even integrating, we in discussion with Airbnb, how to integrate them to the suppliers of the tourism supply chain. So very important to bring on people. For example, there’s a beverage provider called liquor Rama who is a member of our association because there’s some type of business in the region is almost entirely reliant on the tourism industry.

Nicole Mahoney: 32:05 And part of this digital campaign, I think we spoke about, it was a very cool idea as covert 19 hit, he was like, and now how do I promote? And he had actually organized in partnership with one of our other members, the Victoria falls hotel, a wine tasting, which obviously he couldn’t do. So what we were putting together is with his wine supplies from the Cape, a virtual wine tasting, which we then deliver the six different bottles of wine to all the tourism industry in the region. And we then organize a wine tasting on zoom where everyone tastes the wine and to get the the wine specialist to tell you about the wines on zoom and we all rate it and all of that type of thing. So you know, even the supply chain, whether it’s banks or insurance or or anybody working in this association, it’s very much inclusive. It needs to go from the very top to the very bottom. And because this is so new, we have bolt on enough members yet, but the idea is slowly but surely, especially with the help of this digital campaign to bringing on more. And I think that that kind of leads to your second question, how do we engage them?

Nicole Mahoney: 33:20 It’s through a digital destination. It’s very easy to engage the entire destination because what they do is they provide the content, their own business content, their own marketing content, and you then categorize it and place it in the platform where it’s relevant, promoted, and tell a story from it. I think if you’re stuck in a, in a traditional way of mocking, it’s very hard to market. Well just different content if you’re trying to Joe traditional trade shows or produce a booklet. Whereas if you have this interactive platform, whether it’s the website way, quarterly newsletter or wonderfully interactive magazine, well your Memphis, that entire supply chain of the tourism industry can contribute and what it is is our destination doesn’t do the hard sell. The solution isn’t so much the hard sell. From my perspective, it’s talking about what the destination means, what it has to offer, what should it has to offer to a traveler?

Nicole Mahoney: 34:26 How will the trade better sell it? It’s not ideal is, you know, one night for a thousand dollars that that’s not what we do. It’s very much talking about, well, traveling to this destination you will see, but you will meet that person, you will smell and taste those. And our PR company is working on some really fabulous social media campaigns, things like cooking courses and fireside chat about traditional stories. Um, I don’t know if they doing that, but there was an idea of having a concert on both sides of the holes from Zimbabwe and Zambia to different countries and having drone footage. So it’s very much an inspirational platform that we want everybody to participate in. And the more participation we have, the more we can create this wonderful excitement about a destination. Yeah, I think, uh, I think that’s a great point too because, um, it’s very difficult to have such a broad reach, um, you know, as, as one provider or perhaps one destination within the region.

Nicole Mahoney: 35:38 And so I can really see the value, um, tourism council, um, to be able to have that broader reach and really serve in that inspirational, alright reaming kind of phase. And then when it’s time to actually make that sale trickle down and find, you know, that resort or that tour operator or that’s supplier, that makes the most sense, a really great role, a hundred percent. And really it’s the only place you can go, well you can have full, you can stand in full countries. I don’t know how you stand in four categories. Maybe you could do what’s, what’s that game, that game with the circles that you can do that.

Nicole Mahoney: 36:22 But anyway, et cetera in the full countries. And yeah, I think that it is, it creates an aspirational destination. Really. Africa is positioned, I think, and I might be wrong, but I think positioned in a primary position, full postcode at 19 with this fast open space. We have this just so much space. I mean, well it’s one known where I live is a country bigger than Texas with only 2 million people. So social distancing. Well we do that anyway because it’s so much space traveling for good. You have seen a, um, almost a pushback. Um, the greater a Timberg type of reaction that there was too much travel and this is nature’s way of what would you say?

Nicole Mahoney: 37:17 Yes. But I think from our perspective in Africa it’s very much traveled, does good and and also on a logical perspective, wait, traveling is going to be a little bit more difficult. I think going through airports is going to be a real pain and people will have to plan the trips a lot more. So maybe this trend of just hopping over to a city or quick destination might go down and people will start to look for bucket lists. Then we’ll start to think of trips of a lifetime. And what our destination has is all of that and spades. It has a wonderful, beautiful ecosystem. The tourist support, it’s social distancing within its own nature. It’s bucket list. There’s so many different bucket lists that you can achieve. And so I think that travelers who now are looking for new experiences will look towards Africa and other destinations similar to that rather than just saying, Oh, well we go to GoPro and two, not that I, I wouldn’t want to go to Provence, but you know what I’m saying.

Nicole Mahoney: 38:26 Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And I think you’re right. You do have a, your destination does have a, you know, good story to tell in a, in a great position, uh, for coming out of this recovery. And we can just hear so much of the passion from you. And it’s not surprising considering you shared with us very early on in this conversation that your generation, uh, from Botswana. So, uh, it certainly does shine through Jillian and I, and I’m so glad that you were able to brightness Mmm. Today. So I want to be respectful of your time and that our listeners time as well. And I’m sure you and I could talk, I believe for hours, um, so many different topics. Um, but before we say goodbye, do you have any final, uh, words or, um, anything else that you’d like to share with our listeners that maybe we didn’t cover yet?

Nicole Mahoney: 39:19 I want to say I can only encourage people to look up our destination and, and see what it has to offer. There is just so much to offer that is so absolutely magical. Mmm. For me it’s the open space, but for others it would be the welcoming culture. For others it’s excitement and others it’s wildlife. But yes, I’m not saying get up and travel. Now I am saying have a look, be inspired and travel, whether it’s to our destination or any others. Mmm. I think that traveling keeps millions of people in work. It keeps so many Mmm livelihood’s going, it employs almost 11% of the world’s population and, and travel is something that does good. And for you and listeners, all I can say is don’t stop traveling because traveling is streaming. Traveling brings that connection that we started the conversation talking about. We talked about linkages and networks.

Nicole Mahoney: 40:26 If you don’t travel, you don’t have an open mind. You don’t have an open mind to new cultures, new learning. And so by traveling, whether it’s your business or not, you open yourself up to so many new experiences which will really benefit yourself and your family. It’s certainly, um, benefited my children to being such better global citizens and I highly recommend it to everyone. Absolutely. I’m sure majority of our listeners will say amen to that because we’re all in this industry and just love, love what the industry can do, uh, for the world. And boy, we didn’t know it before. We know it now because if you just stop travel, you can see what that does to so many academies and be resilient. Nicole, I think everybody has to hold on and be resilient. Cool up the people that you’ve worked with. Call up them and just make sure that they’re okay and we’re going to get over this as a travel industry.

Nicole Mahoney: 41:32 We are, we’re all in this together. It’s a hashtag that’s coming around at the moment. So all of it, all of them together and it’s, it’s worked forward. Let’s play it forward. Right, exactly. I love that work forward. Well. Jillian, thank you so much for spending your time with us today and we will look forward to following the digital a destination as it evolves. We’ll definitely share a link to your a website within the show notes so listeners can go there and taken all that great content that you are putting out. Thank you so much. Thanks Nicole. Thanks so much. Thank you for listening all the way to the end of this week’s episode. This gives me a chance to ask you for a favor. We have a goal to reach 100 ratings and reviews on our podcast by the end of 2020 we are already well on our way to meeting this goal, but need your help. I love sharing my interviews with you and if you enjoy them too, I would have greatly appreciate you giving us a rating and review. Click the iTunes or Stitcher link on destination on the left.com or leave one right in your favorite app where you listen most often. It only takes a minute and your support, it means a lot.

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