Merging History With Today at Your Destination, with Jim Walter

Episode 145

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Jim Walter has been in the Destination Marketing world for the past 16 years. He got his start leading Madison County Tourism in upstate NY for 10 years as its executive director. For the past six years, he has led the sales and marketing efforts for Visit Cheyenne in Wyoming. He is a former president of the New York Travel and Vacation Association and is currently the president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of PCMA. He enjoys creating memorable experiences that help grow the local economy through tourism. Jim is an avid backpacker, runner, hunter, and snowshoer and enjoys spending as much time in the mountains as possible, and seeing his daughter and friends. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University and holds an M.S. in Service Management from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Jim is recognized as a Certified Destination Management Executive by Destinations International. On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Jim Walter about how he meandered into destination marketing and the creative ways he continues to attract crowds to Cheyenne, Wyoming.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Some of the various meandering ways that people end up in the tourism industry, including Jim’s own story
  • How Jim earned his title as a Certified Destination Management Executive
  • The creative tactics and ideas Jim has employed in his various roles to compete in the tourism market
  • Jim’s strategies to bridge the generational gap and get young people interested in the Old West culture of Cheyenne
  • Some of the rich history of Cheyenne and Wyoming and how Jim and his colleagues use that to attract tourism and celebrate the destination
  • Features of good “co-opetition” in the tourism industry and what matters most to the tourists you attract
  • How Jim sees the travel marketing industry evolving and the best practices to keep up with this evolution

Meandering Into Destination Marketing

Jim Walter wanted to be a baseball broadcaster when he first entered college. During one of his summers he got to do just that, only to realize it wasn’t what he wanted. He worked in radio for a while until he got fired, which led him to take a job doing sales for the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce. Ever since then, Jim has worked in destination marketing and has loved every minute of it. Jim’s career has taken him from upstate New York to Cheyenne, Wyoming and taught him ways to be flexible and creative along the way. While working in Madison County, Jim experienced the advent of digital marketing and got the opportunity to improve the area’s hospitality industry in unique ways. He started “Mad Foods,” a food blog dedicated to telling the stories of cideries and farm-to-table restaurants in the county. This same creativity transferred over to his efforts for Cheyenne, where he decided to start wearing a cowboy hat, boots, and a buckle to conferences and networking events. He attracted attention and solidified the brand of Cheyenne as a real Old West destination. These destinations have taught Jim how to play to his brand’s strengths without trying to make the destination something it’s not. This can sometimes present challenges, as it’s tempting to morph your brand into something new in order to fit with the times. In Cheyenne’s case, Jim knows that the Old West brand is a mainstay and that it’s best to integrate it with the modern day rather than scrap it completely.

History and Looking Forward

Many people don’t know of Wyoming’s rich history, and the younger generation continues to grow further removed from America’s Old West roots. In his “That’s My Cheyenne” video initiative, Jim had locals share the fun attractions that Cheyenne has, such as its nightlife, mountain biking trails, arts, and symphony. Cheyenne’s Frontier Days, the largest outdoor rodeo in the world, even hosted Post Malone, a stellar example of integration between a brand’s roots and modern times. Once people are attracted to Wyoming and Cheyenne, they can continue to learn of the history of the area. Wyoming was the first U.S. territory to grant women the right to vote and the right to hold office, and Cheyenne has been celebrating the “Year of the Woman” to mark the law’s 150th anniversary. You can learn more about the state’s incredible women’s rights history in their newest inspirational video, “Cheyenne, Wyoming: The Birthplace of Women’s Suffrage” (link here: As the tourism industry continues to evolve, Jim has plenty of best practices to keep up with the times. Jim reminds us to always leverage “co-opetition”, citing the Brew Central campaign of New York as a great example of collaboration between competitors. As it becomes easier to advertise and market your destinations via social media, Jim stresses how important it is to devote your resources first to building a place people will want to visit. If you do that, eventually people will want to live there, and then businesses will thrive there. This is great advice for any tourism professional, and I hope you commit it to your heart as you grow and progress all of your special destinations.


Nicole Mahoney: 00:18 Hello listeners, I’m Nicole Mahoney, host of destination on the left. I am passionate about travel and tourism and love learning from the experiences of professionals in the industry and that is why I am so excited to introduce today’s guest, Jim Walter. Jim has been in the destination marketing world for the past 16 years, first leading Madison County tourism and upstate New York for 10 years as its executive director and for the past six years leading the sales and marketing efforts for visit Cheyenne in Wyoming. He is a former president of the New York travel and vacation association and is currently the President for the Rocky Mountain chapter of PC m a Jim enjoys creating memorable experiences which help grow the local economy through tourism. He is an avid backpacker, runner, hunter and snowshoer and enjoys spending as much time in the mountains as possible and spending time with his daughter and friends. Jim is a graduate of Saint Bonaventure University and holds an m s in service management from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Jim Is recognized as a certified destination management executive by destinations international. Thank you for joining me today, Jim.

Jim Walter: 01:27 Thanks Nicole. Happy to be here.

Nicole Mahoney: 01:29 Yeah, I’m excited too to hear about your experiences and uh, especially a little bit about your cdme certification and that experience, but before we get started, um, can you tell us a little bit about your story in your own words? I find it gives so much more context to our conversation.

Jim Walter: 01:46 Sure. Well, I grew up in marathon, so just south of Cortland in upstate New York, uh, in dairy farm country and worked summers, um, you know, Baling Hay in cleaning barns. And that told me all I needed to know that I wanted to go to college and not have to stay back and work on the farm the rest of my life.

Nicole Mahoney: 02:06 I’m

Jim Walter: 02:06 actually went to saint Bonaventure to be a baseball broadcaster and had the chance to do that for a summer, uh, summer of 1999 down in Altoona, Pennsylvania and [inaudible]. And I’m always grateful for that because not everybody gets to do their dream job. And, um, did it for a summer, realized that really wasn’t going to be for me and moved down and moved back to the Syracuse area and um, worked on some radio jobs for a couple of years, but, um, got a nice break. You know, sometimes, you know, you get fired from a job and you think it’s, you know, worst day ever, how am I going to go home and tell my fiance at the time that, well we’re down to one income and we’re going to figure out how we’re going to do this. And you know, it seems like a pretty bleak, you know, point in time when you get fired from a job.

Jim Walter: 02:56 But it turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me when, when not cro channel communications let me go. Cause that led me a couple of weeks later to take a job with the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce and doing membership sales. And that was really my first real introduction to what a, what a chamber of Commerce does. And at the time, um, visit Syracuse was under that same umbrella with the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce. So I got to know, um, Geez, we’ll go back. Jen quit. Sal was involved at the time. Um, Doug small was the CEO for a little while and I had and um, while I was there and of course became very good friends with, yeah, I’m Tracy [inaudible] and in Carol Eaton I’m working there as well. So that introduced, we did the destination marketing world and about a year and a half after I started there, I had the opportunity to go over to Madison County and run their tourism efforts.

Jim Walter: 03:48 They had a small DMO, their membership based, I think they were at about 125 members at the time. And the thing that intrigued them was both my marketing background and the fact that I had just sold memberships for the Syracuse Chamber of Commerce and they wanted to grow their membership base and, and obviously grow their budget in that way. So they took a chance on me. Um, Dr. Joan Johnson, who’s just a fabulous leader in the tourism world over in Madison County for a lot of years, became a great mentor and friend encouraged me to go to Rit and get my master’s degree there. And, um, I was able to be there for about 10 years and really enjoyed working there, making a difference. Uh, we more than doubled the budget for the organization and the time I was there, uh, through new members and, and raising our room occupancy tax and Madison County as well.

Jim Walter: 04:44 Um, really allowed us to do some neat things in a community and, and really kinda shaped and defined my, you know, whole philosophy on destination marketing. Um, while I was there and had the opportunity, gosh, it’s six and a half years ago now to come out to Cheyenne. Um, and Hawaiian, the team here is their director of sales and marketing and uh, you know, again, one of those things, it’s not necessarily, you know, what you know is very important, but who you know is even more important in a lot of cases. Cause I had reached out to David Holder in Syracuse swing. He was the CEO and Syracuse at the time and had mentioned that I was looking to go west and it’d be saw anything come up in Colorado, Idaho, Utah, somewheres in the Rockies to let me know. And three days later he calls and says, um, that Cheyenne is looking for convention sales director. And I said, I’ve never sold conventions before. And he said, you’ve been selling weddings to Madison County for the last 10 years and weddings are conventions only with worst meeting planners.

Speaker 1: 05:47 I said, okay, I never wrote. I thought about

Jim Walter: 05:49 that. But you’re, you’re exactly right. You know. And um, so he said, by the way, the CEO in Cheyenne is one my best friends in the industry. I worked with them 20 years ago in the, in the Texas state tourism office. So that got me from the list of why’s this random guy from upstate New York applying for the job to the top of the pile and had a number of phone conversations with our CEO, Darren Rulof and flew me out here to take a look at the community and jumped at the opportunity. So packed up the family and moved 1700 miles out to, uh, up to the Great West here in Wyoming. And I’ve, I’ve loved every minute of it and really enjoy, enjoy what I do here and I’ve got a great team of sales professionals and in a dynamic organization that again, I think is very key, you know, um, supported me in my continued professional development and getting my CDMA just recently and just, it’s a great organization to work for and enjoy being out here.

Nicole Mahoney: 06:47 Yeah. Um, there is so much about your story that I think is so cool. Um, for starters, I love how I love those stories that, you know, kind of meander, you kind of meander your way, you know, into the tourism industry. And, and, uh, a lot of, a lot of guests that I have on this show actually share very similar meandering stories and they kind of like, it’s a, it’s a common thread that we didn’t know that tourism industry was the industry when we wanted to be in until we got there. You know, and then once we got there, we fell in love with it and, you know, learned so much about it. And this is, you know, this is where we’ve ended up. And, um, I think that’s just so cool. But you, you actually shared a really good, a couple of really good golden nuggets I wanna make sure listeners picked up on.

Nicole Mahoney: 07:34 And one is the importance of mentors. Uh, you know, you talked about mentors, um, kind of all along the way, the different folks that you met throughout your career path and how that led to the next thing. Um, and I also think that it’s really good too, uh, emphasize how important, not only the mentors are, but also your network and how you leveraged your network to, you know, make, make, future moves and, and to land you in Cheyenne. So, um, thank you for, you know, taking us down that path cause I really think listeners can, can draw a lot from that.

Jim Walter: 08:06 Absolutely. And I was really blessed in working in New York state tourism. My third day on the job was, um, the governor’s tourism conference that was being held in Syracuse. So I kind of had a baptism by fire of, of learning, you know, about the industry and, and um, you know, I remember like it was yesterday, I stepped outside of the hotel to catch a breath of fresh air and John Sagging door for standing there. And John introduced himself to me and you know, John, who’s how caverns for a lot of years. And then the route 20 association became, you know, one of, one of the great mentors I had in this industry. And it all just, you know, happened from networking at a, in a state tourism conference. And I was so lucky last week, I had a chance to see John Percy and Mary Kay Verba out at, um, that destinations international conference in, in St Louis. You know, just, I think that’s what I love most about the tourism industry is, is the great lifelong friendships you make with people. It’s such an industry full of great people and you know, those friendships, even though there’s, you know, 17, 1800 miles away and we’re not working on the collaborating on the same problems or commiserating about the latest. I love New York action. Um, you know, we still carry those friendships in and remain close friends. So it was excellent opportunity to see those folks.

Nicole Mahoney: 09:21 Yeah, that’s fabulous. And can you talk a little bit about what it took to get your certified destination management executive, uh, certification and kind of what that process has meant to you?

Jim Walter: 09:33 Yeah, and you mentioned the, all the mandering ways that we get into this industry. I mean, students go to college and they’ll do hotel and resort management. They’ll do, um, you know, a variety of different tourism programs. Uh, University of Wyoming has one that’s kind of more targeted toward outfitters and guides, um, more adventure tourism. Uh, but nobody says, you know, when they’re a senior in high school, I think I’m going to go be a, uh, a DMO or a tpa or whatever you call it in, in, in your community. And so there’s not a great pathway to, you know, go to college and study to get into our industry. And I think destinations international has done an outstanding job over the last couple of years of really Serpenti and their focus on how do we provide that necessary education to our industry. And you know, the keystone of that is the certified destination management executive program.

Jim Walter: 10:27 And so what that entailed, it took me about a year and a half, I think it was 20 months or so. Um, there’s four core classes, uh, you do strategic issues and destination management, advocacy, um, marketing and one other. It’s escaping me at this moment. And each of those core classes have, um, a paper component to it. You need to write a 750 word paper taking, you know, one of the concepts that you learned in the class and applying it to your, your DMO. And then there were two electives and I chose ’em finances for destination marketing organizations, which is absolutely as exciting as it sounds and a human resources for destination marketing. Um, organizations. That one was very fascinating because right at the height of the me too movement is when I said probably I’ll take a destiny or a, a human resources class, which gave us a lot to talk about in a lot of scenarios.

Jim Walter: 11:25 And then there’s a final paper. Um, I wrote my final paper on the role of the DMO in economic development and the community. And that’s something that ever since I started at Madison County tourism, it was really harping on the fact that, you know, the DMO needs a seat at the economic development table and to, sorry, I wrote my paper on that. And then there were a couple of essay questions. So it was a great program. And again, much like, you know, sitting in a hospitality suite or sitting next to somebody in a general session in getting to know them. Uh, the, the big value out of this came to the great people I met from, not just across the country, but I had people from Puerto Rico in the class. I had people from, um, Alberta, Alberta’s a big supporter of the program. And so I’ve got people, you know, all over North America who I’ve now sat in class with and it can pick up the phone at a moment’s notice and say, hey, this is going on in my community. You know, have you seen this? You know, how have you handled it? And it really such a great resource.

Nicole Mahoney: 12:29 Yeah, that’s fabulous. Um, there’s nothing better to me than having like a peer to peer network like that where you have these, you know, resources that you can lean on. Um, I think that’s fantastic. So, Jim, let’s dive into these questions. We like to focus on both creativity and collaboration on this show. Sometimes it’s hard to talk about one without talking about the other because they are pretty intertwined in our industry. Um, but let’s, uh, let’s start by, um, talking about creativity and how competitive the tourism and hospitality industry is. And I’m, I’m wondering what you have done in [inaudible] in your roles, um, to really help you are the destinations that you represent stand out from the crowd.

Jim Walter: 13:11 And I think, um, Madison county was a perfect example. Um, you know, it’s a county of 65,000 people tucked between Syracuse and Utica and you know, real easy to drive through on, on interstate 90 and never noticed that you were even there. And we really had to find ways to stand out from the crowd, especially with a limited budget. I mean, when I started in, in the industry, you know, one of the biggest ways that you marketed yourself was you took a brochure ad out in the New York Times and then spent the next six weeks fulfilling brochure requests for people that may or may not have any idea where you actually were. And they just said, send me all New York information. And they were really looking for Madison Avenue and not Madison County. So, you know, we kind of pivoted out of that and, and we’re one of the first early adopters at the time, uh, of doing a lot of online digital marketing where we could target a little bit better the, the audiences and the geography that we needed.

Jim Walter: 14:03 And, but I think the most creative thing that we did, um, was, you know, Madison County was really starting to grow a lot of great. They had two chain hotels. They have a super eight and the days and everything else was country inns and Ben breakfasts and country inns that have chickens running around outside. Go pick up your eggs and they’ll cook them for you. And you know, that kind of cool experience. So we started a food blog when I was there know, called mad foods and highlighted what was going on in our farm to table restaurants at our, at our cideries, at our, um, breweries and really focused on telling the stories, um, that, that made it work. And that allowed us to target and, and you know, we didn’t, you, if you looked carefully, you could see that it wasn’t an activity of Madison County tourism, but you know, we’ve tried really hard just to kind of keep it, um, you know, just this general food blog that was out there and really enjoyed doing that and really helped us stand out from the crowd.

Jim Walter: 14:59 As far as here at Cheyenne, you know, it’s, it’s very interesting to me when I go down to Denver on sales calls and I meet with meeting planners in Denver, we’re 90 minutes north of downtown Denver. And you know, the first couple of times I showed up, um, it, it like a PCMA meeting. Um, you know, I’d be in a suit and tie and I’d look just like every other hotelier that was there trying to sell their hotel or destination and I wasn’t gaining any traction. And I went to an event one night and I threw on a sports coat with black cowboy hat and boots and a buckle. And you know, all the sudden the next time I went to an event, I didn’t wear that. And everybody said, where’s your hat and boots. All of a sudden people remembered who I was.

Nicole Mahoney: 15:40 [inaudible]

Jim Walter: 15:41 no, it was just kinda representing our brand here in Cheyenne of being an authentic western destination and finding a way to get that word out and started to open up conversations and start. People would say, Oh, I’ve never been to Cheyenne. I’ve lived here for 10 years. I’m like, yeah, you haven’t ventured 90 minutes north in 10 years, which is always kind of shocking to me cause I love to travel and, and so to drive three or four hours to go someplace on a weekend is, you know, not out of the question. Yeah. So, um, but it really, you know, taking advantage of, of, of what our brand is here in what our story is and finding a way to tell that in a, in a different manner is, is something I’ve always looked for.

Nicole Mahoney: 16:18 Yeah, I think that’s great. And I love, you know, the, the visual aspect of what you just described. You know, I’m representing the brand. Um, and literally standing out in a crowd, right? You’re not in that, you’re not in a suit and tie. You’re in the the boots buckle hat and sport coat. I think that’s a, that’s really awesome. But I think in both of those examples though, the theme that I hear is really playing to your strengths. Whether it was, you know, like you just mentioned with Cheyenne, the authentic western a destination or with Madison county playing up those farm to table, you know, assets that you had in the county. It’s really finding those strengths and playing up those strengths. Am I, am I tracking with you?

Jim Walter: 17:01 Yeah, absolutely. And it’s not trying to be, you know, what’s the saying? Your, your brand is what people say about you when you leave the room, you know, so it’s not trying to you to create something that you’re not necessarily in. And we go round and round with some people in our community from time to time to think it’s, you know, we’re beyond, it’s, you know, it’s 2019 we’re beyond cowboys, we’re beyond horses and native Americans and we need to move into doing something else. But the fact of the matter is, you say the word Cheyenne, anywhere in the world, people think the old west. And you know, I can, I can put as many, you know, breweries and distilleries in nightlife establishments downtown as I can, but people are gonna think the old west still. And we know we have great international tourism here from people from France and Germany and, and other places where they just, you know, really liked to come here in spirits. The history we have. And I think it’s, you know, and it’s a good history and it’s a strong history and you’ve got to play to that.

Nicole Mahoney: 18:02 Yeah, absolutely. I love that. So this next question, I, I like to, uh, ask, uh, all of my guests this question because I love the creativity that comes from being faced with a challenge or some sort of adversity. Um, I think we’re kind of at our creative best when we’re in that problem solving mode. And so I’m wondering if there is a challenge that you have faced, um, in your career, um, you know, the different destinations that you’ve represented in kind of the creative solution that came from that.

Jim Walter: 18:34 Sure. Well, I think, you know, as I just talked about being an old west destination, I think part of the problem that we’re going to have is I’m 43 years old and anybody that’s about five or six years younger than me never grew up with westerns on television on a regular basis. I remember watching Sunday afternoons, you know, there’s always a John Wayne movie and I had a long ranger lunchbox in kindergarten. I mean, the old west was something that was cool and intriguing. Um, but this generation hasn’t grown up with that. Anybody that’s probably under 35 is not grown up with that being a part of Americana and a part of their life. So one of the challenges we are facing is how do we continue to embrace the fact that we’re a western destination. We offer this authentic Western destination, yet we need to intrigue a new generation of people to come to Cheyenne.

Jim Walter: 19:26 So one of the things that we did is we just, we started having local people telling that story for us. Uh, we did a series of videos called debt’s my Cheyenne and we had, um, you know, local, um, late twenties, a woman talking about the nightlife that’s going on in the community. We have somebody who’s an avid mountain biker talking about our, you know, 40 miles of mountain biking trails that are rated epic by the International Mountain biking association and how close and convenient that is. And that’s why he loves to live here. Um, we did do one for the western experience as well because you can continue to introduce that to people. Uh, we did one for the arts scene. You’re in town. So we used local people telling the story of this is what I do when I’m here and this is why you should come here. And kind of expanding upon the fact that yes, we’re an authentic western destination, but did you know, we’ve got, you know, in a city of 70,000 people, we’ve got a world-class symphony that plays four or five concerts a year. Um, did you know that we’ve got, you know, two ballet companies in town. So it’s, it’s sharing that and, and growing, um, the overall vision of, of, of what we are to, to reach a generation that may not be as familiar with, with our brand and our brand may not be as relevant with them.

Nicole Mahoney: 20:42 Yeah, that’s interesting. Cause as soon as you said that, I was thinking, you said Lone Ranger, I was thinking Bonanza Walton second, all of a sudden my young with to all of these, uh, Sunday nights was always the Walton, right? Yeah, exactly. Watching one of four channels. Right, exactly. Yeah. That’s, that’s interesting. And I think that’s just really, you know, intuitive of you and your organization to keep your eye on that. Um, because to me that’s kind of like pop culture, right? What’s happening in pop culture right now. And to kind of keep your finger on that, um, I’m sure is, is challenging. But I, I commend you for, you know, trying to stay ahead of that.

Jim Walter: 21:24 Well, we have a 10 day Rodeo and we have the world’s largest outdoor Rodeo and celebration of Western culture, Cheyenne frontier days, which runs at the end of July every year. And you talk about pop culture this year, they went way out of the box for one of their night shows and they brought in post Malone. Um, he sold out in three days out, fastest sellout ever. It Cheyenne frontier days. And when you’re talking about, you know, this is a, an organization that’s brought in guys like Garth Brooks and George Strait and, and Merle haggard and some of the legends. I mean, even, I mean, they’re not legendary, they’re not my taste. But Florida, Georgia line usually sells out pretty good to, to the Denver market and, but now post Malone sold out in three days and it was an incredible concert and everybody had a great time and it, it showed, okay, this is how you take pop culture today and occupy it in. So you’re coming up for the concert tonight, let’s get tickets to the Rodeo and experience, you know, a true experience in, in western culture. So it’s kind of fun to watch that.

Nicole Mahoney: 22:16 Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s awesome. So Jim, is there something that you’re working on now or that’s coming up in the future that you’re really excited about, that you’d like to share with our listeners?

Jim Walter: 22:26 Absolutely. We, uh, in most of your listeners, cause I didn’t know this, um, w aren’t going to know this, but Wyoming was the first state or territory to guarantee women the right to vote and hold public office. And that happened 150 years ago this year. And so we’ve been celebrating the year of the woman here in Wyoming and here at visit Cheyenne, um, we’re trying to create a lasting, um, opportunity for people to come and visit Wyoming and learn that suffered story. Um, so we’ve got some murals that are going up. The, the state capitol just reopened with a $300 million restoration and they fully restored the Supreme Court Chambers, which were before the Supreme Court Chambers, the chambers of the territorial legislature, whether bill was debated and the bill was signed into law by the governor and a 150 years ago. And so really our state capitol is on the National Register of historic places, not because of the gorgeous beauty and historical relevance of the building, but because that is where the first suffrage act was passed in, in the, um, we weren’t even a state yet.

Jim Walter: 23:32 We were a territory. So in fact, when we started to come into statehood, the US Congress wanted us to, um, eliminate that right to vote for women. And we had several of our legislators say, why only will come into the union with its women or we will stay out of the union if you don’t let us do it. So we really kind of put our foot down and so most people don’t know that. And we actually just released a video yesterday day here around the 1st of August. And, um, it’s a great video. It’s Scott two absolutely amazing women and in friends of ours. One is senator fpls. She is not only the first native American woman to serve in our state senate, but the first native American period to serve in our state senate. And then, um, a local lawyer, another state senator, uh, tear another cotton. They tell the story of how, you know, the suffrage movement came to be and how it’s impacted them.

Jim Walter: 24:28 And it’s really a neat video and you can find it on youtube and visit Cheyenne’s a youtube page. And it’s just been exciting. It’s been, it’s been interesting to learn, um, you know, having come from upstate New York and being familiar with the women’s rights movement and, and things that are going on in Seneca falls and there’s really a movement here to kind of raise that awareness that, um, you know, there were some pretty, pretty strong in, in influential women out here in Wyoming and looking back at the ties, you know, where they had, you know, been in New York City and we’re part of the suffrage movement there as well as it went on. It’s been real interesting. It’s been a lot of fun and, um, real educational on it. It’s pretty cool to think, you know, little Wyoming was the first one to get that done.

Nicole Mahoney: 25:12 Yeah, I think that’s awesome in that I only just recently learned that as well when I was out in a Cheyenne with you recently. Um, but yeah, and I, I love that the tie, um, you know, between New York state and, and Wyoming, and of course someone wouldn’t even think Wyoming. That’s pretty progressive for, for a West, you know, for western state, right?

Jim Walter: 25:34 No, it wasn’t. It was, it was the western states. Colorado was the first state, um, to guarantee women their right to vote and in hold public confidence. And the, I think people back east don’t realize, you know, if you are a woman in the 18 hundreds for a man in the 18 hundreds in Wyoming, Colorado and that was rugged territory and you know, the, the homestead wasn’t going to survive without a strong partnership between the man and the woman to get everything done. And I think that really, um, kinda helped pave the thinking of the way as, as um, there’s those thoughts and actions developed over time.

Nicole Mahoney: 26:12 Absolutely. Well, we’ll make sure we get a link to that video into the show notes for this show so listeners can go there to find it if, if they, uh, if they don’t make it to the visit Cheyenne Youtube page, we’ll make sure we have the link there for him. So yeah, so that’s awesome. So I’d like to switch gears a little bit and talk about collaboration. I am a huge believer in what I like to call coopertition where, you know, competitors are perceived, competitors come together, um, and work together to create something bigger than they can do on their own. And I’m curious if you have any examples of coopertition that might come to mind for you?

Jim Walter: 26:51 Sure. You know, I think, um, you know, I keep going back to things that we did in New York and trying to tie them into some relevant things here in Cheyenne. But I think a great idea that, uh, came to fruition with, uh, with the central New York region did with its Bruce central campaign. And here you had eight counties that normally didn’t have a lot of cooperation together. They put a minimum amount of money into a regional budget because the state said they had to, to get their full matching funds and really never put anything together that it was overly exciting. And then the Bruce central campaign came along and, and really tied those eight counties, actually brought on a dagger county and on it as well. And, and created a really nice, um, group working together. And in a really strong program that’s won a lot of awards over the last six or seven years, uh, here in Wyoming.

Jim Walter: 27:37 I liked to do, um, you know, we’re in the rocky mountain region for a lot of associations. So from a convention sales standpoint, people have to eventually buy bylaws. And a lot of cases say, you know, we’ve got to move the conference to a different state every year. And so I like to try and work with my friends and Boise or down in Aurora or Fort Collins, uh, to see, okay, so this association is in Colorado this year, they’re going to Idaho next year. Then they’ve got to come to Wyoming, you know, who do you know, how can we work together? How can I help you guys bolster your proposal and you guys can help us bolster our proposal. Cause for us in Cheyenne, it’s about, you know, making sure they know, you know, that we’re a viable option for meetings and conventions that the Jackson hole or Casper, you know, aren’t, aren’t your only choices necessarily.

Jim Walter: 28:22 And so, you know, working in cooperation with people who, you know, today we may be, you know, you know, I may be bidding on the same agriculture conference at Fort Collins as bidding on a, but tomorrow, you know, we, we can work together on a project. And I think that’s always been the cool part about our industry is, um, you know, you show up at a, at a ABA and essentially, you know, you’re all selling against each other cause you want that group tour to come to your community and not that community. But at the same time, you know, we’ve all been really good at sharing ideas and best practices and, and working together to, to just raise the industry as a whole.

Nicole Mahoney: 28:59 Yeah, absolutely. I think those are two really great examples. I love the precentral a campaign as a example of a program, you know, that you came together for the leisure market. Um, and then what a great example for the convention side to think more regionally, um, and understanding, you know, the meeting patterns of the, of the different associations that you’re trying to attract. And so even though you might be competing for it and year one, you know, in year two, that can be your opportunity because they won’t go back to that same destination for a certain period of time. So yeah, I think that’s really, really awesome. Um, and so do you have any best practices or, um, know words of

Jim Walter: 29:42 wisdom that you could share on putting together a good partnership? What types of things really make a good partnership? Well, I think when you’re looking at partnerships, you’ve got to look at, um, similar type destinations. Now you don’t necessarily mean, I mean you can be apples and oranges, but it’s tough to be apples and Avocados, um, when it comes to, to try and to work together and it’s going to be a willingness on both parts. Um, and the, in a bit of trust that, you know, we’re just not going to go in, in steal somebody else’s business. But finding those things that, you know, um, I like to say the tourists doesn’t really care where the county line is, where the state line is, where the city line is. Tourists just wants to come and have a good experience. So how can you work together to put together that that best experience?

Jim Walter: 30:27 A great example is we’re going to be hosting select traveler, um, coming up in, in March and we just hosted a tap dance in June. And in both of those cases, you know, we worked with people in Colorado, um, a number of the delegates would fly in through Denver International Airport. Here’s an opportunity for the folks in Colorado to show them what’s between that 90 miles between Denver international and Cheyenne, and to get people out there and, and show that off. And it makes a lot of sense, um, for them to do that. And it makes all the sense in the world for us to cooperate and do that just to show the greater overall picture of what can you do on a three or four day trip to the front range of, of the Rockies. So finding those things that make sense, um, that, that, that’s where the key is.

Nicole Mahoney: 31:10 Absolutely. I think that’s, that’s great advice. Well, Jim, I knew you’d have a lot to share today. I have one more question to ask you before we wrap up. And, and this one I think relates to a little bit to what you described as your, um, your final paper for the, um, for the cdme certification. But it’s one that I’ve been really exploring a lot on this show this year as I’ve been talking to different guests to find out from them. What are you seeing as the evolution of the destination marketer, the DMO, and more specifically, you know, I’ve been noticing this whole idea of the DMO going beyond just focused on bringing those visitors and them and being more like a community manager or deeper into the community. Um, what, what are you seeing in the evolution of your work?

Jim Walter: 32:02 You know, it’s changed a lot in 16 years. I mean, I remember when somebody would tell me when I was at Madison County, I’ve never seen any of your ads. I said, well, if you’re seeing my ads, I’ve got them in the wrong place. And, um, now we’re at the point where we let our, our ads leak in the market. And it’s easier with Facebook to do that than it used to be. But, um, you know, if you’re, uh, in a destination marketing organization and you’re not demanding a seat at the table, uh, it’s your county economic development talks, it yours, I’m the city level. Um, you’re, you’re going to run into trouble in the next few years. In my mind, I think it’s essential that as destination marketing organizations that we advocate for the job that we do and that we have that seat at the table. Um, you know, there’s two, two different things that, that really hit home for me that, and the first is, um, you know, tourism is the first date of economic development.

Jim Walter: 32:52 And a lot of times a business will locate someplace or expand someplace because upper management has gone on vacation there and fall in love with the area. Um, and you know, that, that happens more, more than I think people realize. And the same one is the other one is more aghast, uh, from the urban Texas CVB, uh, coin this, you know, 10 years ago. But if you build a place where people want to visit, you’ll build a place where people want to live. And if you build a place where people want to live, you’ll build a place where a business has to be. And that’s our job is to build a place where people want to visit. And you know, things are so intertwined and tied together these days, um, that you just can’t separate that. You just can’t go and spend $500,000 on ads to get people into your community because if they get to your community and your infrastructure’s not there, or your workforce isn’t, isn’t there, those are all things that you need to be involved in.

Jim Walter: 33:48 And I think probably the greatest thing that we’ve done in six and a half years at visit Cheyenne was we did the destination next assessment. And we’ve done it twice now. So we had a baseline of where the community was on a number of things. And then three years later we did it again. And to see where, where we grew, where we gained ground, where we lost ground and it’s really helped us focus our vision as a destination marketing organization, Destination Management Organization on where do the things that we can accomplish and where to, you know, how can we move the bar and highly recommend, um, Don Welsh destinations, international audit. You know, give me some endorsement money

Nicole Mahoney: 34:25 here. I yes,

Jim Walter: 34:27 I’m highly recommending the CDMA program. I’m highly recommending that if your destination has not done the destination next process that you take a good hard look at it.

Nicole Mahoney: 34:34 Absolutely. What are some of the key things that you learned from doing that assessment? Four four visit Cheyenne?

Jim Walter: 34:41 Sure. You know, one of the key things that we learned was that we don’t have a strong hospitality culture here in Cheyenne necessarily. And so we’ve taken some steps to, to address that. We started doing, um, experienced Cheyenne events where much like a chamber would host a business after hours. We would host an event at one of our tourism attractions for our industry. So the industry to go and experience it. And the last thing you want is a, is a, is a DMO is to find out that your front desk people are telling everybody there’s nothing to do in your community and that you need to go 45 minutes down the road to do anything fun. And, but then to find out that, you know, the most of your front, you know, frontline staff had never been into, uh, the state museum, which is free, um, does even experience it, you know. So trying to change that and create that awareness I think was one of the, one of the biggest things that, that we took out of that. The other thing we took out of it though is that we have a high support here in Cheyenne amongst the community for tourism. So we take a look and say, okay, how can we leverage that? What can we do? And, and, um, and, and what could we do to, to rally people behind the cause.

Nicole Mahoney: 35:49 Yeah, I think that’s great. And, and I just love that you know, you’ve, you’ve got this assessment in hand. So yeah, the programs that you’re putting forward are, are grounded, you know, in some sort of a research or in strategy. Um, as you move forward, I think it’s, it’ll just make you so, such a much more stronger DMO and stronger community partner that way.

Jim Walter: 36:11 Absolutely. And I mean, if we’re going to demand our seat at the table, we just can’t sit there and, and we’ve got to bring something to the table. So it’s, it’s a two step process. You’ve got to get to the table and when you get there, you’ve got to bring, you’ve got to bring value to your other partners in the community.

Nicole Mahoney: 36:23 [inaudible] absolutely. Well, Jim, thank you so much for spending some time with us today. I, you have shared so much information. I, I know you’ve given some inspiration to some of our listeners in terms of, you know, career path and professional development and, and some new ideas for them to think about. Um, do you have any final words that you’d like to share with us and also if you could share where our listeners can, uh, connect with you? Uh, that would be great.

Jim Walter: 36:49 Yeah, I think, you know, the thing to remember and in this industry is that our bad days on the job, or a lot of times better than the best day on the job for other people. We’re not taking abuse childrens out of homes. We’re not trying to solve the world’s problems. If I make a mistake today, nobody is going to die on the operating table. We’ve got a pretty cool job. It’s, um, you know, sometimes it gets stressful in our own ways, but we work in a great industry and, um, you know, we’re bringing at the end of the day, you know, when it boils right down to it, my job is to make sure that the visitor comes to Cheyenne in, in, in takes home memories of an amazing experience. And he really can’t get better than that. So I think that’s, that’s what all these people live. And if you want to reach out to me, uh, on email, uh, at Jim Walter on Twitter as well. And look me up on linkedin. I’m active on all of those platforms, so we’d be happy to connect with you.

Nicole Mahoney: 37:42 Awesome. Thank you so much, Jim, and we’ll look forward to connecting with you again.Jim Walter: 37:46 Thanks, Nicole. Have a great day.

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