Leaning into the Uniqueness of a Destination, with JoAnna Haugen

Episode 371

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JoAnna Haugen is an award-winning writer, consultant, speaker, and solutions advocate who has worked in communications-related positions in the travel and tourism industry her entire career. She is also the Founder of Rooted, a solutions platform at the intersection of sustainable tourism, social impact, and storytelling. Through Rooted, JoAnna helps tourism professionals decolonize travel experiences and support sustainability using strategic storytelling.

In 2021, Newsweek named JoAnna a winner in the storytelling category of its Future of Tourism awards. She has also been nominated for three Bessie Awards: Collaboration of the Year in 2021 and Most Impactful Piece of Writing in 2021 and 2022, and was recognized as a finalist for Trade Publication Feature of the Year by Inspire Global Media Awards in 2023. Additionally, she is a two-time grant recipient from the Nevada Arts Council. An international election observer and intrepid traveler, JoAnna currently resides in Carthage, Tunisia.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, JoAnna shares her passion for inspiring the creation of responsible travel experiences and responsibly sharing them with the world. We discuss how DMOs can lean into the uniqueness of the places they represent, and JoAnna provides four actionable steps that tourism marketers can take to promote unique and authentic stories.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Why Johana encourages people to reimagine what tourism looks like in the future
  • What Johana’s work at Rooted entails, including building a learning lab for travel service providers, as well as partnerships with MannKind Digital and Sustainable Cities
  • Why we need to shift from quantitative to qualitative measures of success in the tourism industry, focusing on creating better experiences for travelers and locals
  • Why destinations should embrace and showcase the messy reality of their communities
  • What Johana advises destinations to do to amplify voices and experiences that have not been previously highlighted and provide guidance on how to tell these stories
  • How to reframe tourism as a partner to support community well-being initiatives

Transitioning from Passive Visitors to Active Global Citizens

JoAnna and I discuss the emotional shift that visitors make from being passive observers to becoming active global citizens. This transition is rooted in the promotion of thoughtful, intentional, and transparent travel marketing communications. By aligning their experiences with the ethos of responsible and impactful travel, travelers can engage more deeply with the destinations they visit. This change not only benefits the travelers by providing a more enriching experience but also contributes to the greater well-being of the local communities.

Creating and Promoting Responsible Tourism Experiences

It’s so important for DMOs to promote authentic stories and experiences in their marketing materials. JoAnna shares actionable steps to help destinations advocate for a holistic approach focused on community well-being. She underscores the value of collaboration in crafting tourism experiences that resonate with travelers. By embracing responsible practices and unique storytelling, destinations can make themselves stand out in the competitive tourism landscape and appeal to conscientious travelers seeking meaningful, ethical experiences.

Standing Out Through Responsible Practices and Unique Storytelling

JoAnna discusses how destinations can get ahead of the curve and stand out through responsible practices and unique storytelling. In her opinion, the answer lies in embracing the messy reality of communities – including their challenges and complexities. By highlighting the authentic history, culture, and nuances of a destination, the tourism industry can move away from generic, sanitized Insta-ready experiences and offer a more genuine reflection of the locale.


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