Collaboration, Digital Marketing, and Data, with Marsha Walden

Episode 165

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Marsha Walden is the President and Chief Executive Officer for Destination BC. A lifelong British Columbian, Marsha’s career spans corporate leadership roles in marketing, strategy, transformation, operations, communications, and social responsibility. Marsha holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of British Columbia, loves to travel, and takes full advantage of family life in our extraordinary province. In this episode of Destination on the Left, Marsha Walden, President and CEO of Destination BC, talks strategy for provincial destination marketing. She shares insights about collaboration, digital marketing, and data in the travel and tourism industry.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The work Marsha is currently doing with Destination BC
  • How Marsha made the transition into destination marketing
  • Marsha’s insights about collaboration, digital marketing, and data in the travel and tourism industry
  • What Marsha and her team are doing to cut through the noise and make Destination BC stand out
  • How Marsha uses destination development plans to draw more tourism to the province as a whole
  • How Marsha partnered with government in tourism
  • Why Destination BC operates with ten-year plans
  • How Destination BC manages a network of separate destinations

Provincial Destination Marketing

President and Chief Executive Officer Marsha Walden spearheads Destination BC’s product development efforts, content commonwealth, and tourism data hub; the lifeblood of its growth strategy. And it has enabled Destination BC to realize its vision for the future while staying highly competitive in one of North America’s densest tourism markets. Marsha has spent most of her career in different marketing disciplines and she is a lifelong resident of British Columbia, so the opportunity to combine those parts of her life was irresistible. She joins us on the latest episode of Destination on the Left to talk about Destination BC and share insights about collaboration, digital marketing, and data in the travel and tourism industry.

Destination Development Plans

To cut through the noise and make Destination BC standout from the crowd, Marsha’s approach is to focus on both sides of the revenue-driving equation. Destination BC puts a lot of energy and resources into building its brand and marketing it in the right ways. Marsha and her team maintain a strong digital presence so that they are constantly communicating with their target audience in the place where they spend the most time. Simultaneously, Destination BC creates remarkable experiences to ensure their communication strategy is portraying the most compelling possible product to the consumer. This is accomplished by formulating destination development plans to make each section of the destination the best it can be, and it is extremely effective.

Ten-Year Plans

Determining what you want to be known for as a destination requires a lot of collaboration. So, out of a necessity to grow, Destination BC has invited a lot of new parties to the table. Municipal governments, tourism businesses, industry stakeholders, and other governmental associations/organizations all need to be involved in setting the strategy. But these things take time, so Marsha and her team operate with ten-year plans which allow for realistic timelines to hit their goals. This strategy enables DMOs to take a more reactive approach to new market trends, and it provides an outline that keeps all of the collaborators on the same page.

Nicole Mahoney: 00:23 Hello listeners, this is Nicole Mahoney, host of destination on the left and welcome to this week’s episode another super smart guest, Marsha Walden, president and CEO for destination BC. Buckle up because you are about to learn a lot from Marsha about collaboration, digital marketing and data. You will definitely want to have your pen and paper ready to take notes. I hope you get as excited as I did. When you hear about destination BCS approach to product development, the creation of a content Commonwealth and their tourism data hub. All of these programs are foundational to the direction that destination BC is headed and to their ability to be competitive in the rapidly changing world of tourism marketing. Marcia’s career prior to destination BC included corporate leadership roles in marketing strategy, transformation, operations, communications and social responsibility. She holds a bachelor of commerce from the university of [inaudible]. British Columbia loves to travel and takes full advantage of family life in her extraordinary province where she is a lifelong resident. Now let’s get into the interview. Marcia, thank you so much for joining us today. I’m so excited to hear your answers to a lot of these questions on creativity and collaboration. But before we dive into the interview, can you share a little bit about yourself with our listeners? I find that, uh, when our guests share their story in their own words, it gives us so much more context, um, to our conversation.

Marsha Walden: 01:52 Sure. Well, thank you so much Nicole. Um, I think to kind of give some context, uh, I have had a long career in, um, both marketing and operations. Uh, I’ve been in private sector organizations like ad agencies where I had the chance to develop marketing strategies or many of Canada’s flagship industries, everything from packaged goods to telecommunications, uh, to publishing. So I’m a marketer at heart. I would say. Mmm. Probably mid career I was asked to join a crown corporation, which in Canada is a special, especially created corporation, uh, created by government for a specific commercial purpose. So in my case, my introduction to the crown corporation world came through the lottery corporation where I spent 10 years in a variety of roles, both operationally and marketing and [inaudible] a strategy and transformation toward the end. Okay. And ultimately was recruited to destination British Columbia where the board of directors felt that my, um, combined experience of operations transformation and marketing was exactly what they were looking, looking for. So it was a very happy union. Um, I’ve been with destination BC for six years now. Um, I’m a lifelong British Colombian. So the opportunity to promote my home and want to share it with the world was a very, Mmm, hard to resist, um, career opportunity. And, um, my family and I have lived here, um, our whole lives. So it’s been, uh, it’s been a wonderful a chance for me to really do something I love.

Nicole Mahoney: 03:41 Yeah. I think that’s great. And, uh, so many, uh, folks that we interview on this show are, you know, lifelong residents, uh, of the areas that they promote. And what a great job to have to be able to just tell the world why you love, you know, where you live. So much. So I think that’s fantastic. I also like that you have this very [inaudible] background, although all in marketing, but not necessarily in destination marketing. And I’m wondering if you can talk about how, you know, how you applied some of those skills, um, you know, and if there was anything that maybe kind of surprised you or, uh, about, you know, moving into destination marketing away from, you mentioned so many other industries, packaged goods, telecom and publishing

Marsha Walden: 04:28 [inaudible] well, I think some of the base, the fundamentals of marketing, um, in many cases remain the same regardless of what product you’re talking about, whether it’s a destination as a product or, um, a loaf of bread is a product. You’re really still thinking through, uh, what consumer motivations are, um, what your sales channels are, how to improve your product, um, and how to market it in ways that, um, will, you know, touch and motivate consumers to, to make a decision and purchase your product. So the fundamental skills are the same in my view. And I think my opportunity to lead different kinds of organizations really just prepared me for what is essentially as a CEO of people leadership job. Um, you know, I always say that my core function is really strategy and culture. Um, I’m here to help the organization define how we’re going to win in the marketplace through our strategy. And I’m here to have the most engaged and motivated workforce I can possibly have in order to make great things happen through that strategy. So, you know, having a chance to work in different types of private town, public sector organizations to have different kinds of roles with people that think in different ways, I think was a great background for my current role.

Nicole Mahoney: 05:49 Absolutely. And they love how you, um, you know, boil that down to this whole idea of people leadership and, and being specific about, you know, your role, which is that strategy and building the culture, uh, for your workforce. I think that our listeners can, can certainly take a lot away from, from that perspective and understanding, you know, what your role is depending on where you are in the organization I think is an important point.

Marsha Walden: 06:15 [inaudible]

Nicole Mahoney: 06:15 yeah. So Marsha, um, we, as I mentioned, we’d love to focus on creativity and collaboration on this show. And, um, the very first question that I have for you is with regards to standing out in a crowd, we, we work in such a competitive environment. There are so many choices of places for people to go. Um, but not only that, just things for them to do and the things they might choose to do might be that even stay home. And so I’m wondering, um, what you have done at destination BC to kind of help break through all of that noise and, and really, um, make destination BC stand out.

Marsha Walden: 06:54 Well, I think most of us, um, we’re a provincial destination marketing organization primarily. And I always like to think, uh, you know, the classic framework for marketing has four PS and, and most of us tend to focus on the promotion part of, of marketing. Um, but our way of standing out has really been to help our industry focus on both sides of the revenue driving equation. Uh, the one side being marketing of course, and ensuring that we have a really strong brand and we’re marketing in the right ways that are consistent with how consumers are shopping today, which is mostly in a digital environment. And the second thing is to make sure that we have the most compelling product possible. So that is an area in the destination management world that is growing in importance. And for the past five years we’ve really been helping our industry develop what we call remarkable experiences.

Marsha Walden: 07:47 And we’ve done that by, um, carving up our province. Um, British Columbia by the way, is about the same size as Washington, Oregon and California state’s put together. So it’s a big area. And, um, we a have carved it up into 20 planning areas to really have community based conversations about what they want to be famous for and how we improve the infrastructure for travel and tourism experiences so that we have destination development plans for each part of our province to be the best it can be. So I think what’s made is helping us stand out from the crowd is we’re really casting a lens on, on both sides, having a compelling story to tell through marketing and having the best possible experience for people when they get here. Because at the end of the day, word of mouth marketing on, on what they experienced here is our most powerful allies. So, Mmm. I think that’s what’s helping us do it. And it’s also helping us work together as an industry too, be a much more powerfully unified force, um, as we go to market.

Nicole Mahoney: 08:54 Absolutely. Um, I, you just gave us, so, uh, so many really good, um, golden nuggets if you will. And, uh, I love how you started with, you know, classic marketing, the four PS, and you’re right, a lot of focus is put on promotion, but that you’re going even deeper into developing the products. Um, and I’m curious if you can take us a little bit deeper into how you are working in those 20 planning areas and, and what that might look like. Do you have feet on the ground in those areas and, and what types of folks are you pulling together, uh, you know, in from those areas?

Marsha Walden: 09:34 Well, let’s start with who contributed to that conversation at the outset. Mmm. In order to really think about what you want to be famous for is a destination. It requires a lot of collaboration across many different types of entities. So we need municipal governments involved in the conversation. We need tourism businesses, we need industry stakeholders. So we have a system, a tourism DMO ecosystem, if you will, of community and city level deemos regional demos and then us as the provincial DMO. So they need to be part of setting that strategy. Um, and we have, uh, over 200 indigenous, uh, nations in our province. And so indigenous peoples are very much part of our story. Uh, they’re very much part of our governance structure and they, uh, they too have a voice in how we develop our experiences here. So, uh, it was a very broad based, um, consultation that helped us develop the plans initially.

Marsha Walden: 10:36 And out of those, um, they really are 10 year strategies and we’ve set action plans over a three year horizon just to be a little more task focused and action focused. Uh, and so this allows us to do things like, um, improve the transportation access that we have into particular corridors of the province by working with government, uh, by trying to enhance connectivity. There were still some areas, believe it or not, remote remote areas of our province that did not have good, strong, Mmm, uh, intranet access. And that’s fundamental to being successful in tourism today. Um, we have hotel shortages in some parts of our province, so working with government to talk about what kind of incentive, um, policy could be created to enhance that. Uh, we have a system of national and provincial parks as you do, uh, in the U S and so working with our parks colleagues inside government to ensure that we have the right number of campsites of [inaudible]. I’m just getting very specific about our to do list to improve the experience for all of our visitors, including British who travel around their home.

Nicole Mahoney: 11:55 Yeah. Uh, I th I think that’s great. And so when did, um, when did the 10 year strategies begin?

Marsha Walden: 12:02 Uh, we started the consultation process about two and a half years ago. Uh, and uh, it took about 18 months for the initial plans to be, um, developed to be vetted through those that had had input to get the Mmm. Various levels of government to recognize or their importance and potential contribution to the economic and social fabric of their communities. And so really the to do list is just now underway. Mmm. And it’s getting, I’d say a broad audience, particularly at the provincial government level where our colleagues in the ministry, um, which is the equivalent of a state government, a R really I’m sharing with the other parts of government, whether it be land use, planning, transportation planning, indigenous relations, all of those other areas of government that touched tourism. Um, how we can collectively harness the power of those other decisions, um, for the benefit of tourism too.

Nicole Mahoney: 13:06 That’s a, that’s fantastic. And what a great um, tool I guess for lack of a better word for me, that for me to express this idea, um, you know, to really engage with your government and kind of spread that word into, into the other divisions like land, land use and you mentioned indigenous, our relations and all of those other areas that really touched tourism. Cause I think a universally that’s a huge challenge for many deemos is um, being able to get the needs of tourism expressed in such a way that they become part of, uh, the overall planning.

Marsha Walden: 13:45 Yeah. I think, um, we’re, we’re a, an atypical industry in that we typically don’t have one area of government that has, um, sort of oversight for all of the different aspects, uh, of infrastructure for instance, that affect tourism. So whether you’re talking about a ferry system or, or a road network or development of a trail strategy through parks, we estimate would probably impact 20 different areas of government. And so that’s very different than being in the forestry or the mining business where usually have one more centralized area too to talk to.

Nicole Mahoney: 14:24 [inaudible] yeah, I think that’s a, that’s fantastic. And I’m, I’m also curious with these 10 year plans, are there checkpoints, are ways that you’re measuring to make sure that you’re, you know, progressing as you move along

Marsha Walden: 14:39 [inaudible] those, some community level dashboards or are we’re just having baseline sets, um, so that we can track progress over time and share that progress with communities? You know, trying to maintain momentum is an important component of keeping these plans alive. And so I think it’s really critical that we continually engage our stakeholders that had input to the plans to say that to demonstrate that they’re, um, investment of time was a worthwhile exercise because there are real outcomes from that time, um, that are going to impact the success of their business over time. So, um, we, those dashboards are just, as I said, having baseline set and there’ll be a continuous reporting back process soap in the next 10 years.

Nicole Mahoney: 15:25 That’s great. And I’m curious through the process and through all of those different organizations that you mentioned that you had and, uh, involved in the collaboration to put this together, um, was there, you know, was there general excitement around it? Did you really feel like people were getting energized around these plans and excited to see them move forward?

Marsha Walden: 15:46 Well, I would say without hesitation, there is, um, you know, the sense of optimism that this creates a, um, for communities to reimagine what their future could be if they could, um, make change, uh, and to have tourism be a more significant part of their overall economies in these communities. That’s a very optimistic message. Um, and uh, you know, creates, I think a lot of enthusiasm on the part of all of our stakeholders, be they the local businesses or local governments or even local residents who are, uh, impacted by the, the social and economic benefits that tourism bring to their communities.

Nicole Mahoney: 16:26 [inaudible] absolutely. So, um, I, I just love that and I’m sure we could continue talking about it, but, um, I do want to ask you, uh, this next question, which has to do with, um, you know, facing some sort of a challenge. Um, cause I love the creativity that that comes when we’re faced with a challenge. And I’m wondering if there is a challenge that your organization has faced and perhaps if you could share a creative solution that came from that.

Marsha Walden: 16:57 [inaudible] um, something that we’ve been working on for a few years and has considerable momentum, uh, was really designed to address, um, a challenge that our executive team identified when, when we first, when I first joined the organization. And that is the world’s a big place and it’s hard to have any significant share of voice as a marketer. Um, if we all are working independently in our silos and in fact competing with each other one community trying to wrestle the visitor from the other community, uh, you know, on their journey through the province and many of our community deemos really don’t have the kind of resources required to compete in a digital battlefield today. Yeah. So, you know, we knew we couldn’t outspend the competition, but we thought perhaps we can outsmart them by doing things in a very different way. And so, um, firstly convincing communities to work together rather than against each other was, um, one of our, one of the challenges of, of marketing in a new way to the world.

Marsha Walden: 18:05 The second was, um, to really have communities fully engage in the power of a digital ecosystem and to, uh, set aside or overcome some of the entrenched ways of marketing that a had had been successful in the past across the industry. But helping them recognize that that’s not where the battle is anymore. That we need to be excellent and a digital and data environment and that those tools are both, um, expensive to acquire in many cases but also require expertise that is hard to find. So, um, we have something called a [inaudible], a strategy called the powerful marketing network, which really brings together multiple partners across the province in a new kind of collaboration that allows us to share enterprise level digital capabilities and data insights by centralizing our capabilities, but decentralizing access to those capabilities so that everyone, both big players and small players have a new kind of capability in a digital space that they wouldn’t be able to afford on their own.

Marsha Walden: 19:19 Okay. Um, and you know, out of that comes other benefits. So not only do we share data, share technology platform, share the expertise that is, you know, when you hire a data scientist that might be someone that a provincial entity could hire, but a community entity is unlikely to be able to afford a data scientist. So it’s specific expertise that helps us compete better. We’ve been particularly successful at sharing content, um, both a user generated content as well as proprietary content. Um, so we have over 40 communities that contribute to our content Commonwealth, um, which really helps us have access to, um, hundreds of things, thousands of pieces of content, uh, for digital marketing versus, you know, thousands. And that is preparing us for personalization, which, um, really in today’s digital data-driven, um, battlefield, it’s all about who can best personalize message and make it more relevant to consumers.

Marsha Walden: 20:22 So having a content Commonwealth that allows us to draw the right content for the right person at the right time as a powerful tool. And on the user generated content side, we’ve also got a collaboration with [inaudible] CrowdRiff and um, and more network to approach too. A crowd roof’s, new travel stories technology. So different ways. I’m content being one of them. We have collaborated almost like considering all of our tourism entities in this province as one enterprise with shared capabilities versus, um, a whole bunch of independence, a little silos. So I would say that’s, um, a story of overcoming really a challenge to how we marketed ourselves. Um, and having a creative solution to it that, um, we believe will be a distinct competitive advantage going forward. Yeah, absolutely. I would agree with that. Um, there are so many, you know, as you mentioned, there are so many smaller dos who can’t afford, especially in the digital and the digital world.

Marsha Walden: 21:30 Um, some of those capabilities. And I’m curious, you know, I heard you mentioned CrowdRiff as a, you know, as, as one particular service provider, but so do you, let’s just use CrowdRiff as the example. Um, so you’re using their platform, but how do all of your smaller destinations tap into that? Do they all have individual licenses under yours or they have access to it? What does that look like? Um, in the actual operations of it? Yeah, we have a shared license in fact with destination Canada, which is our federal or national body, um, for, uh, crowd roughs platform. And, um, while British Columbia has the most partners, um, for any one province on that platform, it is a shared national resource. In fact, um, it started as an idea here in British Columbia that became a federal initiative. And so, um, you know, we, we have a very high level of participation, but we also use another platform that’s our UGC platform, user generated content platform.

Marsha Walden: 22:34 We have another one that we just share within our province for proprietary content. Mmm. Uh, co, uh, on the platform we use their ascent chair. Uh, and again we have a license that allows us to share that with all of our partners across the province. And it’s really just a matter of negotiating, um, a different kind of user base then typically you might have in an organization. And so do those individual cause you have a shared license. Um, do those individual uh, GMO local or a regional DMO offices bye. Under. So they have an out of pocket expense. It’s just not as much of an expense. Yeah, they have a very small, I can’t remember the actual mill, but I think it’s less than a thousand dollars. So they have a very small [inaudible] um, contribution to, to the overall, um, platform. It’s really, these are big powerful platforms that we as an entity would want to have anyways. So the ability for us to share this with our industry does not create significant additional cost. It’s just the cost really of an additional user. Right? Absolutely. No, I think that’s

Nicole Mahoney: 23:46 fantastic. And it, it does give those, you know, smaller, uh, deemos the, uh, the ability to be more competitive. And I think that that’s just a fantastic way to think about it. And I, and I love how you called it. I wrote it down. It was your Commonwealth,

Marsha Walden: 24:00 the content, Commonwealth

Nicole Mahoney: 24:02 content Commonwealth. Um, I, and I think that just, you know, in what you call it gives, gives your partners an idea of, you know, what does this mean? It’s offered. Yeah. It’s all for the common good. We’re all going to be much richer because of those. I think that’s fantastic.

Marsha Walden: 24:19 Well, you’ll like our other one then too. And that’s called the tourism data hub.

Nicole Mahoney: 24:23 Oh.

Marsha Walden: 24:24 Which is about sharing, sharing data and, um, and analytics, uh, systems so that we again, have better insight about the behaviors and preferences of visitors before they get here and once they’re here as well.

Nicole Mahoney: 24:39 Yeah. And so with that data, are you sharing mostly provincial wide data that you’re collecting or are the smaller or regional DMO is also able to collect more regional data? Um, that feeds into that.

Marsha Walden: 24:54 The system is designed to do both. I mean, organizations can still, um, protect their proprietary data. F, uh, the, the data that they may not wish to share, but they also can contribute to the data hub in a way that will allow them to gather new insights and make them more effective and, and cost efficient marketers by having a more rounded picture of, um, uh, potential consumers preferences. So, Mmm. You know, it’s a big data world nowadays. We know that that’s what drives the success of, uh, the Amazon’s of the world. And, um, tourism is I think, the second largest online purchase category in the world next to fashion retail. So we have to be excellent in this space and that’s driven by good data.

Nicole Mahoney: 25:44 Absolutely. Couldn’t agree more. And I do want to ask you a little bit about personalization. You said you’re, you know, you’re [inaudible] in preparation of, um, rolling out personalization. You know, you talked about creating your content, Commonwealth, um, are you able to talk about how you’re thinking about personalization and how that might play out or is it too early for that?

Marsha Walden: 26:09 Um, no, it’s not too early. Uh, really every market, every marketer wants to put the right information and inspiration in front of the right consumer at the right time. And so, you know, no one organization would generally have the capacity to have the right content for every, um, express preference that a potential visitor might have. So

Nicole Mahoney: 26:32 by having

Marsha Walden: 26:33 a broader base of data insights and a broader base of content from which to draw our ability to personalize our marketing messages to each, it’s really mass personalization, right? We have millions and millions of visitors to our website, people that touch our, our, uh, outreach marketing. And so, you know, when we retarget those people in a digital environment, um, we want to put the best possible combination of inspiration in front of them to make them commit to a, a trip to British Columbia. So, um, those vast amounts of, of content help with that. And, um, uh, and, and we can share that with all of our industry partners. So we, we believe our marketing is much more powerful. Um, and you know, we’re not there yet and we suspect Google itself would get there before we ever did. But being able to customize the visitor experience on the ground to know what preferences they have, even once they get here.

Marsha Walden: 27:34 You know, we have a, we have a data footprint, for instance, um, for people that use their mobiles, we’ll know what they’re interested in and we can push content to them that might enrich and enhance their experience, wants to hear on the ground. So, you know, our research shows that only about 10% of visitors, less than 10% really ever go to a visitor center. And so this is really digital visitor service and giving people more insight into the things and experiences that they could have once they’re here and make their experience even better. So having the right content and understanding their preference is better. A lot will allow us to do that. But as I said, I think Google will get there before we do.

Nicole Mahoney: 28:18 Yeah, they just might. But I think that’s great and I think it gives a really good way for, uh, you know, our listeners to think about that, especially, you know, in the context of visitor service and, and when they’re in market and, and how you can service them in market, um, better, especially since they are coming to those visitor service, um, centers necessarily.

Marsha Walden: 28:40 Right.

Nicole Mahoney: 28:41 So, Marsha, you have given us so much to think about already and I, and I knew you would, um, I’m curious if there’s anything that’s coming up in the future that you are particularly excited about that you’d like to share with our listeners.

Marsha Walden: 28:54 [inaudible] um, well we like to think we don’t stand still very long and we have a very exciting initiatives that I talked about, um, for the powerful marketing network and also our destination development work. Mmm. But because of those two things that have allowed us to work with our industry in a much more collaborative way, Mmm. We, I can’t speak about it yet, but, um, in March I’ll be launching to the industry, um, a re-imagined way, I think, to sell our destination. To the world. Um, and we’re currently in a consumer testing phase and we’ll work with our industry even more to help refine our strategy. But the way we’re packaging, Mmm. Different elements of our, of the experience here in the province is very exciting

Nicole Mahoney: 29:42 for us. But, um, you’ll have to wait six weeks for, I can really talk. Okay. Well we will stay tuned for that for sure. And I’m sure our listeners will, we’ll need to, uh, Google it, destination, uh, British Columbia, uh, in March to see, to see the unveiling. But, um, but what I, what I think is cool about that is how you’re, you know, you’re talking and I just remembering, you know, your story and you said you’ve been in this role for about six years and just how things build on each other. And you know, you said it took a couple of years to get through that strict strategic planning for the powerful marketing network and, and all these different tools. And, and I just love how things build and how you say, we don’t sit still for too long because as you’re building things open up, right. And you’re able to see new ideas and new paths forward and, and I think that’s incredibly exciting and I can just imagine what the announcement will be in March.

Nicole Mahoney: 30:36 Thank you. Um, so we’ve talked so much about collaboration already, but I do want to make sure I [inaudible] um, you know, ask a couple of these specific collaboration questions and, um, you know, you, you’ve already touched on this, uh, so much, but one of the things that I, that I like to explore is this whole idea of coopertition and how, you know, perceived competitors in our industry come together. Uh, two make collaborations and do something that’s bigger than what they can do on their own. And so you’ve already described this in so many different ways, especially when you talked about the, the content Commonwealth and the tourism data hub, but I’m curious if there are any other collaborations that really stand out to you, um, you know, that kind of fit under this coopertition sort of idea. [inaudible] well, I think within the coopertition arena specifically, uh, one of the things I would say that prove to be a bit of a game changer for asking communities to work together in new ways, um, was when we created a new okay, cooperative marketing partnership program that required communities in order to access our matching dollars to be working together in partnerships of three or more.

Nicole Mahoney: 31:57 So I’m taking, you know, several communities along a travel route for instance, and saying rather than competing with each other, you know, to get the visitor to stay longer in your community, how would, if you work together to make the overall experience along that travel corridor more compelling and have it a value proposition that works for all of you and you’ll, your share boys will improve. So, so we work with about 60 different consortia of communities and sector groups across the province. Um, and we have a, um, investment matching program for the applications that come our way. And we asked them to look for common interests, common marketing goals

Marsha Walden: 32:40 that I’m also align with our provincial tourism priorities. Um, and I would say it’s been very successful in creating a new kind of ethos within the ecosystem about how they can work with their neighbors. We’ve also had some really great examples of how businesses would come together. So for instance, this co-op marketing partnership program also applies to sectors, whether it’s fishing or skiing or mountain biking, but also something called the BCAL trail. So a couple of years ago, um, uh, the, the craft brewery industry decided that they wanted to try to access our co-op marketing fund. And when they started that three years ago, they had 16 craft breweries that worked together to create something called the British Columbia ale trail. They now have 173 craft breweries that are featured in 16 different self-guided trails around the province that will motivate people who are into the craft beer scene to visit many more and to have a more compelling story to tell visitors here about how this has come to be.

Marsha Walden: 33:50 So it’s an example of just how changing the rules a little bit creates a whole new set of behaviors on the part of our partners. And, um, so industry responded really well and I think they see the benefits of that. Yeah, I think that’s a really great example. And you know, using or incentivizing, right, using things that you already have in your toolbox if you will. And kind of [inaudible] retooling those to, you know, encourage, uh, coopertition I think is fantastic. And the, and the BCL trail is a, is a wonderful example of that. Mmm. I’m curious, with all this work that you’ve done in collaboration, do you have any best practices that you can share with our listeners as to, you know, how to really foster, um, a successful collaboration? Well, I think you really have to think hard about whether or not you’re your own corporate culture is ready for that.

Marsha Walden: 34:49 Okay. There’s no question working collaboratively is more difficult and takes more time than just going it alone. Um, but I, there’s an old saying that we use here fairly often and, and I would say it’s very true of how you need shift culture to accomplish these things in the, the saying is if you want to go fast, go alone, you want to go far, go together. And so, you know, we’ve had to embrace that as a corporate culture to say, you know, the things where we impact industry, they should have a voice in how that comes to life. And so we have invested a lot in, um, consultation. Uh, we, I think have lived up to our word in, in how we, Mmm. Bring our industry together too. Participate in giving us their advice. We have things like the tourism marketing committee, for instance, 20 different partners around the province that share with us their thoughts on our marketing strategy.

Marsha Walden: 35:53 And we, we, when we’re contemplating big changes to a program, we’ll generally ask industry, what, what do you think of this change? How could it be better? And we review our programs every three years or so too. Get industry input on, on what we’re doing and whether or not it could be improved. So I think you really have to truly embrace the actions. Um, the culture of collaboration, um, more than the words. Uh, so my best practices would be, um, live the words, you know, no matter what it is that is core to your strategy, Mmm. Be sure that you actually are working collaboratively, not just talking about wanting to collaborate. [inaudible] absolutely. Um, you know, and, and that’s such great advice and I love how you keep bringing us back to strategy and to that higher level thinking and, um, and culture, strategy and culture, which of course, uh, we set this conversation out with that is your role and I, and I think that’s such an important point.

Marsha Walden: 36:58 Um, and really, really wonderful advice. So, Marsh, I have one last question before, uh, before I, I want to let you go. Um, and again, this has been such an awesome conversation and we’ve touched on this in so many different ways. Um, and, and you’ve talked a lot about, you know, destination marketing organizations and [inaudible] kind of how your evolving a destination BC. And I’m curious just in a, in a broader sense, um, in the six years that you’ve been, uh, in your role, what kind of an evolution are you seeing in terms of the role of destination marketers and, and, um, you know, I think we started this conversation a little bit about, it’s so much more than just promotion. Um, and, and I’m curious how you’ve kind of seen it change and maybe how you’ve seen your own role change within, you know, the provincial government where you are or just with peers, um, that I’m sure you interact with. [inaudible].

Marsha Walden: 37:58 Um, I think the key shift for me is that, um, you know, there has been a lot more emphasis on destination development and thinking more strategically about the longterm development of product. Um, you know, for me, destination marketing is really about short and medium term competitiveness. Destination development is about longterm competitiveness. And I think more and more we as, um, deemos need to think of our role as fundamentally about destination stewardship. And, um, that really in today’s world of, uh, very quickly growing, um, global international tourism, uh, many destinations are going to be challenged too, accommodate growing demand, uh, and, uh, make a travel experience, continue to be, you know, one of those life altering, transformative, wonderful things that we all hope it will be. And so thinking about, uh, not only how your product is evolving, but how tourism is impacting the quality of life for your locals.

Marsha Walden: 39:10 Mmm. Are you still maintaining economic, social, cultural and environmental benefits for your residents as tourism grows in your communities? So I like to think of the evolving role of hour world as really about destination stewardship. Yes, it’s about marketing. Ah, yes, it’s about destination development to remain competitive, but mostly it’s about ensuring that the benefits of tourism continue to be perceived as benefits by the people who live in that destination. And so, um, I guess that that would sum it up for me. Yeah, absolutely. And I love the distinction between a longterm and short term, slash medium term, you know, goals. Um, and, and how you differentiate that between destination marketing and this whole idea of destination development or destination stewardship. Um, and I couldn’t agree more that having that more longterm, uh, view, um, is becoming even more and more important, uh, in today’s travel world.

Marsha Walden: 40:17 So I thank you for bringing that up. And Marcia, I thank you so much for all of your insights and for being so open and sharing today. And before we say goodbye, could you let our listeners know where they might be able to find it? You and Justin nation? BC? Yeah. Well, sure. Um, we, uh, I, I can be found at my email, which is, um, Marsha M a R S H a. Dot Walden w a L D E N at destination C [inaudible] CA. Hi, this hesitation there. Dot. CA. Um, so Marsha. Dot. Waldon at destination BC. Dot. CA. We do have a corporate website, which is destination BC dot. CA. And uh, and we have a consumer website, which is hello BC. Terrific. Well. Thank you again so much and we’ll look forward to a hearing that announcement in March and also catching up with you again. Thank you, Marcia. Thank you very much, Nicole. Have a great day. Thank you for listening all the way to the end of this week’s episode. This gives me a chance to tell you about our weekly. I see. Why am I in case you missed it? The newsletter each week, along with our podcast episode, we an article written by one of the break the ice media team members about the travel and tourism industry. Our articles mirror the mix of industry segments and topics similar to this podcast. Join our newsletter [inaudible] D O T L two six six eight six six or visit break the ice forward slash

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