Cathedral Thinking: Preparing to Rebuild in the Post-COVID Future, with Rick Antonson

Episode 199

podcast photo thumbnail
Rick Antonson is the author of the travel narratives: To Timbuktu for a Haircut: A Journey Through West Africa, Route 66 Still Kicks: Driving Americas Main Street, and Full Moon Over Noah’s Ark: An Odyssey to Mount Ararat and Beyond. He is the co-author of Slumachs Gold: In Search of a Legend. He was president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver, is past chair of the board for Destinations International based in Washington, DC, and served as deputy chair for the Pacific Asia Tourism Association based in Bangkok, Thailand. He speaks around the world about the multi-generational philosophy “Cathedral Thinking.” Rick and his wife Janice make their home in Predator Ridge, Okanagan Valley, Canada. You can find him online at and Destination on the Left is joined by Rick Antonson, former president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver, past chair of the board for Destinations International, based in Washington, DC, and former deputy chair for the Pacific Asia Tourism Association, based in Bangkok, Thailand. He initially joined us on Episode #44, where we talked about using cathedral thinking to create a brighter future. During our conversation in this episode, we talk about the importance of scenario planning and managing a crisis and the different ways the pandemic has shown tourism affects everyone. We also revisit the power of cathedral thinking in rebuilding the future.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • What was going through Rick’s mind as the pandemic gained momentum and spread across the globe
  • Rick’s approach to crisis management in the tourism industry
  • What we should be doing to respond to the crisis right now to prepare our destinations for regrowth
  • The concept of cathedral thinking, and how DMOs can use it to plan for rebuilding in the future
  • Different ways in which the pandemic has shown tourism’s effect on entire communities

What Comes Next After COVID?

Rick Antonson is the former president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver, the past chair of the board for Destinations International, based in Washington, DC, and the former deputy chair for the Pacific Asia Tourism Association, based in Bangkok, Thailand. He initially joined us on Episode #44, where we talked about using cathedral thinking to create a brighter future. During our conversation in this episode, we talk about the importance of scenario planning and managing a crisis and the different ways the pandemic has shown tourism affects everyone. We also revisit the power of cathedral thinking in rebuilding the future.

Crisis Management 101

At first, we were facing more of a business and marketing crisis than a worldwide shutdown like we see today. That is the first step in crisis management—identifying you are actually IN a crisis. But in crisis management, the most immediate thing is to then determine what the situation is and get the facts. This enables tourism organizations to have more strategic discussions based in realism, not idealism. You can’t react to a crisis based on what you wish was happening or somebody’s artificial forecast. You have to react based on the facts, and sometimes you have to go below the surface to get away from the noise and piece together what is really happening.

Stepping Stones

Rick recently authored an op-ed that ran in the Vancouver Sun titled “Immediate Financial Assistance Needed to Save BC Tourism Sector.” In this piece, Rick talks about the importance of funding tourism now in order to regain lost business by the year 2023. This is not a quick rebound. Even if a vaccine is approved and distributed in major markets across the globe, it will take time for the wheels to start turning again. People have to individually want to travel again—not desire. But making travel a priority when they’re concerned with getting back to work and replenishing their savings is also going to take time. The pandemic has taken a toll on our industry, but we do have the power to rebuild it better than before.

Nicole Mahoney: 00:17 Hello listeners. This is Nicole Mahoney, host of destination on the left and welcome to this week’s episode with another dedicated industry professional, Rick aunts and sin author and travel industry advocate. Rick first appeared on this show on episode 44 in October, 2017. When we talked about using cathedral thinking to create a brighter future, I have been reflecting on that conversation a lot since the COVID-19 pandemic began. And I was thrilled when Rick agreed to come back on the show for a second interview. Rick recently authored an op ed that ran in the Vancouver sun titled immediate financial assistance needed to save BC tourism sector. In this piece, Rick talks about the importance of funding tourism. Now in order to regain lost business by the year 2023, this is not a quick rebound. The pandemic has taken a toll on our industry, but we do have the power to build back better.

Nicole Mahoney: 01:21 And that is exactly what Rick and I discussed in this interview. We talk about the importance of scenario planning and managing a crisis, how the pandemic has proven that tourism touches everyone. And of course, we discussed the power of cathedral thinking and how we can use it to rebuild the future. A little more about Rick Anson. He is the author of the travel narratives to Timbuktu for a haircut, a journey through West Africa, route 66, still kicks driving America’s main street and full moon over Noah’s are an Odyssey to the Mount area. And beyond he is the co author of blue max gold in search of a legend. He was president and CEO of tourism. Vancouver is past chair of the board for the destinations international based in Washington, DC, and served as deputy chair for the Pacific Asia tourism association, based in Bangkok, Thailand.

Nicole Mahoney: 02:26 He speaks around the world about the multigenerational philosophy cathedral thinking, and you can find Rick online at [inaudible] dot com and cathedral I know you will learn a lot from this conversation, but before we get started, I wanted to share this important message with you, Rick, thank you so much for joining us today. I am so honored to have you back on the show. I know when you and I last talked, we spent a lot of time talking about cathedral thinking, and I know we’re going to talk about that in this conversation today as well, but before we dive into our interview, can you talk a little bit about, um, your story and really bring our listeners up to speed on what you’ve been doing lately?

Rick Antonson: 03:14 Well, thank you, Nicole, for having me back and it’s, it’s such a crazy time for our industry, as we know, and it almost goes without saying that it’s in it’s in tatters. So I’m somewhat removed from the day to day, certainly of the tourism industry. But my background was with tourism, Vancouver, the DMO for Vancouver in British Columbia and Canada for 21 years, and had been involved in other aspects of the tourism industry and the private sector before that and had the privilege of serving as the chair of destination international back in the day when it was transitioning from international association of convention and visitor bureaus into DMAI and, and onward, and, and also played a role as, as deputy chair of the Pacific Asia travel association, which is based in Bangkok and have maintained a lot of those contacts. When I left tourism Vancouver some years ago, it was to concentrate and become a full time book author as a, a new career.

Rick Antonson: 04:17 So that is my career. I do speak on occasion just a few times a year, so that I can on the side be focused on my book writing. Um, my most recent book was, was walking with ghosts in Papa, new Guinea, and the subtitle was crossing the Dakota trail and the last wild place on earth. And it came out at last fall and, and then September of 2020, the paperback edition comes out because the hard cover is sold out nicely. So I’m the publisher is in New York and they’re pleased with it. And, and, uh, but I would say that my books are, are about places where unfortunately we can no longer travel. My first one was on Timbuktu. And if you and I went there today, we would be kidnapped bait. And then that’s very frustrating and disappointing, and I’m still in touch with my guide there, but there’s no guide work for him. And, you know, in West Africa, my climate of Mount air rad in Eastern Turkey, you’re not allowed on the mountain anymore because of military action in the area. Even my book on route 66, so many of the diners have been closed or the accommodation properties aren’t open. So it’s frustrating to look and see at that, but in a sort of snapshot reader’s digest version, that’s, that’s the background and it brings us to today.

Nicole Mahoney: 05:38 Absolutely. And I, I, uh, I love the context that you just shared with us because, uh, of course, uh, you have this 21 year career at tourism, Vancouver, and, uh, work in the tourism sector prior to that. So Chris, you’re bringing this wealth of knowledge, um, from, from those years of career, but I also appreciate that you are an author and a speaker and, and that, um, you know, the pandemic has impacted you even in your, you know, in your new career, uh, as author and especially because you cover, you know, travel and write about these, these really wonderful places. So, um, I’m really interested in, in hearing your insights on what is happening right now. And, and Rick I’m, I’m wondering if you can share with our listeners, um, you know, kind of what was going through your mind as this pandemic was really starting to gain some momentum and spread across of course, North America, where you and I live. Um, but across the world. And, and how are you thinking about this industry that, you know, we all love so much?

Rick Antonson: 06:43 Well, it, it first began to hit after my wife, Janice, I had returned home from Costa Rica and then right away, we’re attending a tourism conference in Victoria, in Canada, about 500 former colleagues and leaders in the industry. And it was their annual get together. And I’d been invited to be there as a participant to talk on a panel about 10 years after the 2010 Olympics and how the Olympics in Whistler and Vancouver had, had just launched an international awareness and all the good that had happened. But the week before I was to address the conference, the CEO of, of the organizing group asked if I’d participate on a panel to talk about crisis management, because COVID-19 was coming at everyone. And this is at the early part of February. So that was put together at sort of the last minute. And it did focus my attention and everyone else’s.

Rick Antonson: 07:46 But when I talked about crisis management at the time, my, my admonition to the group was the old adage we’ve used. The first law of crisis management is make sure you have a crisis. And at that time it was not yet an international health crisis. It had all that potential, but the crisis that the industry did face was a marketing and a business crisis. And at that point, late January, early February, there was a business crisis for the tourism industry around the world because one market in particular, China was being shut down by everyone. Italy was the first, they acted right away and they announced a midnight closure of air service, the U S Canada, others followed quite quickly and did partial cut downs. But when you’ve got one market drying up, that is also the air route service for all of Asia, you began to see a business crisis right on the horizon, which of course within a very short period of time was followed by a health crisis. So was my immediate reaction and engagement with the tourism industry, coincidentally, because I happened to be addressing them on a related topic.

Nicole Mahoney: 09:04 Yeah. And, um, I think that’s interesting to think back to February, I keep telling people that like 2020 is kind of like living in dog years because, you know, February was, you know, six months ago, eight months ago, not very long ago. And, uh, it seems like ages ago, but, uh, but how interesting that at that time, um, you know, you were identifying a crisis, but it wasn’t even what we could possibly imagine, which, which would become complete shutdown of all borders. Right. And of travel, uh, worldwide. And so as you kind of watched that happen, um, you know, what kinds of things, I don’t know if you were still, you know, speaking with some of your tourism friends, or what kinds of things were you thinking about in terms of how the industry, um, was responding and, and, um, you know, I guess thinking back to that panel, even what is the next step? So we do have a crisis,

Rick Antonson: 10:02 Right? And, and so in, in crisis management, the, the, the most immediate thing is to identify what the situation is and get the facts so that people can have adult based discussions, not on what they wish was happening, not on somebody’s artificial forecast, but on what are the facts. So, so that became the topic of, of conversation immediately. And I zoom once a week, every week for an hour, with two people who are very senior in the international matters of, of, of things. And we talk about this, but at that time, our conversation was very much about what are the facts? What is happening? Where is this spreading? So for example, in British Columbia, the virus did not come in from, from China. It came up the I five, it came in from Oregon and Washington state. So, you know, the border between Canada and the U S closed quite quickly there, or was, it was reduced monitored and then eventually closed. So dealing with the facts and crisis management is the very first thing. The second is to begin to identify what are the ramifications of the situation and how do you manage your way through that to minimize the initial impact. And of course, the third is to begin the scenario planning and looking at what might be in the future, the future near term, the future longterm. So facts first manage the impact to minimize it, and then begin the steps toward your preferred future.

Nicole Mahoney: 11:44 Yeah. I love that. Um, the, the idea of the scenario planning and, um, thinking through what your preferred future could look like, and I know that’s so challenging in any crisis, but especially in this crisis where there’s still so much uncertainty here, we, you know, here, we’re talking at the end of summer 2020, and as we were just discussing, this started February, March, I’m still with not a lot of certainty on what’s, uh, what’s coming or how long this is going to last. Um, but trying to stay focused on that future. And I’m curious, um, you know, when you think about that scenario planning and that the future that you prefer, what kinds of actions do you think that destinations should be doing? Uh, as they’re thinking about that future,

Rick Antonson: 12:34 There, there seems to be a possibility, an opportunity for deemos to engage their communities in a discussion that they’ve not been able to have before, because it takes a situation like this. It takes a crisis to do get people willing, to sort of Fetter themselves to, to, to put on restrictive things and focus, focus, focus. So I think now’s an opportunity for, deemos not just with their members, but with the community at large, to begin the discussion on what is their preferred outcome of this, you know, curiously enough, if you and I were having a conversation in January, you might say, Rick, just, let’s talk a little bit about over tourism, over tourism, around the world, crowded a visitor attractions and visitor experiences, maybe being, being diminished because too many people show up at the same location, whether it’s a historic site or a beautiful piece of geography, that’s no longer the issue.

Rick Antonson: 13:41 So what conversation would any community larger, small want to have? Now when the next two years are about not just rebuilding, but building a tourism industry, that is the one, the community prefers. It may be that a community in that discussion with the DMO says, we thought there were maybe too many visitors. How do we build an industry in which we are good hosts, but we also have good guests, but we don’t maybe have too many of them. Is there a way, for example, that our destination in the next couple of years builds back so that instead of an average, one night, stay people here have a two night state instead of a one and a half night stay on average. They have a three night stay. How do we do that? So that maybe we have fewer visitors, but more spending in the visitor economy, that type of community discussion about the future tourism industry for each community could be a very positive engagement that a DMO could initiate with with all manner of people who maybe haven’t been asked their view of and the community in the future.

Nicole Mahoney: 14:52 Yeah. And do you think that, um, those folks in the community too, are taking a little bit more notice of tourism? I I’ve been, I’ve been recognizing. Yeah, absolutely. As soon as, as soon as people stopped moving around, it became pretty obvious how important it is to have visitors in your community.

Rick Antonson: 15:11 You know, we used to say, most people in tourism don’t know they’re in tourism. Now everyone knows they’re in tourism. If, if, if someone has a neighbor who works at a business that provides laundry to a hotel and the hotel is closed, they no longer need the machines. They, they no longer need the people. They no longer need the, the, all of that sort of chain of, of stuff. If someone was in a restaurant that relied on travelers, they no longer need the food supply chain. They don’t need the fishers. They don’t need the cattlemen. They don’t need the delivery trucks. They don’t need, whoever came in to repair the refrigerator, let alone staff to wait on tables and, and do the dishes. So everyone has, we’ve always known this. Everyone has a neighbor or a family member or friends who are engaged in the benefits of a healthy, sustainable tourism industry.

Rick Antonson: 16:07 When that dried up. Everybody knows it. You know, I remember when I was with tourism, Vancouver, I’d talked to senior people in, and the oil companies, they got the gas companies, the cert guest service stations, trying to get them to, to support tourism. And they would say, we’re just a gas station. We’re not in the tourism industry. And I would say, have you ever looked at how many different state or province license plates are being filled up at your gas station? You’re right at the forefront of the tourism industry. So anyone who works in it related to the gas stations in the little corner, grocery store and a gas station realizes today, people aren’t traveling the way they used to and it hits them in the pocket book. So I think that has been the benefit. The other thing is that, you know, people realize we can have around the United States around Canada community embraced tourism, but that means the community has to have a tourism industry that reflects who they are and what they want to be. Now’s the time to kind of restructure that and start looking at that and building today and tomorrow toward that.

Nicole Mahoney: 17:12 Absolutely. So Rick, in your conversations with folks in the industry, are you hearing these conversations being had with those community, uh, you know, with the communities and, and sort of that visioning about what do we want to build a tourism pack as, or, or is it kind of too early in this whole crisis that we’re in, uh, to really be seeing that happening yet?

Rick Antonson: 17:39 So I don’t think it’s too early to begin, but you, you hit it. It’s too early for people maybe to want to begin it right now, people are saying, can we at least partially open the restaurants? So when they’re partially opened, you know, how do people travel within their local facility? So that most people who are tourists today are tourists within their own state because other States or other provinces aren’t welcoming them, that the border between Canada, the United States is right now effectively closed to individual casual travel. And yet for Canada, the single biggest market is, is the United States. And Canadians love to travel throughout the U S but that’s just not happening now. So if a community is enjoying the reopening of its restaurants and the reopening of some of the visitor attractions and the, the, uh, getting out of sort of single or low double digit occupancy rates for their accommodation properties, it’s probably from, you know, fellow new Yorkers or fellow Arizonian or, or follow Ontarians.

Rick Antonson: 18:48 It’s mostly people traveling within that closet. So it’s about hosting friends and neighbors. So you can have the type of conversation without the industry being overwhelmed. But right now, you know, while, while we’ve long said that the benefits of a healthy, viable, sustainable tourism industry are economic, social, cultural, and environmental that’s well-documented. But right now it’s the cash register ring that people want back, you know, British Columbia wants back. It’s 15 million annual visitors, 6 million of whom are international overnight stays. That’s true for every state. It’s true for every city. They want back a healthy visitor industry, but right now they want to hear the cash register ring, because that means jobs. It means supply chain for restaurants and accommodation properties. And it means an industry that is climbing its way back and restructuring itself.

Nicole Mahoney: 19:43 Yeah, absolutely. So I know that, uh, you recently wrote an op ed for, uh, for your, uh, local paper, and I’d love for you to share. We’ll put the link to the op ed in the show notes for this episode, but I would love for you to share with our listeners the message, um, that you were able to share in that piece. Um, and also what I found unique about it is that you have an insider’s view, but you’re no longer really the insider, right. Because you’re yes. And so, um, I think there’s a lot of folks out there that are like you, you know, that have that insider’s view, but might not still be the insider. And I think you have a powerful role that you can play. So, um, can you talk a little bit about that piece and, and the message that was, that was in it?

Rick Antonson: 20:34 Well, thank you for mentioning it that the piece begins with a very straightforward sentence. Let’s talk about 20, 23 and then poses the 20, 23 will be the first year that the tourism industry and our province in any state is fully recovered. It then is real clear. Look, we all wish that we could say 2021 is going to be that year. It is not going to happen. Even if a vaccine became available, even if a vaccine was accepted and workable the distribution in, in a country like, like Britain or Germany or Japan, which are key international markets, let alone a country, the size of the United States that will take time. But it also in the article is clear about this. It also means that people then have to individually want to travel again, not the desire to travel, but being able to say it’s a priority that they’ve got the money that they can take the time away from work when they might just be going back to work.

Rick Antonson: 21:51 So even if there was a, uh, if, if the virus abated in a timely fashion, 2021, isn’t going to see everything copacetic again. So 2021 is a stepping stone. 2022 could become a very good year with good growth of international travel with, with air routes, beginning to become reliable. Again, you know, I read this morning that American airlines is no longer going to service 15 particular cities in the United States. That’s just now, what’s that going to look like? So 2020 is us treading water, catching our breath, just feeling that we’re managing our way through all of uncertainty. We may see the 21 begins to deliver some elements of certainty. 2022 can build upon that where we can say, okay, we now have reliable air service routes. Cruise ships are now able to depart and, and sale and do whatever they have to do to, to deal with, with, uh, any, any virus or health issues.

Rick Antonson: 22:59 But 20, 23 is on the horizon the year to focus on and say, at that time we could see the tourism industry fully recovered. And let me just in closing about the article, the other thing it says is what it addresses, what fully recovered looks like. And I would describe it this way, that in January of 2023, the tourism industry in broad ways can look and sound and feel like it did in January of 2020. And here are the elements of what that is in January of 2020. And so I would propose January of 2023, the tourism industry had advanced bookings for the coming summer advanced bookings that were made the fall before that were paid for, with huge deposits the fall before in January of 2020, there was significant worldwide consumer confidence in January of 2020. And again, I would propose January of 2023 individuals not only wanted to travel, had the financial wherewithal, had the sense of, of secure employment so they could take time away. And they knew what they were going to do. If they had children to bring along, they knew what the school year was. So if we could see January of 20, 23 replicate the January of 2020 consumer confidence, reliable tour operator abilities to make offerings and deliver on those, if we can see that in 2023, it could be the year of wholesome, fully recovered tourism industry in the United States, in Canada and internationally.

Nicole Mahoney: 24:46 I really appreciate that, you know, long view. And as you’re speaking, I was thinking, um, this kind of brings us back to what we were talking about when we talked about scenario planning and planning for the future that you prefer. So in this case, the future we prefer in 2023, which you just gave us a really good benchmark in pointing us back to January of 2020, right? So we do have this, this, um, uh, recent feeling of confidence and understanding our industry and all of that. But I think this also brings me back to a question I asked you earlier, which was, what should we be doing right now? Because I imagine to have January 20, 23 look like, uh, look, sound and feel like January, 2020, we can’t just rest on our laurels and wait for this to pass.

Rick Antonson: 25:45 Absolutely abs you, you, you hit it. If, if a community and a DMO discussed what their preferred community embraced tourism industry looked like with this is a large city or a small, small town looked like in 2023, that helps them identify in reverse reverse engineering. What they think 20, 22 should look like as it’s building towards that, which helps them look at what 2021 needs to do to start building toward that, which pretty much tells you what you got to do tomorrow. So this is about short term action for midterm benefits. The longer term might be 2030. Not many people want to talk about that. Now, 2023 is a stretch, but to begin today with short term action, and those actions are scenario plannings. What about this? What about that? It is looking at what new markets might be. Is there going to be a greater reliance on near in travel, maybe rubber tire travel that wasn’t as relied upon before?

Rick Antonson: 26:53 What will be international markets as they come back, but looking at what they might be like if they exist by the end of 2020, what they might be like, say summer of 20, 21, and then working those up so that you begin to put numbers that you can monitor, you know, if you’re gaining towards 20, 23 or not, what about the, the opening of businesses? If people have already seen that, that 10 restaurants have closed and declared bankruptcy, you can’t rely on them as being part of your product in the future. Will those entrepreneurs open other restaurants or are they going to move to other communities? You begin to face all of those things, but as you see the group and the vibrance happen, you will see new leaders, you will see new people coming forward. And one of my sons is director of sales and marketing with the largest hotel in Vancouver.

Rick Antonson: 27:43 It’s about 800 so odd rooms. And I talked to him and I realized that that, that it’s, he never talks just about their property, because what they do is related to visitor attractions, opening to whether or not trains like the Rocky Mountaineer are operating between Vancouver and the Rocky mountains, whether or not via rail is operating, whether or not the air routes are coming in. There’s so many other factors that are outside the control of an individual accommodation property. So this is a time for collegiality. It, you know, the tourism industry is famous for confusing its partners as its competitors right now the tourism industry needs to be partners. And that has to wrap around a shared short term vision for I proposed 20, 23. Yeah.

Nicole Mahoney: 28:30 Yeah. I am so happy that you brought that up because, um, as you probably know, I love to talk about this whole idea of collaboration and what I call coopertition in my show. And I have have the same conviction as you, that this, uh, you know, collaboration or coopertition however we describe it is going to be so important to recovery. And, um, I think the more that we can, you know, get past the silos that we may have disciples of the past, if you will, the quicker that we can get to that short term vision that you’re painting

Rick Antonson: 29:09 Well. And, and you know, you, and first something that’s really important there too. And that’s that the tourism industry of the future will have components that we recognize, but it could be substantively different in, in the way we, as a community host international or host near in visitors. We could, as I mentioned earlier, we could, could see places developing plans that, that really make it easy to have more people stay individually longer and get to know the community better. And how do you package that? Cause what we’re going to do is we’re going to find travelers who may want to do that. They may not want to go to, you know, six different towns or cities over the course of two weeks. They may want to, to stay in one locale because they find that, um, better to monitor their own health circumstances. But when they do that, they want to dig deeper into their community.

Rick Antonson: 30:11 They want to find more local theater. They want to find more local artists. They want to want to acquire different types of things. You know, so often tourism gets kind of tricky ties and people take back a souvenir, but the longer people stay in a destination, the more inclined they are to, to learn about that, to go to not just the five best known restaurants, but more out of the way places to visit neighborhoods. That’s isn’t that the beauty of travel when it happens that way. So we have an opportunity to see a tourism industry to merge where communities have a hosting opportunity and responsibility that is really beneficial economically, but also culturally and socially.

Nicole Mahoney: 30:54 Absolutely. Uh, Rick, you just, um, gave me, uh, brought me back to a memory actually, and this is a bit of a concept that I’ve been toying with and thinking about lately and I’ve never shared it. So I’m going to, right now, I’ve been thinking about travel and kind of the history of travel and, and where it started. And, you know, of course the elite, like centuries ago were the only ones that could afford to travel and, and, um, how that helped, uh, that was seen as, as making them more worldly and in smarter and, and all that. But then I started to think about how Americans started to travel and especially road trips early on. And what you just, the memory you just sparked for me is my great grandparents. They actually traveled all over, not only the U S they went to all States. That was a big deal back then. Uh, but then also all over the world, but they brought back pieces of furniture and pieces of artwork. And it wasn’t those trinkets that you’re talking about. And so I’ve been thinking about the history of travel and what it did for people, you know, uh, generations way before mine and how that might come back around in some way, uh, in the future.

Rick Antonson: 32:07 I really liked that, that, that thank you, that the whole concept about you travel to touch something bigger than yourself. You, you, you travel to have your eyes wide open. You, you travel to, to be in awe, but to, to come back better because you have, have tasted food. You otherwise wouldn’t have you’ve, you’ve, you’ve seen things, perhaps furniture, perhaps art that you otherwise didn’t. And, you know, we kind of got us sanitized society where, you know, if you’re in a shopping mall, anywhere in the United States, you can pretty much look around and forget what community you’re in know, unless you happen to see, Oh, there’s a New Mexico art shop. So I must be in New Mexico, you can be in almost any shopping mall and the storefronts are generic and, and, and that risks generic destinations. So what travelers wanted in the most genuine sense was to go someplace that was unfamiliar, that, that, that they felt comfortable and safe of course, but, but where they, they, they, they learned and they were became a better person.

Rick Antonson: 33:18 They, they picked up the local newspaper and read about local issues, not something that they could get at home. And, and I think that, you know, travel is best when, when travel betters us, when it, it, it makes us a more knowledgeable individual and, and, and a happier or sad person. But, but, but someone who is, is, is looking through, um, through a different lens, the lens of travel, the lens of a new community. So deemos have an opportunity to, to say, now here’s really who we are. I would, as an aside, say that most CEOs of most deemos often complained. They never had enough time to blue sky because they were so busy with the details right now, I think they have time to blue sky and that blue sky thinking about the, what ifs could be about what their destination could be and how to get there in a way that’s different than they were as the strong foundation of a good economic viability of tourism, but portrays them as a place that travelers want to come to because when they leave that destination, that traveler is enhanced personally, maybe professionally, maybe socially, they’ve learned to care about the environment in a different way, but, but you know, if people leave your destination and all you hear is them talking about the cash register ring.

Rick Antonson: 34:44 That’s not the same as when they’re talking about the people they met and that they had foods they’d never had before they saw theater that they’d never heard of before they’d read books, they hadn’t heard about because they spent time in your community.

Nicole Mahoney: 34:59 Absolutely. I just love that. And this is a, this has been such a great conversation. And then I want to take this last point that you just made and, and use this as our ramp up. But I want to bring us back to the interview that you and I did previous to this one. Um, and to the concept of cathedral thinking, because I think that there’s so much application, uh, in the times we’re in right now of that concept. Um, and so, you know, I love this idea of, you know, having time to blue sky and thinking about what the destination could be and, you know, recognizing that you’re a strong foundation of the community. And so, uh, Rick, what do you think about in terms of cathedral thinking and how that can really help our tourism industry recover stronger and in, uh, giving us your answer, could you please share with our listeners for those who may have missed our previous episode, you know, a bit, little bit about the concept of cathedral thinking,

Rick Antonson: 35:57 I really appreciate the opportunity to talk about it. So I’ll be succinct in that cathedral thinking at its heart, is this, if you, in the 15th century were an architect in your community, or your city came to you and asked you to design a new cathedral, you’d begin that work, knowing that, that you wouldn’t live necessarily to see that project completed. It may be a grandchild or a grand niece, or the grandchild of a neighbor who did the final renderings. Likewise, if I was a stonemason putting in place, the cornerstone or the foundation blocks, I wouldn’t be around when the Spire was being done. Cause that would be generations, hence, but I had to put in place a foundation that my children in the craft could build upon or a neighbor’s children could build upon. So you wanted a proper foundation. Now I would be the first to admit that the, the, the, the notion of long term thinking generations, hence, is not what a lot of people want to spend their time on right now when they’re trying to survive.

Rick Antonson: 37:08 But in the building of a cathedral, it was about doing something every day that contributed toward the construction toward the vision. So it doesn’t have to be something big, but every day, every DMO, everyone in a DMO has to be doing something that is building, not just repair work, not just concentrating on, gosh, wouldn’t this be nice wishful thinking, but actual action that is short term action that is building towards something. Now what’s that look like in the terms of a DMO that can be talking to a client that, you know, has cancelled a 20, 20 convention in your city and might likely have to cancel 2021, but it might be talking about 2022. It might be talking about how new convention meeting protocols have changed as, as one watches major international or national gatherings do all sorts of innovative things about how to engage people right there.

Rick Antonson: 38:16 I would say that I was to speak at a conference that was a small one in Cape Cod, the brutal conference. And it was only going to have about a hundred people, but it was all in person. It had to go virtual. It had 500 people participate from 20 countries. So they’re messaging. Their job of convening did more because they were forced to change. So the cathedral thinking it is about doing something today that is tethered keeps you tethered to a longer term vision. First of that is to kind of know where you want to get that gets back to the scenario planning, if this is what we’d like our industry to look like in 2023, we better be doing this tomorrow in the meeting sector, in the visitor servicing sector and updating our technology. So that by the end of 2020, we are a stronger industry working toward the vision of 21, which is toward the thinking of 20, 23.

Rick Antonson: 39:19 I hope that makes sense, because I would say that if I was talking about cathedral thinking and the longterm, it’s really intergenerational, it is decades down the road. It’s like bidding for the Olympics. And then 20 years later, it’s finally in your community. You need to be thinking longterm today. The longterm is 2023, but we still need to build daily in ways that 2021 could build on 20, 20, 22 can build on 20 whatever 21. And it, it, when people are thinking about that, and they’re thinking short term action for midterm gain, they’re working towards the building of a, of a sustainable viable tourism industry. And I would say that no elected official, no neighbor, no business person, no bureaucrat today takes for granted a healthy, viable, sustainable tourism industry. And in January of this year, all the people I just mentioned took our industry for granted. They don’t know. So the leaders in the tourism industry and every community need to be the ones engaging in conversation, identifying a shared vision and getting people working daily every day toward delivering a healthy, viable, fully recovery tourism industry in 2023. That’s the cathedral we’re building.

Nicole Mahoney: 40:41 Absolutely. And that is the cathedral that we are building. And Rick, thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to share with us today. It’s been wonderful. I know our listeners have gotten a lot out of this conversation. Uh, we’ll make sure we’ll link to your books for anyone that’s interested in that in reading those and looking into those as well as to that article, uh, piece that you wrote. Uh, did you have any final words or did you want to share with our listeners where they might find you, should they want to look you up?

Rick Antonson: 41:12 Well, one can go to cathedral or they can go to Rick and Anson a N T O N S O N dot con. But I, I would would say that’s above me. And this really is about the industry. So I would say to anyone in the tourism industry that is listening to this, no matter what they have done in the past. And I say this collectively, but I also say it to each individual, no matter what you’ve been a part of in the past, that might be expanding a convention center. It might be building a tour operation. It might be owning it and developing a visitor attraction. It may be in the DMO sales and marketing or servicing this I know to be true. Your most important work is ahead of you. Absolutely. Thank you so much, Rick. Thank you.

Nicole Mahoney: 42:02 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 greatly appreciate you giving us a rating and review click the iTunes or Stitcher link on destination on the or leave one right in your favorite app where you listen most often, it only takes a minute and your support means a lot.

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

Related Podcasts