Proactive Steps for DMOs Facing Coronavirus, with Nicole Mahoney

Episode 171

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In this solocast episode of Destination on the Left, Nicole lays out some of the frameworks and strategies that have helped BTI maintain its composure as we respond to the initial fallout of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • BTI’s initial thoughts on the Coronavirus Pandemic
  • How the Coronavirus Pandemic is impacting the travel and tourism industry
  • Steps that DMOs and other small businesses can take in response to the pandemic
  • Four strategies to help us maintain our composure during a time of crisis
  • The 3 C’s of the Collaboration Framework and how to apply it
  • Why collaboration is critical for DMOs, especially in a time of crisis
  • Some of the key ideas from my new blog post

Collaboration in a Time of Crisis

Right now, the Coronavirus Pandemic has the global economy in total lockdown. It is unclear how long it will last, and the unprecedented nature of this virus and the uncertainty surrounding it is raising concern for the future of our industries. But so many of us have been in this position before. When 9/11 took place, and the great recession of 2008 shook the United States economy, the travel and tourism industry bounced back stronger than ever. It is not about prevention anymore; this global pandemic is already taking place. It is about how we react to it, so I put together some of the frameworks and strategies that have helped BTI maintain its composure as this series of disruptive events unfolds.

Four Strategies for Responding to the Coronavirus Chaos

Last week, I traveled from Rochester, NY to Savannah, GA in an effort to keep the BTI cog turning and do my part to drive business. However, it didn’t take long to realize that the economic impact of the pandemic stretched well beyond the scope of one country, let alone one industry. It inspired my most recent blog post, where I outline four strategies for responding to the initial shockwave of pandemonium: one, stay calm. Two, get educated about the situation and stay up to date on the latest developments through reliable sources and your industry associations. Three, prepare to pivot by doing scenario planning. And four, communicate. We cannot stop the spread of COVID-19, but we can survive the fallout if we proactively manage our mindset and collaborate with others in our industry.

A Holistic Approach to Collaboration

Since the beginning of the Destination on the Left, we have talked a lot about collaboration and co-opetition. I believe that, in the complex world of the present-day tourism industry, committing to a holistic approach to collaboration will bring strong market growth and abundance for everyone. The 3 C’s of Collaboration Framework is a system that helps us band together in a time of crisis. First, communication is essential to maintain clarity with your partners and prospects, and it is an opportunity to be a calming voice amidst the uncertainty and chaos. Next, commonality is about identifying common goals and operating with the greater good at heart. And finally, commitment means sticking with your collaborative efforts no matter how tough the going gets because when we bounce back, we bounce back together. Read the blog to learn more.


Hello listeners,  if you are listening to this episode in real-time, we are in the middle of the Caronavirus Pandemic, or we hope we are in the middle but it is unclear how long it will last..and the unprecedented nature of this virus and the uncertainty surrounding it has many of us wondering about the future.  

Last week, I wrote and published a blog post about working through a pandemic in the travel and tourism industry. In my post I detailed out 4 strategies for getting through this challenging time. 

One, Stay calm, 

Two,  get educated about the situation and stay up to date on the latest developments through reliable sources and your industry associations 

Three, prepare to pivot by doing scenario planning and 

four, communicate.

 I will include a link to the blog in the shownotes for this episode. 

I wrote the blog post as I was travelling for business from Rochester, NY to Savannah, GA The trip was productive and the travel experience was uneventful. And I thought, I am doing my part to keep this economy moving.

But, the reality is, we cannot stop what is happening. We must follow our leaders guidance as they try to slow down the spread of COVID-19 and juggle the many diverse needs of the communities that they serve. From the homeless population and concerns about the spread in homeless shelters to the needs of critical human service agencies that cannot get access to needed supplies, have lost volunteers and staff as they are being stretched thin from the need to respond to this crisis. To the economy that is struggling to stay moving forward. It is more important than ever to band together and follow the guidance that is being provided. 

The best thing that we need to focus on is our own mindset. We know, we will get through this, we have gotten through these struggles before – in this century alone, there was 9/11, followed by the great recession of 2008/2009 and our industry rebounded and came back stronger afterwards. We will get through this together!

If you are a regular listener of my show, you know that I love to talk about collaboration and co-opetition in particular. I believe that in the complex world of the present-day tourism industry, committing to a holistic approach to collaboration will bring strong market growth and abundance for everyone.  

A HOLISTIC approach to collaboration. 

We have shared countless examples of collaboration on this show and I know it works. In times of crisis this view is even more important, together we will come back from this downturn and be stronger because of it.  I have been studying successful collaborations for three years with over 170 guests on this podcast. Through those conversations, I have started working on a framework for holistic collaboration that I think will be very useful to you as we move through this crisis and begin to recover and strengthen our industry. 

My intention is to share the following framework, the 3C’s of collaboration, with you to provide some inspiration and guidance that will help you navigate this uncertain time and set you up to lead through the recovery. This framework is a work in progress, as I mentioned it comes from over 170 interviews with guests who have shared their amazing stories and best practices on successful collaborations within their organizations and communities. 

So here it is in it’s current form, the 3 C’s of Collaboration framework.

The first C is Communication. Now is the time to communicate, communicate, communicate. Information is changing daily and your customers, stakeholders, partners, donors, employees, whoever you serve they want to hear from you. We are working in a reactionary mode right now, as you move through this, look for the things that worked and the things that could be improved. This is a time to document and help you build a crisis communications plan for the future. 

It is important that we are thinking about the future as we manage through this time, begin to plan for your communications once social distancing and efforts to mitigate the spread have been lifted. We are in the travel and tourism industry, people are going to have a pent up desire to get out and move around once this passes. Make sure your destination or organization stays top of mind during the crisis. 

A few ideas we have been talking about with our clients include keeping your communication channels active during this time, make sure you are posting regularly on your social media channels, send your newsletters as regularly scheduled, if you host webinars keep hosting them. Stay connected. 

Think about your messages, make them fun and interactive. For example, if you are in the craft beverage industry, consider hosting virtual happy hours using Facebook live, if you are a museum or cultural institution with a virtual tour, consider promoting that as an alternative way for someone to experience your destination or if you have live webcams, promote those as a way for people to see what is going on at your location without physically being there. 

And don’t forget your collaborative partners, make sure you include them in your communication strategies. If you are part of a beverage trail or an industry association, explore ways that you can band together to offer unique “virtual” experiences or fun challenges that will keep your audiences engaged. When creating a collaboration, make sure you identify a shared vision and set roles and goals upfront so that everyone knows what you are trying to accomplish, these are key to making the collaboration successful.

The second C is Commonality. When looking for collaborations first identify what you have in common That could be a common goal, for example during this time of crisis, it could be “to lift each other up” so all small businesses make it through this time. Or it could be that you all share a common segment of the industry, a group of museums could get together to cross-promote each other’s virtual tours for example and call it a virtual history trail. If you are a restaurant with limitations on table service in place, you could ban together with other restaurants in your town and have a “take-out” restaurant week, or a suggest a progressive dinner- take-out style to encourage people to sample foods from a variety of locations. If you are a destination marketing organization, leaning on your regional or state-wide partners will help you keep your destinations top of mind once the recovery begins. Focusing on regional and drive markets will be very important in the short-term after the restrictions lift and this will be the quickest way to help your stakeholders and local tourism attractions recover. Begin aligning with your partners now and start planning for that turn-around strategy. 

Additional strategies to keep in mind while planning collaborations include bringing the right resources to bear and committing to relationships that lead to partnerships. 

The third C is Commitment. This is an unprecedented time, stress levels are high, the need is high, your commitment to getting through this and staying focused on the future and recovery will be key. Commit to the hardwork of building the much needed collaborations, set deadlines and contingency plans, be open-minded and employ a can-do attitude and a long-term vision. 

In episode 44 I talked with Rick Antonson about the concept of Cathedral Thinking. I think this concept is worth repeating in these times as we navigate the present with our eye on the future. Cathedral thinking goes back to the medieval times when an architect, stonemason and artisan began construction on the large buildings that would become places of worship, community gathering spaces and safe havens. These visionaries would begin their work knowing that it would not be completed in their lifetime, maybe not even their children’s lifetime, in some cases it would be three generations before the project was complete. 

We are all Cathedral thinkers, building the travel and tourism industry, strengthening our communities and leading our organizations for future generations, making impacts with our time to build better communities and laying the foundation for our children and grandchildren for the next generation.  I challenge all of us to keep having those big visions that will have far-reaching impact, and to work towards that vision even during challenging times. Keeping our focus on the long-term vision while managing the short-term challenges is what will build a strong and vibrant future.

Thank you for listening, I hope what I have shared can help in some small or big way and I am wishing you the courage to move through this with tenacity and long-term vision. Stay safe and stay healthy. 

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