Connecting Communities through Collaboration, with Sonya Nash

Episode 379

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On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Sonya Nash, Executive Director of Visit Shipshewana. She shares how she honors the local community through the work her DMO does and describes her role as creating an experience that visitors love and positively impacts the local community. Sonya also talks about a countywide collaboration she is part of and the importance of building bridges between stakeholders for the greater good.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Why understanding the other party’s perspective is crucial for successful collaboration
  • What role destination marketing organizations play in community branding and development, and how collaboration between various agencies impacts tourism assets and the community as a whole
  • Sonya’s creative solution to challenges faced in a conservative, tech-limited community to accommodate visitors’ needs
  • Why understanding and promoting cultural values within a community is essential for effective destination management
  • How Sonya is working to connect and collaborate with other communities within the county to promote off-the-beaten-path experiences and cultural exchange

Branding for Destination Marketing Organizations

Our conversation started with a deep dive into the role of destination marketing organizations (DMOs) in community branding and development. Sonya shares the importance of collaboration between various agencies and why tourism has such a profound impact on the local community as a whole. We also discuss the pivotal role that DMOs play in shaping visitor expectations and experiences and how that influences the narrative and perception of a destination.

Embracing Unique Experiences

Sonya’s passion for creating unique experiences shines through as she recounts her journey from aspiring to be a school teacher to discovering her calling in the tourism and hospitality industry. Her emphasis on understanding what makes a destination unique and tapping into the interests of travelers also underscores the value of authentic and immersive experiences that resonate with visitors and allows them to disconnect and embrace a slower, more relaxed lifestyle in Sonya’s location, Shipshewana.

Overcoming Challenges Through Innovation

Our discussion touches upon the challenges faced in conservative, tech-limited communities, such as some of the destinations in Amish country. Sonya’s creative solution of leveraging the Bandwango platform to create a trail and incorporate creative offline ways to help visitors get to know the rural area and accommodate both visitors’ needs and the local community’s needs.


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