Takeaways from Destinations International 2018 Advocacy Summit

Key takeaways from the Destination International 2018 Advocacy Summit including seven best practices for crisis preparedness and response.

Several members of our team recently attended Destinations International (DI) 2018 Advocacy Summit in Philadelphia, an exchange of ideas and best practices for becoming a more effective advocate for travel and tourism in your community. The DI Advocacy Summit was an inspiring event with leaders from more than 80 destinations gathering to discuss critical and sensitive issues including economic development, crisis preparedness and response, overtourism and tourism management, homelessness, and more. 

One of our biggest takeaways from the summit is the evolving role of destination marketing organizations beyond promoting their brand and attracting new visitors. Throughout the week we heard about how destination marketers are also building value in their communities by connecting with local organizations and community members around issues impacting the overall destination experience. 

In his presentation, Jackson Johnson, Chief Advocacy Officer of Destinations International shared a new definition of “Destination Marketing Organization” with the group:

A destination marketing organization is responsible for promoting a community as an attractive travel destination and enhancing its public image as a dynamic place to live and work. Through the impact of travel, they strengthen the economic position and provide opportunity for people in their community.

From the presentation: “The New Tourism Lexicon” by Jackson Johnson, Chief Advocacy Officer of Destinations International.

You can read more about the importance of advocacy and taking a value-based approach in this DI policy brief. As a local leader and steward of your community, are you demonstrating your value and engaging in dialogue with local leadership, stakeholders, and community members? Do you see tourism as a catalyst for building opportunities and strengthening community in your destination?  

Crisis Preparedness & Response Takeaways

In recent months our team has spoken with several destinations about an advocacy issue that should be top of mind throughout our industry: crisis preparedness and response.  At Tourism Academy last June, we organized a conference-wide panel on Disaster Response for DMOs, where several destinations shared eye-opening insights. More recently, we had the opportunity to speak with two members of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority team, resulting in a forthcoming Destination’s International case study about crisis response. 

On the heels of the Advocacy Summit, we'd like to share the top seven best practices for destination marketers to plan for crisis response and recovery:

1. Create A Plan

A crisis communication and response plan is a must. Include meeting locations, roles and responsibilities, and contacts from media organizations, local stakeholders, and local law enforcement and public safety agencies. Regularly practice and review your plan annually or quarterly.

2. Choose a Safe Meeting Location

Plan to meet somewhere accessible in the event of an emergency. Choose a location far from your most popular tourist attractions. If your destination is prone to weather emergencies or natural disasters, consider site safety.

3. Focus on Positions not People

In the event of an emergency or crisis, members of your team may be unavailable. When crafting your plan, focus on positions and designate alternate people who can step in fill critical roles.

4. Prioritize Listening & Research

Listen on social media and conduct market research to understand public sentiment and how your organization can enter the conversation. Through listening, you can also spot inaccurate news stories and contact reporters and media outlets to provide corrections.

5. Build Strong Relationships

Build and strengthen relationships with local organizations including police, fire, elected officials, partners, the medical community, and the media. Outreach and advocacy can reinforce your role as a brand steward for your destination and put you in a position to lead communications efforts during a crisis.

6. Leverage Your Resources

Plan to use your website and social media channels as a hub for strategic crisis communications. If you have convention center space, a mobile visitor center, or other assets, consider how the community might benefit from these resources during a crisis.

7. Be Honest & Authentic

Transitioning from crisis response and recovery to regular messaging is a sensitive issue. User-generated content (UGC) can help to show real images and stories of support during recovery. UGC featuring local businesses can also provide gentle and authentic messaging for when the community is ready to move forward and open its doors again.

We look forward to continuing conversations around advocacy and the evolving role of the DMO at this year’s Tourism Academy Conference in Pittsburgh, PA from May 21st - 23rd. Registration will be open soon and we hope to see you there!

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