Top 12 Quotes from Advocacy Summit 2020

The Destinations International Advocacy Summit was very different this year, but more important than ever.

While we were sad to miss the in-person connections and community this event offers, our team was grateful for the opportunity to sponsor and present at the Destinations International 2020 Advocacy Summit. Hats off to the Destinations International team on an engaging virtual format and facilitating valuable discussions and insights as our industry forges a new path forward.

I would especially like to thank Melvin Tennant with Meet Minneapolis, and Wes Rhea with Visit Stockton, for joining me for an Advocacy Solutions Case Study session. It was so inspiring to hear about your organizations' work to support your communities through difficult challenges. 

I would also like to thank Kavin Schieferdecker, Senior Vice President, Convention Division for PHLCVB, for talking with me in a session about how Philadelphia is partnering with local healthcare workers and scientists to prepare for the new demands of the modern event industry. If you missed that conversation, you can read more about it here.

To wrap-up Advocacy Summit 2020, here are the top 12 quotes and takeaways from our team:

1. "It all starts with the visit, and the visit starts with us."

Maura Allen Gast
Executive Director
Visit Irving

Allen Gast showed how vital a role destination organizations play in building community and quality of life.  She referenced the destination management lifecycle, which illustrates how interconnected tourism and visitation are with happy residents and a flourishing local economy.

2. "The passion that emanated from the team led to the formation of the Meet Minneapolis Legacy Project, which is designed to activate our staff to help the community."

Melvin Tennant
Meet Minneapolis

In conversation during our Advocacy Solutions Case Study session, Tennant shared the philosophy behind Meet Minneapolis' Legacy Project. This new volunteer initiative was born in the wake of George Floyd's murder in an effort to help the community reckon with inequities and find a way to come together and heal. About the project Tennant says, "It was an organic initiative that has been active in giving back and raising awareness of inequality and social justice."

3. "The next normal will not be the same as the last." 

Jack Johnson
Chief Advocacy Officer
Destinations International

Johnson emphasized that the travel and tourism industry will not be returning to normal; that there will be an entirely new environment and landscape moving forward. Johnson also shared two more choice quotes, that our industry is experiencing a "rendezvous with destiny," and that "the time to move gradually and deliberately is gone."

4. "We take the lead on community initiatives that might not drive overnight visitation, but add to the fabric of the city."

Wes Rhea
Visit Stockton

In our Advocacy Solutions Case Study session, Rhea shared his perspective on Visit Stockton expanding its mission throughout the pandemic to help manage CARES grant dispersions for the city. Rhea also shared, "What's great about all the grants we are signing for the city is that it has elevated our presence to a lot of businesses that we never would have touched before, but it elevates our community shared value."

5. "We speak as residents."

Kristen Jarnagin
President & CEO
Discover Long Island

In a session on destination safety as a new priority, Kristen Jarnagin shared her experiences in hiring an official health and wellness ambassador and taking the lead on safety protocols in her community. Jarnagin emphasizes the importance of empathy and connection with your residents when tackling these critical and sensitive issues.

6. "The freedom to travel: we've never valued it more. When we are able to travel again, we will appreciate it and value it in ways we never did before."

Adam Sacks
Tourism Economics

In his session, Sacks shared Tourism Economics' latest expectations for how and when travel will recover and the role of advocacy in a sustainable recovery. He highlighted that hotel demand will likely approach normalcy in the second half of 2021 and that we will probably reach a full recovery by the fall of 2023.

7. "If you're not at the table, you're on the menu."

Natasha Richards
Senior Advocacy & Industry Relations Manager
Imex Group

As funding models and budgets are threatened, Richards emphasizes the critical importance of advocacy and earning the right to be at the table when decisions are made.  

8. "I view tourism and the creative economy as not just an essential part of building a vibrant and interesting city, but the underpinning to building an economic base that allows us to pay for things like the services people want and need."

Darrell Steinberg
Mayor of the City of Sacramento

In this inspiring panel discussion, Steinberg emphasized that he believes in travel as an important part of the economy and community and that the work of organizations like Visit Sacramento is critical to the health of both.

9. "Travel gives us a chance to understand our likenesses and celebrate our differences, versus cut each other down because of those differences. That’s the fundamental opportunity to travel globally and domestically - to learn a lot more and appreciate and understand other cultures and ethnic groups from a global perspective."

Elliott L. Ferguson
President & CEO
Destination DC

In the wake of America's racial reckoning, as we head toward the "next normal" i travel, Ferguson thinks we should be asking difficult questions like, 'What should I be doing differently?' and 'What should I be sharing and how can I make sure there are equal opportunities focused on Black Lives Matter, and make sure it's top of mind?'

10. "Those who are open to collaborating will win, so the path forward is togetherness. It just has to be."

Leslie Bruce
President & CEO
Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

Bruce stresses that after a divisive election cycle, we need more collaboration and togetherness to keep moving forward in our communities.

11. "If the need is big enough, even those who compete the most fiercely can work together for the greater good."

Minto Schneider
Waterloo Regional Tourism Marketing Corporation

Schneider focused on the possibilities and rewards of advocacy efforts to help competing stakeholders align for the greater good.

12. "Now, more than ever before, we need to think bigger and bolder. We need to bring different voices to help us think through some of these complex issues that surround us today. I challenge you to think about what are you doing in your organization and in your communities to create that sense of place, that sense of space, and that sense of welcoming."

Michelle Mason
President & CEO
Association Forum

Mason was looking to the future when she said, "We know this next generation is going to hold us accountable and ask us what side of history we want to be on at this moment in time." She called on destination organizations to think big and amplify diverse voices.

Rediscover America

Destination professionals: Share your unique insights and expertise with the world on #RediscoverAmerica. Find out how to get involved today!

Learn More