100 Years of Advancing Destinations

5 Key Takeaways from DMAI's CEO Summit

Author: Jim McCaul
Posted: April 15, 2016
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This week more than 100 leaders in the destination marketing industry gathered in San Juan, Puerto Rico for DMAI’s 2016 CEO Summit. Here’s a brief recap of what you missed, including some exciting conversations that will change the way DMAI operates moving forward. Be sure to join us in Minneapolis for the Annual Convention to be a part of the transformation.

Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.

DMAI was joined in San Juan by a number of industry leaders including Deborah Sexton, President and CEO of PCMA; Paul Van Deventer, President and CEO of MPI; David DuBois, President and CEO of IAEE; Roger Dow, President and CEO of the U.S Travel Association; Katherine Lugar, President and CEO of AH&LA; Kelly Craighead, Executive Director, National Travel and Tourism Office, U.S. Department of Commerce; and Chris Thompson, President and CEO of Brand USA.

What became abundantly clear throughout the event is that collaboration is the key to ensuring the future success of our industry. Innovation happens through collaboration. And if our industry is going to remain relevant in a hyper-competitive global marketplace, with an incredible pace of change, industry-wide collaboration, cooperation and consensus will be essential. Look for DMAI to reconvene these industry leaders and more at the Annual Convention in Minneapolis, and throughout the year.

One advantage of talking to yourself is that you know at least somebody's listening.

While industry-wide collaboration is critical, we must do a better job of engaging with leaders and industries outside of our own. We all recognize the power of travel and the impact that it has on communities. So let’s stop telling ourselves about it and start engaging the rest of the world!

As an example, Deborah Sexton called on the CEOs of various destinations to engage corporate and civic leaders in their communities and contribute to the messaging on the impact of meetings and events. More and more communities are realizing that the benefits of destination promotion extend beyond the visitor economy, and therefore we must extend conversations well-beyond traditional stakeholders to include the wider local community: residents, economic development agencies, academic institutions and civic leaders.

In light of this, DMAI will be placing a strong emphasis on advocacy efforts moving forward, beginning with the hiring of Jack Johnson as our new Chief Advocacy Officer. 

Strength lies in differences not similarities. 

If you’re going to be engaging and speaking to different audiences, it’s imperative to include representatives of various backgrounds in the industry. Building diverse human capital in our industry was a major topic of discussion. Just as the travel market is becoming more diverse, so must our workforce. Tyronne Stoudemire, VP of Global Diversity and Inclusion for Hyatt Hotels, did a fabulous job of speaking about the importance of building a business case for diversity and inclusion in your organization.

An area that went mostly unnoticed during the event, but stood out to me was the lack of industry diversity in our DMO leadership. At one point the audience was asked who comes from a hotel background. Nearly the entire room raised their hands. If our industry is going to move away from the “heads in beds" mentality and convince governments and stakeholders that tourism promotion should be viewed as an investment in a destination's economic growth and community well-being, it will be imperative to bring more professionals with backgrounds in economic development, urban planning and political science into our industry.

The best way to predict the future is to create it.

Paul Van Deventer said it best, “If you’re running in place, someone is going to pass you by.” Throughout the conference, Don Welsh asked all of the panelists for their advice on what DMAI could do better. A common response from many was to focus more on what the long-term future has in store and how DMOs can help shape it. 

This underscores the importance of DMAI’s DestinationNEXT initiative, and the need to continually assess trends, adapt to changing customer expectations, and discover and drive new opportunities. When the travel landscape changes as quickly as it does today, a strategic road map needs to be constantly updated, so that DestinationNEXT doesn’t become DestinationYESTERDAY.

Politics swing like a pendulum.

Given the current political climate, it was no surprise that a lot of conversation centered around the Presidential race and what the outcomes would mean for our industry. While we didn’t reach a consensus on who the next leader of the free world would be, it was significant to hear from Chris Thompson that the importance of travel has been engrained in the various agencies of government, from the bottom up, and therefore an administration change does not mean that we will have to start the advocacy process over with a new leader.

Bonus Takeway: It’s a new day at DMAI.

My final takeaway is that I was blown away by the level of excitement and enthusiasm shown during the event, much of which can be attributed to the infectious energy that Don brings to the organization. As Scott Beck said best, “It is a new day at DMAI and the future looks like we will all be wearing shades.”