When you’re tasked with being a community leader, building and maintaining strong relationships with your industry partners is crucial. Not only is it important for disseminating key information, it’s just as beneficial for establishing long-term relationships that help to elevate industry performance.
Visit California’s “Third Thursdays”
Visit California (VC) launched “Third Thursdays” in May 2013, as a cross disciplinary exercise designed to gather information on festivals, events and marketing campaigns from destination marketing organizations (DMO) within the state. A DMO was invited to come to the VC office where they were greeted by 50 VC staff and its supporting agency partners.
It’s blossomed into an educational session – replete with a “taste” of the region - which allows the state’s marketing, advertising, PR, digital, travel trade, content creation and other departments to better understand the state’s challenges, needs and key stories.
As part of the “Third Thursday program” each DMO is interviewed prior to the presentation and that material is provided to participants in advance so that they can prepare questions.
Today, the 45-minute presentations focus on telling the destination’s story, often in conjunction with key regional experience partners (we hear Jelly Belly was a big hit!), just as the destination would present itself to prospective consumers. The presentation is then followed by a 15-minute Q&A.
A networking session follows the Q&A, which allows time for relationship building – often over a taste of the region’s culinary bounty (which is also provided in gift-bags for everyone to take home.) The program has been so successful that the “Third Thursday” sessions are now booked a year in advance and have been since month three of the program.
So what good has come from these sessions? In addition to advancing product knowledge, these presentations have resulted in immediate content creation for the state’s social platform and website, innovative content for the visitor’s guide, and a new approach for tackling a key tourism issue that one region presented.
Sounds like time well spent!
Greater Miami CVB’s “Miami Begins With Me”
Miami’s aggressive partner engagement program began when Miami was preparing to welcome the tourism world at IPW in 2009. Knowing all eyes would be on the city, Greater Miami CVB knew through customer feedback that there was a real need for customer service training throughout the extended tourism community. The program, “Miami Begins With Me,” was born.
Since the launch of “Miami Begins With Me,” more than 30,000 airport employees, taxi drivers and tourism businesses have been trained in the fine points of welcoming travelers to Miami. The four-module program covers the importance of tourism to the Miami economy, the history and heritage the makes Miami unique in the nation, highlights of the city’s key attractions and tourism experiences and the fine points of exceptional customer service. Today, the 1-2 hour customer service portion of the program has become part of the mandatory orientation process for new hires at the airport, seaport and taxi companies.
The program has in fact been so successful that the bi-weekly classes offered at the airport to airport employees (including breakfast and lunch!) and bi-monthly sessions at the GMCVB offices open to GMCVB members, are being expanded in July to include bi-monthly classes on Miami Beach for all members of the tourism community. Those individuals completing the program are rewarded with an official certificate and destination-appropriate mementos – from shirts, hats and pins, to discounts to area attractions.
With online learning playing an increasingly important role in corporate training, GMCVB is working with Miami-Dade College to develop an online curriculum which can be completed virtually.
North Carolina Tourism’s “TRAC”
Visit North Carolina's Tourism Resource Assistance Center (TRAC) was launched in 2011 as a community-based training program designed to help small tourism-related businesses grow.
Four to five times a year, TRAC sessions offer tourism businesses, which are invited by the local DMO, opportunities to speak directly with North Carolina Tourism’s staff to learn the latest developments in tourism research, product development and destination marketing. Attendees leave with the insight they need to target travelers, media and the travel trade.
It also offers North Carolina Tourism the opportunity to showcase to local communities how each can participate in the state’s tourism marketing programs which reach both domestic and international travelers.
At times, representatives from other state departments also join in - including the Departments of Commerce, Cultural Resources and Environment and Natural Resources, and the NC GreenTravel program – to provide assistance with strategic planning, identifying resources and serving as liaisons with other local, state and federal agencies.
A five-hour session, running from 10 AM – 2 PM typically allows the Tourism Office to meet with between 25 and 70 local tourism businesses. These days, the demand for the program exceeds availability, but the result of training local businesses on how to engage visitors is working. Tourism spending in North Carolina recently hit an all-time high, helping to support 44,000 North Carolina businesses and directly supporting more than 200,000 jobs across the state.
Have other examples of successful partner engagement programs? We’d welcome weblinks!
Karyl Leigh Barnes is the Managing Partner of the Tourism Practice at Development Counsellors International, The Leader In Marketing Places.