100 Years of Advancing Destinations

"Stop whining!"

Author: Joy Lin
Posted: August 08, 2013
Blog Topics Covered:
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Opinion: An industry plea to have a little pride, love yourself, and just be awesome.

In the Industry Spotlight session at DMAI's Annual Convention last month in Orlando, a panel of DMO CEOs were asked what is the one thing DMOs should stop doing, and the resounding answer from Tom Norwalk, CEO of Visit Seattle, was, "Stop whining!"

It made us laugh. It made us think.

When you work in our industry, there's a lot to worry about, there's a lot to complain about, and there's a lot that simply drives us crazy.

Most importantly, there's always something we can do about it.

When I joined DMAI and the empowerMINT team under the legendary Shimo and company, empowerMINT was just a little destination search and RFP engine that could. Three years later, we discovered what it really could be: an industry-wide marketing initiative that tirelessly carves out spaces where DMO sales professionals can help.

Scott Beck, CEO of Visit Salt Lake said, "As DMAI celebrates its 100 years of existence in 2014, many DMOs have as well -- Detroit, San Francisco, Atlanta to name a few -- I believe that qualifies us as a mature industry. We may not always act mature, but we are a mature industry."

So maybe it's time we start acting that way. It's not about feeling undervalued or playing constant defense or fighting for a seat at the table, it's about nurturing our reputation as a mature and valuable industry.

One of the ways that we at empowerMINT show this is through a bi-weekly drip of Q&A-style interviews with both DMO sales professionals and meeting planners about what you do and why you do it. In looking over the last dozen or so most recent interviews, one thing is obvious: We are awesome.

Here are five of my favorite discoveries about you as DMO sales professionals, and I'm sure you'll agree:

5. Your days are never dull.

Have you ever had two days that are exactly alike? Jon Hixon of Tourism Toronto said, "The best thing about my job is waking up each day knowing that it won’t be the same as the day before." There's definitely something to be said about people who thrive in professional lives not dictated by routine. As someone who values regularity to my day, I have such respect for you who juggle a variety of needs and responsibilities from not just different people, but different new people...like, complete strangers.

4. You keep it real.

In a world that's hard to come by good advice, DMO sales professionals are a breath of fresh air. You're not fake about your destination. You know what you've got. You know what you don't. As Mike Smith from Travel Portland explains, "We’d rather not get selected than get selected based on pie-in-the-sky that we can’t deliver." You are who you are: you are in the best position to provide well-informed, unbiased recommendations, and it's all our jobs to make sure both meeting planners and hotels and venues know that.

3. You're a know-it-all. (And that's OK.)

There is no one in the meetings industry that knows more about your destination than you do. So, if you combine all the DMO sales professionals in all 300-plus destinations (in the U.S. alone!) that have dedicated staff for booking group business, you can imagine the power that you command as an army of true experts when it comes to brokering relationships, identifying solutions that fit everyone's needs, and saving time and money by alleviating logistical burdens. Omaha CVB's Cathy Keller said it best, "Think of us as the destination broker – a resource of everything that is available and the right contacts to make it happen."

2. You love your destination.

It's a rough time of it if you're trying to get someone to subscribe to something you don't believe in, so consider yourselves lucky that you're selling what you love, and what you love is home. There's a Nancy Reagan quote about how homes are no more than the people who live in them, and this is particularly true of a DMO sales professional that has the in-market relationships cultivated over the years, that not only make a community and a home for you -- but a local spirit and flavor that's inviting to planners. Rachel Benedick of Visit Denver said, "As a DMO there is little we have total control over, but one thing we do control is the relationships we’ve built to serve [planners]."

1. You're not free. You're a collective investment.

One of the most common gripes I hear from our industry is, "What's free isn't valued." First of all, this isn't true. When Andrea Marks of Pure Fishing was asked what was her favorite thing about DMOs, she answered, "Obviously, they don't send us a bill at the end of the event." But more importantly, you have to remind yourselves that you most definitely are not free. You may be free to one stakeholder, namely the planner, but you are not free to the network of local hotels, venues, restaurants, lawmakers, and other service providers that have invested in you to grow the meetings industry within your destination. You represent their collective investment and commitment to this industry, because they trust in your value. And that's powerful.

I get that we deal with a lot on a regular basis. I understand that it's not always pretty. But at the end of the day, life as a DMO sales professional isn't so bad.

We're still a group of over 3,000 strong, supported by our communities to bring new and different groups of people to visit and experience the destinations we love.

In my honest opinion, it really doesn't get much better than that, so can we please stop whining and just be awesome?

Contact Joy Lin at jlin@destinationmarketing.org.