Zeitgeist Consulting's DMOproz e-newsletter.
Attorney Bryan Grimaldi, former COO of NYC & Co. recommends how DMOs should be thinking now, in this era of COVID-19.
Host Bill Geist shares his thoughts on how DMO Boards should activate during the COVID-19 Crisis.
Germain Aphing Kouassi Appointed Director General of Côte d’Ivoire Tourisme

Jean-Marc Mocellin is New DMO CEO for The Islands of Tahiti

Turks and Caicos Tourism Names Pamela Ewing as New Director

Jadine Yarde Selected as New Head of the Nevis Tourism 

Stephen Foutes is the New Director for the Missouri Division of Tourism

Travis Napper Named Director of Arkansas Tourism

Maine Tourism Association Names Tony Cameron CEO

Canada’s RTO4 Promotes Andrea Gardi to CEO

Topeka’s Brett Oetting to Head the Corpus Christi CVB

Darien Schafer Heads Cross-Country to Visit Pensacola

Melanie Pursel to Lead the Ocean City MD Chamber

Julie Pingston is the Next CEO of the Greater Lansing MI CVB

Dominic Bravo is the New CEO at Visit Cheyenne

Stephanie Schoenrock is New Director of Visit Minot

Thomasville NC Tourism Names Cameron Green Marsden as New Director

Holly Karsjens is the New Director at the Albert Lea MN CVB

Marshall MN’s Cassi Weiss to Succeed Lauren Deutz

Lacey Ekberg is the New Tourism Director for Eureka Springs

Paige Anderson to Lead Red Wing MN CVB

Daviess County IN Chamber and Visitors Bureau Hires Joe Morris to Lead

Bermuda Tourism’s Kevin Dallas Steps Down

Matt Kenny Departs Miami Beach Tourism & Culture

Reno-Sparks CEO Phil DeLone Resigns

Tammy Potts-O’Kelley Resigns Post at the Heart of NC Tourism

Watkins Glen’s Rebekah Carroll Departs

Sandra Cabot Departs Ste. Genevieve Tourism

Benzie County MI Tourism Merges with Traverse City Tourism

Atlanta’s William Pate Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Tammy Potts-O’Kelley Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Winona Pat Mutter Awarded MN Tourism’s Highest Honor

St. Lucia Tourism’s Beverly Nicholson Doty Featured in Travel Industry Today

Fort Lauderdale’s Stacy Ritter Featured on WLRN

Madison's Deb Archer Featured on Talk 92.7

Sacramento’s Mike Testa Featured on KVIE

Lehigh Valley’s Alex Michaels is Featured on WDIY

CEOs of Johnstown and Laurel Highlands PA DMOs Featured in the Tribune Democrat

Visit Vacaville’s Melyssa Laughlin Featured in Comstock’s Magazine

Holland MI’s Sally Laukitis Featured on WHTC

Peoria IL’s JD Dalfonso Featured on WCBU

Visit Mankato’s Anna Thill Featured in Connect Business
 
This is the moment.

For regular readers, I know I previously said we’d be working through the 3 mandates for tomorrow’s DMOs over the next couple months…but changes to our world require a momentary pivot.

Skift’s Rafat Ali said, “(March 14th will always be remembered as) The Day the World Stopped Traveling.” I think we’ll just move that marker a day later and call it the Ides of March (and then, have a '70s song stuck in our heads).

We saw the signs two weeks earlier. We were in a community, interviewing resort managers when the cascading cancellations of conventions began. Slowly at first…then progressing much more rapidly. The NCAA. The NBA. The MLB. The momentum was absolutely frightening.

The following week, I was still traveling. There was still a sense that this wasn’t quite yet “a thing;” that the NCAA/NBA cancellations were an over-reaction. But there I was, with a flight delay that could have meant me getting home a day later, calling to see if I could just drive my rental car home. I wasn’t getting on another plane. Somehow, I just knew.

May I suggest that this has a silver lining?

Not in the short term, of course. My heart aches for all of our small businesses and entrepreneurs that have closed their doors, possibly forever. For all the workers that have been furloughed. For those everywhere that have had their hours cut or their jobs eliminated. And, for those souls we have lost around the world from this insidious virus...and their families that mourn. This just sucks on an astronomical level.

But, when we come out of this nightmare (and we will), we will have the attention of policymakers across this nation. For the first time, America will understand the value of Tourism to its economy. It’s something that virtually every other country on this planet appreciates. Now, America will finally understand.

Tourism Economics' latest estimates are that the fallout from our government’s response to COVID-19 will be over $400 billion of lost revenue in the tourism economy alone and that the travel and hospitality sector will shed almost 6 million jobs.

We all thought that the aftermath of the attacks of 9/11 would awaken policymakers to the crucial importance of the travel economy. It didn’t happen. And, maybe that’s on us. We didn’t take that moment to drive home our message.

That the upcoming downturn looks to be more than 6 times worse than 9/11 should be a more dramatic example to wake our elected officials to the power of this industry to drive economic growth and quality of life for residents.

But it won’t happen unless those of us in the Destinations Marketing world more clearly articulate our influence on the nation’s economy from this moment forward and never stop. As former Presidential Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel once said, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste…it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”

Most DMOs have been reaching out to our culinary communities to facilitate take-away and delivery services to at least keep kitchens open. Our family’s tribe includes a restauranteur and it’s going slowly…but, it’s going. Other restauranteurs are killing it. Other owners are shutting down, possibly for good. At least one industry expert believes 75% of independent restaurants will close forever.

We’re reaching out to our hotel partners, assisting where we can, by advising convention and sports groups to securing new dates and encouraging other clients to not cancel, but postpone. DMOs in Indy and St. Jo MO are selling out of logo T-shirts with revenues going to hospitality workers that live paycheck to paycheck. So incredibly cool.

In short, DMOs are becoming sensationally invaluable in this time of need to the very residents we serve. Like no other time before, our communities are learning of our value…or, at least, our tireless commitment.

We’re going to emerge from this crisis. When we do, room tax and tourism assessment collections will be lower than we’ve ever seen. EVER. 

Let’s be clear. When America is “free to move about the country” (sorry, I have a friend who makes money every time that iconic line is uttered), sophisticated governments will understand that their DMOs will need an infusion of cash. Not unlike Myrtle Beach, which during the last recession, approved a one penny sales tax to fund destination marketing, there needs to be a realization that room tax is not the only way to jump start a visitor economy.

And that means that DMO Leaders need to take action now to ensure that community leaders and residents understand the critically vital role that DMOs play in the sustainability of our economy. We didn’t take the opportunity presented by 9/11 to make that case.

Earlier today, I took to the DMOU microphone to further articulate how I believe DMO Boards, Management and Staff have a once in a lifetime opportunity to secure Destination Marketing and the Travel and Hospitality industry as a Shared Community Value. In the meantime, a substantial part of the planning for recovery from this nightmare needs to expand to developing the most coherent and evocative message possible to ensure that governmental investment in what we do is, not only sustained but, increased so DMOs can help our communities' small businesses emerge from this crisis.

Over the past couple weeks, most DMOs have been (rightfully and righteously) focused on their industry partners and their professional staffs. It’s time now to focus on our own long-range sustainability. We’ve already seen governments view this as an opportunity to cut DMO funding (as if the organic losses won’t be debilitating enough).

This is our moment. Stay focused. Stay Well.

Til Next Time,

Bill
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