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Destination Analysts' State of the American Traveler: Mobile Edition

New events added to the Industry Calendar
Patricia Maher Appointed new Head of Grenada Tourism

Ramon Andrews is new Director of Turks and Caicos Tourism

Alan Kidd to Lead NASC

Bruce MacMillan to Lead Rebooted VisitDFW

Kara Stoller Promoted to Head Steamboat Springs DMO

Sandy Ward Named Director of Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism

Jeffrey Hentz to Lead the Port Aransas TX DMO

Mary Seely Selected to Head the Clinton IA CVB

Bruce Conklin to Lead the Putnam County (NY) Visitors Bureau

Juniata River Valley Visitors Bureau Elevates Jenny Barron Landis to Top Spot

Mackinac Island (MI) Tourism Bureau Selects Quincy Ranville as New Director

Shelly Blackburn Promoted to Top Spot at the Columbia County (GA) CVB

Dale Lockett to Lead Development of a DMO for Bastrop TX

Betsy Howell to Retire after 30 Years at the Central PA CVB

Melissa Landin is Out at the Harlingen CVB

Lynn Dorsey Departs the Webster Parish LA CVB

Lake Erie Shores & Islands’ Joan Van Offeren Passes

Yates County Chamber’s Mike Linehan Dies Unexpectedly

Former Fort Dodge CVB Director Dan Payne Dies

Savannah CVB Marks 40 Years

Ashland Area (OH) CVB Celebrates 20 Years

Savannah’s Joe Marinelli Honored

Livingston County MI’s Barb Barden Honored

Columbus-Lowndes CVB’s Nancy Carpenter Named Woman of the Year

Little Rock’s Gretchen Hall Named to SmartMeeting’s Smart Women of 2017

Leavenworth KS’s Kristi Lee Named Employee of the Year

Brand USA's Chris Thompson Featured in Travel Weekly

WV Tourism’s Chelsea Ruby Featured in the Gazette Mail

Nebraska’s John Ricks Featured on NTV

Former Visit Florida’s Will Seccombe Featured in Skift

Maui’s Shirley Duong Featured on Travel Pulse

New Orleans’ Stephen Perry Featured on TravelPulse

Baltimore’s Al Hutchinson Featured in the Carroll County Times

Spartanburg’s Chris Jennings Featured in the Upstate Business Journal

Macon’s Gary Wheat Featured in the Macon Telegraph

Chapel Hill’s Laurie Paolicelli Featured on WCHL

Sioux Fall’s Teri Schmidt Featured in the Argus Leader

Bucyrus OH’s Trish Ratliff Featured in the Telegraph-Forum
The Most Influential Restaurant in American History. The last Howard Johnson’s is for Sale.

Best Obit Ever. So Wish I had Partied with this Guy.

Dumb and Dumber. Americans For Prosperity are Clueless when it comes to the Visitor Economy.

The Consequence. After the Travel Ban, Interest in America Nosedives.

Tell No One. If You Have a New Brand.
“You gotta be there before you gotta be there.”      I don’t know if he coined the phrase, but I learned that from my friend Phil Craig (CEO of the Ohio Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus).

The insanity currently in play in the Florida Legislature (the House of Representatives has voted to radically cut its investment in Visit Florida) should certainly cause anyone in a leadership position within the Destination Marketing sector to take Phil’s words as serious as a heart attack.

Because, they ARE coming for you, too.

And, they’re armed with alternate facts and phrases designed to incite envy and anger from their base…a base that no more understands how destination marketing works than they know how to build a starship.

Not unlike the utterly skewed data with which an anti-convention center researcher once scored the endorsement of the Brookings Institute (he used data from the recession to “prove” that the convention industry was in decline), a Michigan-based “think tank” has cooked up a study saying that investing in Destination Marketing is bad public policy.

Does Destination Marketing really produce a 7 to 1 return on investment (ROI)? That’s what one professional study suggests. Others have placed the ROI at a slightly higher 10 to 1 ratio. And, while we’d certainly welcome any professionally rigorous study that would challenge these previous findings, it would have to suggest something that was even remotely reasonable.

But, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy holds that their research shows that for every million dollars invested in Destination Marketing, a community can only expect $20,000 in increased visitor spending. No, I didn’t drop a couple zeros. I didn’t even drop one. And, they actually expect people to to believe this tripe?

I don’t care what their methodology is, this is simply impossible. And here’s how I know. The bid fee for a destination defining event can often reach $50,000. Let’s say that this event attracts 1,000 elite athletes from around the country and just half of them stay in hotels.

At an average Room Rate of $100, that’s $50,000 in new lodging revenue generated right there. Before a single cup of coffee is enjoyed, a single bite of food consumed and a single memento purchased.

And the cost? $50,000 for the bid fee. Maybe $100,000 for the DMO’s sales and services personnel that landed the event. And, maybe, maybe, another $50,000 in preparing the bid, attending trade shows to meet the client (and other potential event producers) and hosting client site visits. And even with the impossibly austere visitor spending patterns suggested above, it certainly didn’t take a million dollars to significantly bypass $20,000 in hotel sales alone. Imagine what a DMO could land with the $800,000 that’s left over.

Even if the event only generated $1 million in local spending, it’s just one reason why Destination Marketing is critical to the economy of every community in the land. The other, more elusive number (but just as, if not more, important) is the number of people that have competed in or witnessed that event over the years that have chosen to relocate their families and businesses in that community after experiencing it. Yeah…that happens a lot more than most think.

But, as much as we debunk these clowns who hide behind an official sounding name, the audience for the rantings of ideologues will take it as gospel cause it sounds good. As Paul Simon once sang, “let’s get together and call ourselves an institute.”  Unfortunately, if you and I formed a National Institute for Tourism Research, nobody would pay us any attention because we wouldn’t be producing inflammatory nuggets for the media and politicians. Just the facts. And, the truth is boring.

And, by the way, lest the facts get in the way of a good story, one of the authors of the report produced an analysis in 2009 touting (are you ready) a 15 to 1 ROI in his analysis of Indiana Tourism promotion. In that report, the authors breathlessly fawned over the ROI that Indiana was enjoying. And, they weren't saying $15 of visitor spending for every $1 invested in promotion; they reported $15 in tax revenue returned for every $1 in marketing. Guess it comes down to who’s paying the bill for this questionable ”think tank.”

But, as squirrelly as the methodology and background may be, there will still be opportunists that will use it to make political points for themselves while sacrificing jobs and small business owners. That’s where Phil’s “You gotta be there before you gotta be there,” exhortation needs to be mantra for us all.

Our facts vs. their facts is a coin toss as to who will believe either side. The only antidote for drive-by attacks like these is to have a pre-existing, solid relationship with elected leaders at every level of government AND the businesspeople who support their candidacies. If elected officials know you, trust you and rely on your counsel, alternative facts will wick off them like water on a wood duck. And, if you have the same kind of relationship with their top 5 or 10 financial supporters, even better.

If you recoil at the thought that researching their top contributors is somehow sneaky or unseemly, don’t. There’s a reason why campaign contributions are public record…so we can know who has the ear of our elected leaders. And, trust me, if the shoe was on the other foot, they’d be working that list. So, it’s time to get over yourself and do some serious research into who has the ear of yours. Chances are they are business people who do understand the value of what we do on their behalf.

And, this isn't just about big budget DMOs. We recently witnessed a small County DMO lose its contract to market its destination because the County thought it could do a better job. That County proved otherwise when it promptly forgot to renew its URL. 

Destination Marketing is at a dangerous crossroads. A Skift piece recently highlighted a handful of other hotspots that have boiled up around the country since the Florida meltdown began. There will be more. And, until we successfully repel this destructive movement, none of us will be safe.

Unless we’re already “there.”

Be there…and let’s be careful out there.

'Til next time,


Thanks to Bill Zeinemann at Monona Terrace for the catch on my math mistake in the first posting of this missive. Thanks for being part of the Z-News family, my friend.
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