Nick Povalitis, CDME, is vice president of marketing and sports development at Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, leading its tourism marketing and sports development strategy and program execution.
If we’re keeping score from home, it sure seems like 2020 is winning.
On the heels of record-breaking travel and tourism numbers in calendar year 2019 — when, per VISA Analytics & Consulting, our industry was on pace to generate $1 trillion annually by 2025 — travel as we know it has come to a screeching halt for the bulk of this year, as indicated by some of tourism’s foremost data authorities:
Still, amidst what is one of the biggest economic and lifestyle disruptions on record, this once-in-100-years pandemic continues to remind us of the harsh realities that our industry is facing. Commonplace are decimated budgets, staffing cuts and way too many buzzwords that may as well be synonymous with swear words. (Essential, virtual and “new norm,” anyone? Safe to say we’ve all about had it with those!)
We’ve undoubtedly expanded the tourism lexicon again this year. But thankfully, because of who we are as natural can-doers, we have so much left in the well to go back to. That well is right underneath all of our feet, in each and every of our destinations around the world.
Tourism is destination marketing. It is brand building and storytelling. It’s product development and experiential placemaking. It’s quality of life. When you look at our industry holistically, our figurative and tourism well — like our literal and individual well-being — starts right at home.
While this year’s ongoing disruption serves as the ultimate reset button, 2020 also gives all of us a clear vision and another good reason for getting back to the fundamentals. It’s a three-part game of basic ball that includes:
Curveballs, latitudes or longitudes aside, our strengths are still our strengths. It’s on us as individuals, organizations and destinations to understand, first and foremost, what makes us, us. Authenticity and quality are still the main thing and they always will be. For that, our clients, partners and prospects will be appreciative. Let’s leverage the technology at our fingertips — phones and computers make us part-cyborg after all, so do the research ahead of time — to ensure it’s about others. No excuses; selflessness is the way.
We’re community stewards, storytellers and destination experts. Backed by data, we also happen to be the unequivocal go-to source for all things destination marketing and sales. It’s on us to act on this expertise and responsibility with creativity and proactivity at top of mind. Regardless of where we call home, sharing your story to your scale makes every village, town, municipality, city or metropolis relevant. That’s the optimistic beauty of tourism — there’s a place for all of us.
And lastly, if you know your why and are prepared to proudly shout about it, this part should come a bit easier than expected. Rational, control-what-you-can strategies and tactics can go a long way toward driving organizational execution and preparation for the unexpected. This methodology represents the realist that lies in all of us. It’s that angel on our shoulders that reminds us to run lean and work fast, but expect a long haul with unrelenting disruption.
Like our daily lives, the reality is this game of tourism is not so basic. It’s hyper competitive and ever-changing, thanks in part to the exploits of the Wright brothers, the advent of television or social media or the unexpectedness of COVID-19. Sometimes we see change on the horizon, and sometimes we don’t.
In tourism, we are best suited to predict our future by doing what we can to create it.