Being a destination leader used to be so much simpler. The mission was clear: attracting ever more visitors to drive increased revenue, tax receipts and jobs.
Demand generation remains a top priority for most destinations. But increasingly, many also are looking for ways to use their marketing might and other knowhow to address rising threats to the very health of their destinations.
The list is long: Imperiled natural assets. Workforce issues. Inadequate infrastructure. Fragmented governance. Struggling businesses. Angry residents. Funding challenges. Too many visitors – or not enough of the right ones.
Better Destinations was founded to help leaders chart their way through this tricky new landscape. I’m still a one-woman outfitter for this expedition, but I’m prepared to pull in a lot of smart guides. Collectively, we are ready to equip leaders to find their way to better outcomes.
Better Destinations is built on partnership. My many years in the tourism industry brought me into the orbit of so many talented organizations and people, many of whom remain friends and colleagues. More recently, as a Trustee for the Travel Foundation, I’ve had the great good fortune of witnessing emerging formulas for destination success and encountering an even wider circle of remarkable thought leaders.
I’m also finding deep inspiration in the written word, particularly in Destinations at Risk: The Invisible Burden of Tourism, commissioned by the Travel Foundation shortly before the pandemic. This 59-page white paper identifies a host of risk factors for tourism and urges leaders to make an honest assessment of each. The goal is to maximize the opportunities for the world’s largest service industry while addressing its impacts in meaningful ways, ultimately to position tourism as a “net positive” for host communities.
More inspiration can be found in Overtourism: Lessons for a Better Future, a new book by the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST), released just last month by Island Press. This compilation of contributions from journalists, scientists, destination leaders and others points to solutions from around the world. (I’m honored to be a contributing author.)
One longtime tourism analyst told me recently that he questions whether tourism leaders have what it takes to deal with the wide-ranging problems confronting destinations. I told him, that’s where we part company. Tourism leaders not only can play a key role in resolving these issues, they must. And when they do, they have potential to create a new value proposition for the power of tourism in their communities.
Across the U.S., destination leaders are forging new alliances to solve complex problems that suddenly are on the to-do list. I’m hoping they’ll think to add this to the list: Reach out to Better Destinations.
I chose that name for my consultancy for a reason. For me, “better” is a powerful word, expressing energy, potential and intention. Better is neither perfect nor finished. It signals a faithful commitment to progress. This is exactly what I intend to bring to my work for every client and any destination.
On a personal note, Better Destinations names not only my consultancy, but my own intentions to seek better places, including time with loved ones. When my life suddenly changed course a couple of months ago, many kind people reminded me that when one door shuts, another opens. The journey to that new door has been full of discovery, and, yes, it’s turning out to be a net positive.