Beyond the Basics of Sustainability for DMO Managers: Arts

When we talk about sustainability’s triple bottom line – people, planet, profits – it can sometimes seem vague. But DMOs work on practical sustainability issues everyday.

Visitors come to see out environment and experience our culture.  Celebrating, promoting and preserving the culture and heritage of a destination is a task that DMOs can get behind. That is why the Arts Destination Marketing Award –  awarded to DMOs and Local Arts Agencies using arts to support destination marketing – is sustainability at its best. Well done DMAI and Americans for the Arts for recognizing the important connection between arts and tourism.

Better than Sustainability

Sustainable is a pretty low hurdle. How about we work to make tomorrow better than today.

DMO Managers are working on sustainability every day..

“Sustainability” has been described as one of the most “jargony-ist” words of recent times. Because I talk about sustainability a lot, I get this feedback from everyone – students, hoteliers, tour operators and DMOs.  I agree ! The word “sustainability”  is used way too frequently and too carelessly – and it’s too bad – because lost in the “I’m so over this word – sustainability” attitude is the important fact that DMOs are important agents of sustainability.

Imagine working to make the destination the best place it could be – a beautiful environment, people treated well and locals celebrating their unique culture, a healthy economy. Imagine you are doing it to get the best from/for the destination today – and that you are working to ensure the destination community remains a great place to be in the years to come. This scenario doesn’t take make imagination for many DMO managers – it is what they do every day.

So – sustainability and improving the “triple bottom line” – people, planet, profits – is core to the role of a DMO manager. Might be time to update the job description ….

When should you learn about tourism ?

Tourism is the largest industry in the world – and yet it is still called the “invisible industry”. Well – maybe it isn’t invisible – but it is hidden in plain site. Tourism and the visitor economy is right under our noses – but we don’t recognize it.

In some ways this lack of awareness starts in school. For example, as a school kid, we went on field trips and camps and we often seemed to find ourselves at farms set up to welcome students and show them agriculture. While I learned about the virtues of cows and pineapples ( I lived in Queensland, Australia) no one ever said anything about how visitors (like me) contribute to economic well being. I was a tourist and I didn’t even realise it..

It can come as no surprise that the tourism industry has such a great task to inform policy makers and politicians – not to mention community members – about the value of our work. In most cases we are starting from “scratch”.

4thGrdCurriculumCoverWhich brings me to the fantastic work of Indiana Office of Tourism Development. Mark Newman, the CEO of IOTD, recognized the importance of building a culture of tourism early in his tenure and worked with educators on the development of a grade 4 curriculum that recognizes the connection between tourism and social studies.

That’s strategic thinking in tourism – honest to goodness !

What DMO managers need to know: Food Trends and Tourism

Sustainability and Social Responsibility are are the driving force behind the Top 5 trends in restaurants in the U.S. according to the National Restaurant Association. The top food trends, according to the  National Restaurant Association Culinary Forecast 2015 are locally sourced meat, seafood and produce and environmental sustainability.

Why do DMO managers need to know this ? Because this trend is helping them meet their goals of improving the economic and social well being of their destination communities. WhatsHot2015-Top5_Food_1200x1200

We are all becoming familiar with infographics touting the economic benefits of tourism.  An important way to improve the economic impact is to reduce what economists call “leakage” – the money that leaves the community. Locally sourced restaurants and “farm to table” restaurants keep money in the community ! The money tourists spend at “farm to table” restaurants does “leak away” – it stays close to home. These trends is helping raise the economic impact of tourism in many communities.

DMO managers spend a lot of time attracting new visitors to their destination – but strategies to improve the economic impact of visitors as less common. Leveraging these important trends is a way that progressive DMO management can get the most for their communities from visitor dollars.

Tourism Systems…

Tourism is a system. A big, complex, ever changing, system.

Within the tourism system are thousands of embedded systems. Each destination, each distribution channel, each sector – is a system. Each system is unique.

…and tourism exists within systems. The tourism is part of larger social and economic systems – the city in which the activity takes place, the nation, the world.

Recognizing that tourism is a system changes everything… There is no “command and control” in tourism; there is no “single best way”. Solutions to problems within the system are unique to the specific set of challenges that part of the system is addressing. Collaboration, cooperation, communication, negotiation – these are just some of the skills of an effective manager in tourism systems.

Embracing “systems thinking” is a critical skill if we are to ensure the system creates positive outcomes…

Laying a Solid Foundation for the Future of Tourism

As an educator committed to building a better world, I spend a lot of time thinking about how we can equip the new generation to tackle the challenges they will face ( or should I say – the challenges we leave them….)

While it is hard to anticipate the specific skills needed in the world of tomorrow, I believe there are some core values that will be critical to developing a better tourism system in the years to come. My friends at TEFI  – Tourism Education Futures Initiative – have identified 5  important sets of values that make a great foundation on which to build curriculum – and a career. Those value dimensions and their specific values/skills include:

  • Stewardship: sustainability, responsibility, and service to the community
  • Mutuality: diversity, inclusion, equity, humility and collaboration
  • Ethics: Honesty, transparency, authenticity
  • Professionalism: leadership, practicality, relevance, timeliness, teamwork and pro-activity
  • Knowledge: critical thinking, innovation, creativity and networking.

Now – I’ll be the first to admit there may be a few things missing in this list – but it sure looks like a great place to start to me.