In this time of global crisis and uncertainty, we put the call out to leaders, CEOs, strategists and consultants to sit down and tell us, in their own words, what is going on and what is going to happen next in this vital global industry.

The global pandemic has cast a very bright light on the relevance, and unfortunately, in some cases the irrelevance, of destination organizations in their home communities.

So much of what we do as destination organizations is focused on people outside our communities; thus, it is no surprise to find the question of local relevance rearing its head in difficult times. But let’s be careful here, for while that explains a small portion of the local disconnect, it is hardly sufficient to explain the real issue: we are not very local, our legacy value contributions are either not recognized or not significant — you choose.

All that said, there are destinations worldwide and in our own backyards that have been focussing on sustainable and regenerative destination management and legacy value destination development for a decade. In some cases, decades.

That is the case in the Raystown Lake Region of Pennsylvania.

Matthew Price, executive director of the Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau, has been championing a progressive agenda of alignment and activation in Pennsylvania for more than a decade.

He had this to share in the spring of 2021: “The lesson of COVID-19 has been that physical projects like trails and river access have made more of a difference in attracting new visitors than events have.”

Some of the greatest lessons about stakeholder engagement and civic alignment come from small or rural destinations where there is often no choice but to sew together the Leviathan of assets and attributes that make up the mosaic that the visitor needs to make a choice.

The story of Raystown Lake — its U.S. Army Corps of Engineers origins and the incredible work done to align stakeholders from across the spectrum, including hotels, accommodations, trail building groups, city councils, state players, the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA), and the like, is a template for sustainable community-based destination developments. 

Raystown Lake is an icon in U.S. mountain biking. It hosted the high-profile Dirt Fest for more than a decade. Personally, I have a soft spot for mountain biking, Raystown Lake, and the kind of destination development that Matthew Price has championed at the Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau.

If you build it, yes, indeed they will come. One caveat — only if you spend a decade working with stakeholders to make it authentic, highly shareable and highly shared.