More and more, we see destination organizations worldwide launching innovative programs to engage local stakeholders in developing long-term strategies for regenerative tourism that serve both local citizens and travelers. And, yes, specifically in that order — local citizens first!

Citizens must be central to our new networks. Civic bodies, interest groups, and authentic voices from our history, our present, and our future must be present in our new, wider network.

The hard part is that getting the broad engagement we need as destination organizations is an order of magnitude greater than anything we already have in place. As destination organizations, we’re very good at getting the usual suspects in a room — our hotel partners, our attractions, some levels of government, etc. — but what about the “unusual” suspects? The new cohort that represents the creativity, inclusivity, and broader thinking we all need as well? What about our sustainability partners, the youth voices, the citizen historians, and our social justice peers?

How do we cut through the clutter and demonstrate that something really different is happening at the DMO?

When I think about this challenge, I think of three examples from the last decade:

Where did they begin the monumental task of engaging and empowering a broad network of voices and interests that would change the future of their destination? How did they get started?

They all have one thing in common — that genesis event, that “halt and catch fire” moment, and it always seems to start with a spark that literally ignites a long conversation.

  • Copenhagen’s “The end of tourism as we know it’ cut through the clutter for sure, not just in Denmark but around the world
  • The Bay of Plenty’s widely shared, sincere commitment to not just growing tourism but to fixing tourism, to working out a model of inclusive and ongoing engagement, captured its people’s attention like nothing before
  • In 2011, RTO4’s strategic partnerships and destination animation programs spoke to a whole new way of co-developing a decade ahead of the curve … and people were listening

These were the initial sparks that cut through the clutter and got the people in a room, people who would share the work of shaping a new future for a destination, a future respectful of its past, its present, and its future.

Those sparks have to be bright and powerful if they are to get things going. They have to be a big deal. In a very short time, often a meeting or two, they have to move and inspire a critical mass of people to consider creating a new path

And that is as good a place as any to introduce my two guests for this Future of Tourism episode:

Rob Holmes, founder and chief strategist at GLP Films

Casey Canevari, business development manager at GLP Films

GLP Films has a mission of helping destinations, brands, and organizations achieve their sustainability goals by telling local stories globally through beautifully crafted video, engaging content and communications campaigns, using a people-first approach. 

In other words, they help provide that spark, crystalize that “halt and catch fire” moment, and move along the important conversations.