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.

My guest this week is a tourism development specialist with a special gift; he sees the opportunities to make people smile and is driven by the little things that make destinations fun and memorable. He is constantly thinking about the things that surprise and delight a person and make them want to capture a moment and share it with friends.

He is an outside-the-box kind of guy with a ton of experience working with tourism regions, DMOs, destinations, operators and stakeholders to develop strategies and then to develop the visitor experiences to support those strategies. He lives by his own maxim - don’t spend good marketing dollars on weak assets.

Chris Hughes is the Director and Master Experience Crafter and a founding partner of BCHuges Consulting in Ontario, Canada. Their formula for success: Offer a unique experience, make people laugh and smile, and make it memorable. 

Sounds easy, right? In some sense it is. But it takes research, creative ideas, a crafted delivery, and a buy-in from all those involved… and that is where Chris really shines. He sticks around to get things done!

Today Chris talks about his experiences in navigating the troubled waters of past crises and how product development plays an essential role in recovery.

Make no mistake, Chris sees product and destination development as the really hard-work of tourism, but it is work that is infinitely valuable and creates real legacy value from our efforts.

 “The easiest path in tourism is still to take dollars, whether it is member dollars or recovery dollars, and spend it on advertising. Easy, but neither effective nor sustainable,” says Chris. “At BCHughes, we advocate for investing in experiences and then leveraging those great products and offerings through social media. When the product starts to spread virally on its own, oh man there is no better feeling for a guy like me.”

“It is time for the DMO to reinvent itself.”

In this difficult time, Chris has some words of caution for all of us: “It is time for the DMO to reinvent itself. If you don’t have a robust stakeholder piece, if you are not engagement ready, you are almost irrelevant.” He sees a lot of DMOs regurgitating federal and state level communications without adding any value and that concerns him. “Align yourself with stakeholders and get to work on local,” is Chris’ advice.

“We are on pause,” says Chris, “and we have to be patient with what’s happening. We have to focus on world health first and foremost, but I am confident that there are plenty of smart people in this industry who are swivelling (Chris’ new word for pivot) and we will come back stronger.”

Chris is working with destinations and stakeholders across the country to shape and deliver memorable experiences that generate compelling, self-propelling tourism stories, and he is doing that right now, in the middle of this pandemic with partners who know only too well that destination development doesn’t stop in a crisis - it just becomes more important!