Future of Tourism Series | Guest Blog
By Dave Herrell
Destination leadership executives’ ability to have good peripheral vision has always been paramount to success. Anticipating and understanding threats and weaknesses, and creating solutions and opportunities to meet demand, expectations and mission is hard work and not for the faint of heart.
2021 is the year of the ox, which I like because oxen are strong, determined, diligent, and dependable. Visit Quad Cities’ organizational values are rooted in people, partnerships, and personality, and this year we will use the ox as a metaphor for our regional destination’s direction. Our organization and visitor economy need to regain its strength, our service delivery to our diverse customer set must be dependable, and the product experience and program of work’s diligence must embody positive energy from the inside out. If we are going to compete for people, talent, place and perception, we must always be moving forward and moving rapidly. We have a serious responsibility to our bi-state (Iowa/Illinois) region in how we continue to create a culture of forward-thinking and welcoming Quad Citizens.
During 2020 we were able to demonstrate the critical importance of tourism and how it empowers community and economy through the severity of losses and lost momentum. These losses were felt in all sectors and industries related to tourism and it was the talk around the virtual “water cooler.” Now, as strategic agenda drivers for our respective communities, I believe that during 2021 and the next few years we will not be competing for audience share, but for soul. How our product is shaped and the people behind its curation and continuum will be the true north that creates success and emotional connection.
What is different in 2021 vs. 2020? I think our capability to adapt and fortify community through our shared denominator of love for what we do and where we get to do it opened our eyes to a broader world view moving into this year. Social injustice, civil unrest, political polarization, economic uncertainty, mental health and well-being challenges, and an insidious enemy taking away what we treasure the most stopped us in our tracks. However, it has also provided clarity and a renewed sense of direction that our industry, albeit flawed in many ways, is made up of real “Avengers” for good: brave women and men with very different skill sets and superpowers aligning for purpose.
Thinking about what is next and when and how we will find success as an industry is what wakes me up at 2:30 a.m. to binge Prime or Netflix. I eventually turn it off and my mind races toward just a few things that I will share with you:
- Meaningful relationships with people have always and will continue to drive everything.
- Private sector CEOs from around the world need to step up, lead, and show that they will travel again for business (when it is safe to do so). Transient business travel is too important to lose to efficiency. We need to reinforce this message at the highest level.
- Visit Quad Cities is evolving into a technology company and I would encourage you to embrace tech regardless of your organization’s size and current resources.
- Valuable content along with viable owned and earned media build stories. And great storytelling…well, you know the rest.
- Wake up and experience a sunrise. I promise you it is well worth it. And the best part is that it will do it again and again each day.
Thanks for listening, my fellow Avengers. I am proud to get the opportunity to work alongside you on this shared quest for making the places we live better. Let us continue to blaze some new trails, crush the fear with hope, and enter the room loudly for our destinations’ and industry’s sake.
By the way, I am hoping one day that I get to be Nick Fury.
President and CEO of Visit Quad Cities
Dave serves as the President and CEO of Visit Quad Cities. Visit Quad Cities is the region’s official destination marketing and management organization (DMMO) charged with driving economic development opportunities through tourism. Herrell leads the vision, strategy and day-to-day operations of the non-profit, community-based organization. The Visit Quad Cities team is responsible for business growth & service, brand acceleration & engagement, destination partnership & regional initiatives, and the overall visitor experience in the QC.