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.

This year at the Destinations International Annual Convention 2020, Jack Johnson, Chief Advocacy Officer, really threw down the gauntlet in a big and unambiguous way. His challenge to destination organizations? Change. Change significantly, change quickly, or face irrelevance.

In Jack’s opinion, the writing is on the wall. The future of tourism unequivocally includes stakeholder engagement, community-shared values and a keen focus on what and how the industry contributes to the life of locals.

My guest this week has been out in front of community shared values and destination alignment for as long as I have known her.

Marsha Walden is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Destination British Columbia. 

Her career spans corporate leadership roles in marketing, strategy, transformation, operations, communications and social responsibility. But I know Marsha best for the catalytic role she has played in reorganizing Destination BC and stratifying the province’s tourism marketing and product development.

Destination BC Service Plan

In their 2017-2020 Destination BC Service Plan, Marsha’s team penned this prescient statement: “Coordination, collaboration and alignment between Destination BC, all levels of government and industry is needed to fully realize the potential of B.C.’s tourism industry and the communities that depend on it.”

Reflecting on the impact of the current pandemic crisis, Marsha sees an opportunity to reset the board at a local level.

 “One of the interesting things that is coming out of COVID-19 is more and more discussion around the social licence that tourism needs to have [in terms of] creating balance with its residents,” says Marsha. “And now the stakes are even higher because it has health implications and other aspects.”

Venice Canals

Marsha cites Venice as a living example, “If we think that the people of Venice having now reclaimed their city, and seen it again as it was 150 years ago, are going to embrace the old [way of tourism], I think we're sorely mistaken. This gives them a chance to reimagine what their new world will look like.”

Marsha, like Jack Johnson, poses a challenge to us all. “This is a time for all of us to take stock and to really rebalance the needs of our visitors, of our businesses and of our residents, and really contemplate what are the most important things we do as entities.” 

And in Marsha Walden’s own words, “Really, it's about delivering benefits to locals.”