Tech, Travel, and Twang!

Tuesday Tea Ep. #3 | Creating Community-Driven Startup DMOs

June 25, 2024 Destination Innovate
Tuesday Tea Ep. #3 | Creating Community-Driven Startup DMOs
Tech, Travel, and Twang!
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Tech, Travel, and Twang!
Tuesday Tea Ep. #3 | Creating Community-Driven Startup DMOs
Jun 25, 2024
Destination Innovate

What does it take to build a thriving tourism hub in a small, heritage-rich community? Join our conversation with Mark Shore, CEO of Visit Bath County, Virginia, as he unveils the unique journey of establishing a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) in a town of just 4,200 people. Learn about the pivotal role of the historical Omni Homestead Resort, currently revitalized with a $170 million renovation, and its significance to Bath County's tourism landscape. Mark discusses fostering local support, highlighting the economic impact of tourism, and the intricate dance of balancing heritage with modern tourism demands.

We also explores the critical aspect of community engagement and the transformation of the visitor center into a vibrant community hub. Hear about innovative strategies like integrating local artists and the growing appeal of wellness tourism through the Warm Springs Pools. We delve into the importance of industry collaboration, the evolving nature of digital marketing, and transparent communication with community stakeholders. This episode is loaded with valuable insights and practical strategies for anyone interested in the intricacies of destination marketing and community-driven tourism development. Don't miss out on this enlightening conversation!

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

What does it take to build a thriving tourism hub in a small, heritage-rich community? Join our conversation with Mark Shore, CEO of Visit Bath County, Virginia, as he unveils the unique journey of establishing a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) in a town of just 4,200 people. Learn about the pivotal role of the historical Omni Homestead Resort, currently revitalized with a $170 million renovation, and its significance to Bath County's tourism landscape. Mark discusses fostering local support, highlighting the economic impact of tourism, and the intricate dance of balancing heritage with modern tourism demands.

We also explores the critical aspect of community engagement and the transformation of the visitor center into a vibrant community hub. Hear about innovative strategies like integrating local artists and the growing appeal of wellness tourism through the Warm Springs Pools. We delve into the importance of industry collaboration, the evolving nature of digital marketing, and transparent communication with community stakeholders. This episode is loaded with valuable insights and practical strategies for anyone interested in the intricacies of destination marketing and community-driven tourism development. Don't miss out on this enlightening conversation!

Speaker 1:

Well, hi there, welcome back to Tech Travel and Twang with our Tuesday Tea Edition. I have Kristen with me and today we have a really special guest as well. Good morning, kristen, good morning Jen Marby, and I want to introduce Mark Shore, very good, long time friend. We won't say how long, mark, we are dating each other, but Mark is the CEO of Visit Bath County, virginia. Hey, mark, good morning. How are you?

Speaker 2:

Great, it's great to be with both of you today.

Speaker 1:

Welcome to Tuesday Tea. Although it is water, but Christmas in July, kristen, I love that mug. It's huge. It's so much water, though, isn't that?

Speaker 3:

cute. Okay, you have to tell me where you got that. I have no idea. I'm a Christmas mug, all year round person too.

Speaker 1:

It's huge. It's like the size of my head. I digress.

Speaker 2:

I love that it says this end up on it, so you know which way to take it.

Speaker 1:

I love it, I love it, hi Julie. Well, mark, tell us a little bit, because Visit Bath County is a pretty new DMO, isn't it?

Speaker 2:

It is. It was created in early 2022, and they created a board here in Bath County. Now, tourism had been something that was promoted prior. For a while it was under the county, and then politics, as usual, got in the way and they outsourced it to an ad agency for a while and the local hospitality community got together and created a board and put together a set of bylaws and incorporated and created a 501c6 in 2022. And then I came on board in September of 22. So, towards the end of that year, um, and we're we're still building this thing. So, uh, it's been a great, uh a great past year and a half and, uh, lots of great things happening here, but definitely, uh, a unique challenge for somebody who's been around the industry for a long time to start up a DMO.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, but exciting to be able to mold something in a destination that hasn't had that opportunity before.

Speaker 2:

It really is. You know, and I come with things in my head as well as things in the computer that kind of help us to formulate anything from, you know, financial statements to policies and procedures. So that's the benefit of somebody that's been around for a long time is I did bring some things to the table for us to get going quickly, but never enough. As a startup you just can't imagine how many things are going on at the same time, and I've used the analogy of building an airplane in flight many times over the last year and a half.

Speaker 3:

Oh, I imagine. So you had to have. So my. So my big question is when this opportunity came about, what was your, what was your thought process in determining that you were going to be part of this? Like, like from the get go build of a brand new DMO? Like what was going through your head in that moment, what challenges were you like, deciding you were willing to be part of?

Speaker 2:

I guess, Well, I was hired and then the first two weeks I actually sat in the lobby of our main hotel because we didn't have an office, and so we went from you know finding an office, getting everything hooked up. I put together my own desk chair, somebody loaned us some furniture, the county gave us some of the old tourism files that they had, and so it really was kind of a well, let's see what we can put together here. During those first couple of weeks the community has been very supportive. It's a small community here. Our total population Bath County is 4,200 people. Bath County is 4,200 people. 90% of our land is either National Forest, state Park or Nature Conservancy, so there's very little private land to build homes on, and so our population is smaller. We're the second smallest population in Virginia.

Speaker 3:

Oh, wow.

Speaker 1:

And what does that inflate to with tourism?

Speaker 2:

Well, we have one major player and that has influenced tourism here since 1766. There's actually been a resort of sorts called the Homestead now called the Omni Homestead Resort here since the 1700s, and the main structure there now is a 500 plus room hotel that most of which structure dates back to the early 1900s, 1900 to 1930s, and so they just finished a $170 million renovation, and so that was the other part of this was being ready, when that reopening occurred, to be able to handle promotion and marketing, not just for the resort but for the whole county, and so that everybody benefits from that rising tide.

Speaker 1:

Very cool, that's very cool. So I have to ask 1700s, is it haunted?

Speaker 2:

There are stories I have not experienced to myself oh, wow, interesting.

Speaker 3:

I didn't realize the history there and the the way that you guys are structured with all of that, that private property. So does that? So how does that lend to the economic challenges Like, do you find that you guys are are? Do you find it limiting in what you're looking ahead to the next five, 10 years? Or is there other economic areas that you guys focus on as a bureau?

Speaker 2:

It's. It's fascinating and I'm still trying to get my head around some of the dynamics. In fact, I found myself reading a series of articles on community psychology the other day, because trying to understand what a destination resort in a community like this, where you may have a fourth or fifth generation employee working there and so there's a rich and a deep heritage of folks that have worked for the Omni Homestead and you've got an understanding that tourism is important, but not an understanding of why or how it impacts them individually. And one of the things that came on board, we had an 18-member board of directors which— it's a large board.

Speaker 2:

It's a large board for a small community too, and I have always said that if King Arthur had 12 at his roundtable and Jesus had 12 disciples and one of those didn't go well, then maybe 11 is a good board size. But I have a board of 18, and they've been fantastic, very supportive, and it does mean that I have access to most all of the hospitality community here in Bath County. But the community doesn't necessarily understand. They know tourism is good for them, but they don't know how. And so I've pushed back to the board and said if there's one number that you can remember, it is to talk about the average household tax savings per year because of tourism. And I actually sat here one Saturday doing spreadsheets and went back over my numbers time and time again because the number was much, much higher than anywhere I had ever worked.

Speaker 2:

And we are the second largest tax savings of any of the 133 cities and counties in Virginia per household. And I don't think our folks understand how much benefit that is for them individually. It's almost six times what the average is for Virginia, and so there's a huge benefit here and we not only need to talk about the positive aspects of. You know the visitor that's coming to the community. But also how does that impact the local citizens so that they understand why we need to be friendly and why we need to not be frustrated when somebody's driving really slow in front of us with out-of-state tags, and why we need to not be frustrated when somebody's driving really slow in front of us with out-of-state tags. It really is. It's significant to see the impact here.

Speaker 1:

That's incredible, though that at least you've got that one step of. They know it is good for them. They just maybe not know why, because in a lot of communities it's even, you know, towards anger at tourists. It's getting to that point in some of those places. So it's really good that you have that foundation to build on and then, aside from their taxes, you know, I've noticed a lot of community development happening in terms of just the psychological, like you said being kind, being patient, you know, getting the community to embrace these visitors as guests embrace these visitors as guests.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's. You know one thing that is lacking in this community in particular, there was such a reliance, there has been such a reliance on the resort the main resort doing most of the legwork for things, that we probably have some areas of improvement in product development. I would have been a little slower to say that's at the top of our list, but it's got to be at the top of our list. The activities, and just the main street activities, have a lot of potential and need to be developed. So we're looking at ways that we can include what we say and do and use the lodging tax correctly to help with product development, with implementing grant programs and just being as supportive as possible.

Speaker 1:

That's very cool and I really liked what you said earlier about it being kind of a startup. I mean, it really is. It's a startup environment which is, I'm guessing pretty different from your previous roles.

Speaker 2:

It is. You know, I've regardless of how, what the community was or what you inherit you've I've always had an organization that was at least moving forward, and maybe they had a structure in place and maybe it just needed tweaking. But this one was really like okay, how do we do in finances? And okay, we need to start doing some marketing before we do a strategic plan. But we need a strategic plan. At the same time we're going to launch something. So a lot of coordination of putting things out there that I kind of knew intuitively, which is nice to finally be at that point in my career where you can make a decision and move forward but then at the same time leading the board through a strategic process and talking to them about you know, where do we want to be in five years? And that's a learning curve for them as well, because they've not operated as a tourism board in the past.

Speaker 1:

Super interesting, though, for sure, and so what are the big things that you're looking for as far as trends go next year, for just overall, maybe not just for your destination, but, like as a CEO, dmo leader, what's on your mind for 2025? Ceo.

Speaker 2:

DMO leader, what's on your mind for 2025? Oh, for next year? It is really trying to hone in our skills on digital marketing and being able to attribute the successes that come from that, while at the same time, trying to be more of a leader within the community in terms of inspiring and encouraging projects and product development and customer service. And we'll be looking at a visitor center, probably over the next two years and working through vision statements on what that would be for the board, and so that's really what the next year really holds, really kind of making sure that machine of promotion is going strong with our digital marketing, at the same time, making sure that the community that fulfills the visitor experience is able to, you know, to do it well.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, wearing a lot of hats there, mark what's that you were in a lot of hats there just from your, from being, you know, in such a um, a brand new dmo perspective. But then, looking ahead at things that you know, dmos that have been around for, you know, 10, 20 years are looking at those same things. You know, like we have, you know we're talking to dmos looking at those same things, you know, like we have, you know we're talking to DMOs constantly that are just now thinking about you know, well, it might make sense for a visitor center at some point. They've been around 10 to 15 years and it, you know you're definitely you're wearing your. You've got a lot. You've got a lot that you're focused on, which is super exciting. But also, like, tell us about how that, like, how, how are you prioritizing? Just knowing all the things that you have in front of you, but also knowing all the things you have to do today to catch, to play, catch up right With some of those destinations that you're competing with that visitor for.

Speaker 2:

Gosh, I don't know that I prioritize anything. I think it's looking to see which ball would have the worst impact if I drop it. So that may be my strategy personally, but I think that the community engagement part is what fascinates me here more than anywhere else. It is, I feel, like it's more critical in a smaller town. Everyone talks and everyone knows each other.

Speaker 2:

We are right on Main Street in Hot Springs, virginia, and people will stop in, which I absolutely love, and it could be one moment.

Speaker 2:

It'll be the folks that are passionate about our hiking trails and our mountain biking trails and how we're going to keep those maintained and how we're going to work with the Forest Service. And so I've got that conversation going on. And then the next stop will be the Women's Garden Club, who has been around for 100 years and has helped us to maintain our current outdoor covered visitor information gazebo, which is a beautiful spot at a crossroads that really serves our visitor well, while we don't have a manned visitor center, and so that interactions with different parts of the community, making sure that they're feeling heard and then trying to figure out how to prioritize those, has been a real joy here in Bath County. That's maybe a little different. So the visibility on Main Street is something I would highly recommend. I don't normally say that a visitor center or visitor office should be taking up space, but we've got a lot of open space so I'm not as concerned right now, but I think that that access to the general public in this community has been very important.

Speaker 1:

Do you have a lot of local artists?

Speaker 2:

We do have some not as many as you would think but we have a strong kind of arts community, and so we have folks that have hosted a plein air festival in the past and that has garnered national attention, and our arts association actually hosts the largest indoor art show in Virginia, with about 900 pieces of art each summer, and so that's a significant draw. So we have a strong and vibrant arts community, but we really could develop a little more with the artists that are within the community, I think.

Speaker 1:

Well, especially with your visitor center, you could turn part of that space into a maker's market for maybe local artists who don't have storefronts.

Speaker 2:

Would love that and, believe it or not, those folks have stopped by here as well and shared with me how they'd like to be a part of that. So I do think that you know the evolution of a visitor center from the years I've been in this industry. It used to be that people came in and said what do we do? Yeah, we just, we just got here what do we do? And they had no idea. But you know, with access to everything on the Internet, they now come in and they ask for confirmation.

Speaker 2:

You know we're thinking about going here for dinner what night, would you say? Or do we need reservations? So it's a little more of enhancing what they already know, maybe helping to curate their experience a little bit more. But they don't come in with a lack of knowledge. They come in knowing a good bit about what there is to do and see, and so we need to tailor any visitor center that we do in the future to someone who's partially knowledgeable at least, and try to upsell the destination in a way that helps them experience it better.

Speaker 1:

I think that's great advice for all DMOs. Listening, because I think the visitor center, you know, we've either tried to gamify it so much that it's overwhelming to certain segments or we've tried to like stay with the old school. Here's some maps on the wall, grab them if you want to, kind of thing. And I really like the concept mark of knowing that they are coming in with some information. They're not just blindly right, uh, falling into a destination nowadays and in furthering that experience concierge, that almost just makes a lot of sense now it does, yeah, and so this community was really founded on wellness.

Speaker 2:

The initial hotel here was called the Warm Springs Hotel, and the Warm Springs Baths, or the Warm Springs Pools as they're now called, are now owned by the Omni, and in addition to their $170 million renovation of the resort, they also spent $5 million renovating the historic bathhouses. There's a men's and a women's bathhouse that were built in the original structures late 1700s, early 1800s. The women's bathhouse was mid-1800s Wooden structures over a hot, steaming mineral spring, and so you can imagine how quickly they deteriorated. They reopened those about a year and a half ago, and it's been a great source of community pride. Right now they're on one of the top 10 USA Today top 10 lists for hot springs in the US, and we're excited to see that recognition.

Speaker 2:

But wellness has always been a part of why people come here, and so we are really looking at how do we expand that and how do we take advantage of the fact that we have an incredible amount of outdoor experience, whether that be mountaintops or fishing or the warm and hot springs here. Those are all part of that component of wellness that is being developed and has come out of our research and our marketing as a target for us. So we're focused on wellness, we're focused on outdoors and there's real opportunity with both of those to expand the markets and the knowledge of Bath County.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely, and, kristen, I've been talking about that too. I don't want to say the rise of wellness tourism, because it's been on the rise for a long time, but just the absolute explosion of that being some of the top reasons people go, and even as far as sleepcations being a thing now. People just want to unplug.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, there is, and it's funny, we have been told that because the karst, the ground here is so thin and the springs come bubbling up through the ground that the magnetic forces help people to sleep better. And so we, you know, once we understand the scientific background on that, we hope to be able to promote that. You know, it's a rural county with with a lot of forest land, so there's not a lot of lighting. We can take advantage of the dark skies and people being able to experience that.

Speaker 1:

Astro tourism yes, absolutely.

Speaker 2:

So really lots of opportunities there on the wellness front, and that's I'm going to jump in and promote for you, if you don't mind.

Speaker 2:

I'm excited about the Travel and Transformation retreat that you're putting together out in Scottsdale in September. That just it's the perfect combination for me to understand how can we kind of market wellness a little better by experiencing that as part of that event. And then also you're putting together the opportunity to talk with colleagues, and that is something that I miss tremendously. I've been around a long time and back in the old days, iacvb or DMAI whichever it was at the time used to have CEO forums that lasted three days and you spent the three days with kind of similar sized budget groups about 20 of you and you outlined the first day everything you want to talk about as a group and then you had a moderator that helps you talk through those. And now it's down to a 45 minute session and that's just too quick. It's too quick and I miss that opportunity to bounce ideas off of people or to be able to share from experiences, and so I'm really excited about this travel and transformation conference you've got coming up.

Speaker 1:

We're so excited to have you too, because that's, I think, where we lay too, is the frustration of there's so much going on at conferences nowadays. It's almost like drinking from a fire hose and you can't really take the strategy away from it either. So, for me, the couple of issues that Chris and I want to address with doing a think tank and retreat One is have more meaningful, smaller conversations with people who need to be talking to each other and get out of their way instead of death by PowerPoint thing, death by powerpoint thing. But the other is we need some restoration, some wellness, to be able to get that creative space, because we just heard how many hats you're wearing mark. So I think we need to sign you up. Sign you up for a sound bath.

Speaker 2:

Day two a sensory deprivation tank. How's that?

Speaker 3:

yes oh, I love it, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

But it's so important, like we think about from a, we think about as as visitors to a destination. How can I incorporate wellness into this trip? Right? Like, how can I come back from this quote unquote vacation or getaway, but feel, come back with a sense of you know you were able to take that break, you were able to unplug and recharge some of your battery on some level? And a lot of times when we do conferences in this industry, we don't take that into consideration.

Speaker 3:

We come back from a conference, having been conferenced to death, without that feeling of being able to truly come back energized and restored to the level that we can pass that knowledge and that feeling onto our teams and our colleagues and really push things forward and get out of a conference what you should be getting out of a conference, right. And so we don't do that as an industry. And that's, I think, the biggest frustration is where can we look at doing what we need to do as individuals in this industry and learning and absorbing and having those conversations, but also take into account our wellness at the same time, so that that's truly a benefit to us? Those days we're spending away because we don't have enough time, as it is right. The days we're spending away is truly for us as individuals and us professionally. That's huge.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I would say pre-pandemic, I had always heard the phrase take time to sharpen your saw and you'll be more efficient, and I kind of bought into that intellectually, but I didn't buy into it personally in action.

Speaker 2:

And so I think, and I think for a lot of folks, the, you know, the reset during the pandemic really helped a lot of people realize what's important and you know how to use all of yourself and mentally because you're not, we weren't running quite as hard. And how do you use yourself mentally and be prepared to take a breath and come up with that new idea, instead of having to listen to the PowerPoints, as you said, death by PowerPoint. I like that. But you know every, every and everything I go to I'll find a nugget of inspiration. So I take notes because that helps me to listen better. But when I have an action item that I want to take back home, I'll star it on my page and I'll come back with. You know, if I come back with three or four items a day you know a day from a conference, then I'm really happy. But I don't ever take the time to really develop those at the conference or to think through them, and so that's what I'm looking forward to, is you know?

Speaker 1:

The unpacking sessions after the conversation. That's what we were thinking about with the poolside unpacking, like now you've had this tough conversation, let's go chill and we can unpack and, you know, go a little deeper, a little further with those, and you don't normally have that time yeah we're super excited about it. Lots, of, lots of support out there seems like a lot of people were looking for something like this, so we are super pumped. Now it's time to now.

Speaker 3:

It's time to put it on right, kristen oh yeah, it's time to curate and and I think having these conversations and I think this is such an interesting conversation with you, mark, because you bring such a wealth of experience in the industry but you're also in the midst of a brand new evolution with it, in a new DMO so it's like this. It's this perfect scenario where you have this perspective that you don't necessarily see a lot in our industry and the insight that you lend to those that again are coming into a new DMO space but don't have that DMO experience is just invaluable. And those conversations that you have with people in the industry are sometimes transformative for those DMOs. We're really talking to leaders that really need that guidance.

Speaker 2:

So I've always said that the phrase good judgment, not necessarily that that means it won't work for you. But you know, sharing those experiences, good and bad, is critical for us in this industry and I think sometimes we're afraid to admit the failures. Really, what helps shape our next success is the failure that we've had before. So I think that's important to be able to share that.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. I like that. I guess for lack of a better word executive vulnerability to have that conversation because, again, one of the other things I see that happens at these conferences it bothers me is it's like a one-up competition and that's not what our industry's about. So you know, to me this is the place where you just get real with each other. So you know you can learn from each other.

Speaker 2:

So my colleague Joe Ward, up in Rochester, minnesota, he and I joke about that session. We call it the well what we did session and we will ask each other at the conference or you go into the well, what we did session and we will ask each other at the conference, or you go into the well what we did session. Because it does sometimes turn into that everybody, you know, once somebody hears a good one, then they're like, oh, I have to one-up that. Well, no, it really shouldn't be that. It should be uh, interactive so that we can learn from that. But uh, you know, well-intentioned sometimes, but it sometimes gets a little competitive, I think yeah, I'd love to see the anti-sessions.

Speaker 1:

I'd love to see here's eight times it went wrong before we got it right the ninth time. Like you never know that the success and the case studies are like brilliant idea, brilliant media, great big numbers, okay, great. Well, how does that help me in terms of like learning or getting an idea? So this isn't like a conference, so to speak. The Think Tank retreat is a lot more intimate, and I'm just so excited to see how this beta test and this environment of leaders like you, mark, that are ready to step up and do something different and take control.

Speaker 2:

Well, it may have been a long let's just say a long time since you and I have sat down for dinner together, but it was probably one of the quickest decisions I've made, you know, to attend something. So I'm excited about being a part of that and I'm not. I'll still be at DI's annual conference and looking forward to that. I mean, it's a it's a different connection. So I think this is a new thing that we can all take advantage of but also learn from. You know, I hope to have some not just personal and professional ideas to bring back, but some community oriented things around the whole wellness concept that can implement here as well, around the whole wellness concept that can implement here as well.

Speaker 1:

I love that. So I do want to ask you, just pivoting off of that for a second so, as we look forward for any uh, ceo, d a DMO CEOs out there listening, or VPs or CMOs, what are the biggest threats we're facing in the next year to a few years, do you think?

Speaker 2:

Hmm, as an industry, that's a tough one. I think you know I've seen such an evolution. When I first started in this, you know we were, we drew the line and we said we're a marketing organization, we don't do anything except spend our money outside the community to to get people to travel here. And I think we've we've learned that that was, um, not the best approach. And so that engagement with the community, um, but I don't know the. You know there's a.

Speaker 2:

I don't think anybody would disagree, regardless of your politics, that there's a. There's a tension out there for anybody that's receiving funding, even though it's, you know, it's a visitor paid tax, it's, you know it's perceived as funding from government entities, and so I think we have to watch that very closely. I mean, I've seen some erosion in that over the years and I think we've had to be creative in new ways, whether they're tourism improvement districts or whatever. But I think just that awareness of the political environment national, state and local is going to be the thing that we have to pay attention to, is going to be the thing that we have to pay attention to.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, that's a great point that you bring up too, because if you think about the evolution of digital marketing and the new age of activations and influencers and product development and things like that, that is very much evolved over the last 10 to 20 years, whereas where the money's coming from hasn't really right, like it's still being funded in a very similar way, and so there's always going to be where you're kind of coloring outside of the typical lines right Of where dollars should be spent and how those should be spent, and do they really fall into what you know residents and those that are paying or kind of contributing there, what they're considered to be something that's bringing in a visitor, because that's it's very much evolving in how we're able to spend our money these days.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean back in my early days we bought a half page ad in Southern Living and we'd hold it up and everybody would go ooh, you know, that's wonderful yeah right.

Speaker 2:

You know and we paid for it. It's not like we got you know an article but now you stand up and you say we had 23 million impressions. It's that's not real glamorous to a lot of folks. So you have to figure out a way to, to, to translate what that is within the community, some of the opportunities with the dashboards and the different private companies that are trying to put that together for us to help us to present it to our communities in a better way. So there's that's a real fascinating thing to see. Over the last probably five years I mean it's a shorter term, but you know how we present ourselves is has become more challenging, I think because of, because of the digital realm. A lot of people don't understand fully what that means.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. Yeah, I think you're right. I think that conversation of DMO relevancy is not one that's going to go away, especially as DMOs are defining themselves differently. Some are all in on their community, Some are still. We are marketing and advertising, only we don't have any touch to that. So it's a little bit of we're back to kind of the wild west in some of those areas.

Speaker 1:

So I think it's important to kind of focus individually and assess that what's right for your community, what's right for your staff community, what's right for your staff, what's right for your?

Speaker 3:

product. I agree, I agree, awesome. Well, how fun has it been to talk to Mark today. Kristen, I have so many more questions. We could be on here all day for a podcast. I say we do a follow up because I love, again, like we know, that our industry is evolving constantly with, you know, dmo leaders and the industries they've come from and those that kind of face different challenges and but don't necessarily have that perspective from other DMOs that are kind of going through some similar things, and so I really feel like the topic of what you, what you're going through, mark, and what you're going through and going to go through over the next six months to two years or whatnot, I think that's a constant conversation and a constant learning opportunity for other new DMOs Just things that you're learning along the way and challenges that you're able and talk about, what's not worked right, like what things are you trying to just-.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely yeah.

Speaker 1:

I love that idea Maybe you need a podcast journal Like what things are you trying to? Just Absolutely? Yeah, I love that idea. Conversation podcast journal. Maybe it should be Mondays with Mark.

Speaker 2:

Oh, bye. Well, I will. One of the beautiful things about this industry and I don't know anything, but I've worked in several parts of it. So I worked in hotels, I've worked for, I worked for a historic attraction and then I've worked for I worked for a historic attraction and then I've worked for DMOs most of the time. But it is an industry that shares a lot, and so it's been nice to shoot it off an email or pick up the phone and call and say, hey, do you have a policy on this or that, or how have you handled something? And I may know some of that, but to have somebody that I respect in this industry be able to share things, and there's not a moment of hesitation, and so I think we need to be more open about asking each other for, for sharing documents and and just not just the ideas. But you know, okay, well, help me get this set up, Cause we don't have logistics.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, that's that's a great point because it and that's a conversation I've had recently with a, a DMO leader who's come not from the DMO world Can I reach out to you, know my neighbor, my neighboring cities, and ask for this? Is that a thing? And it's, it's funny to have that conversation, be able to say to and be proud to say we're a very collaborative industry like that you would can't imagine the amount of knowledge sharing that we, that we see happening on a daily basis, and just the amount of information that's passed between those that are competing sometimes for the same exact visitor right and what are the same exact conference or convention, but just able to being able to share and collaborate. This industry is great at doing that and we it's good to see that happen continuously.

Speaker 2:

I would definitely agree, definitely agree.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. That's going to be the theme of our week, kristen. It'll be collaboration. Hello Well, thank you again so much, mark. Thank you, yeah. Hello well, thank you again so much, mark. Thank you, yeah, it's been wonderful when we go s'mores and stargazing together.

Speaker 2:

That'll be fun looking forward to it.

Speaker 1:

All right, we'll see you guys next time. Bye.

Building a Destination
Community Engagement for Destination Development
Industry Collaboration and Learning Experiences