Destinations International: Empowering the Future of Travel & Tourism through Education 

18th August 2023

Destinations International's (DI) 2023 Annual Convention took place in Dallas last July. It drew a crowd of 1,600 attendees, including both experienced meeting professionals and 565 first-time participants. The sold-out event showcased the organization's global reach, with 26 member countries represented. Attendees from countries such as Australia, Turkey, and Ukraine were present, highlighting the international scope of the convention.

Words Remi Deve

Destinations International, a global association dedicated to serving destination marketing organizations (DMOs), recently held its Annual Meeting in Dallas, showcasing their commitment to advancing the travel and tourism industry through education and innovative programs. As a leading authority in destination marketing, DI plays a crucial role in supporting professionals, fostering collaboration, and shaping the future of the travel sector.

Destinations International focuses on empowering destination marketing organizations by providing them with valuable tools, resources, and education. Through their extensive network of industry experts, professionals gain access to cutting-edge insights and best practices that help them better understand and adapt to the ever-changing landscape of travel and tourism.

When in Dallas

DI’s Annual Convention was preceded by a Dallas famtrip which Boardroom took part in.

“Dallas is characterized by a warm and diverse atmosphere, along with its hospitable people. As such, it is defying misconceptions,” said Craig Davis, President and CEO of Visit Dallas. Dallas boasts an enriching cultural heritage that is not only inviting but also all-embracing, a facet that is often overlooked – in fact Dallas is home to the US sixth-largest LGBTQ+ population.

During the visit, Davis disclosed plans for an upcoming $3 billion convention centre, scheduled for groundbreaking in 2024 and expected completion by 2028. This project will encompass a sprawling 800,000 square feet of interconnected exhibit space and an impressive 105,000-square-foot ballroom. “Dallas is poised for transformation with this venture,” Davis said. “The forthcoming venue will firmly establish Dallas as the premier destination for large-scale conventions.”

Among the noteworthy venues for exploration, Reunion Tower offers awe-inspiring views of the cityscape, providing a panoramic perspective over the different neighborhoods of Dallas. The Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Gardens stands as a captivating oasis where nature’s allure thrives through an array of enchanting plant collections, fostering an environment of tranquility and beauty. Meanwhile, the Perot Museum of Nature & Science serves as a dynamic hub of knowledge and discovery, unraveling the different facets of the natural world through interactive scientific exploration. Last but not least, the Dallas Museum of Art emerges as a cultural beacon, boasting an extensive and diverse collection that embarks on an immersive journey across various artistic genres and epochs. With multifaceted meeting spaces, these venues offer a spectrum of capacities for diverse gatherings.

“Our primary focus at Destinations International is to serve our members’ interests, and every action we take is geared towards aiding their endeavors in their respective communities,” states Don Welsh, DI President and CEO. “The pandemic and its aftermath underscored the significant benefits of a global membership that actively participates and cooperates. Our organization firmly believes in the impact of travel, and a robust worldwide member community empowers destination leaders to connect and acquire insights from each other, thereby enhancing the experiences of residents, workers, and travelers within their destinations.”

Education as a cornerstone

One of the cornerstones of Destinations International’s mission is education. They organize various educational programs and events, such as webinars, workshops, and conferences, where industry leaders share their knowledge and expertise. These educational opportunities cover a wide range of topics, including marketing strategies, sustainable tourism, data analytics, crisis management, and destination development.

The recent Annual Meeting in Dallas was a testament to DI’s commitment to providing high-quality education and networking opportunities. Centered around the theme of “belonging,” the conference showcased a diverse range of perspectives, inviting voices from various fields beyond the industry to contribute. The engaging opening keynote featured Cynt Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks and the NBA’s pioneering black female CEO. Additionally, Charles M. Blow, a renowned New York Times journalist and commentator, was interviewed on the main stage, sharing his perspectives on the future of travel and tourism. The event also included insights from top Peloton instructor Emma Lovewell, who shared advice on maintaining an authentic and balanced life through healthy eating and an active lifestyle.

Ample time was dedicated to discussing sustainability, with destinations like Canada and Sydney presenting their efforts. Canada introduced the Canadian Business Events Sustainability Plan, aiming to enhance economic, socio-cultural, and environmental sustainability in hosted business events. Meanwhile, Sydney talked about the Sustainable Destination Partnership, involving prominent hotels, event centres, cultural institutions, and tourism bodies, united to enhance environmental practices and establish Sydney as a premier sustainable destination.

The Pathfinders Program

The Dallas convention also provided Boardroom with the chance to delve into the DI Pathfinders programs. This group of innovative European destination professionals is dedicated to confronting crucial issues encountered by destination organizations today. Since its introduction at IMEX Frankfurt in 2022, the European Pathfinders have partnered with industry leaders and the DI team to highlight significant trends in European destinations. They aim to comprehend how industry leaders are rising to meet these challenges and seize opportunities.

Jane Cunningham, Director of European Engagement at Destinations International, explained: “The Pathfinders encompass a diverse set of forward-thinking leaders from across Europe, each holding distinct roles in their respective organizations. Since our launch in 2022, the group has been concentrating on community alignment, destination stewardship, and values-driven initiatives. Through collaborative efforts, the Pathfinders have pinpointed crucial areas where DI can provide support to destinations and contribute to a revitalized economy.”

The aim is for this group to grow over the years, and make sure DI create a value proposition for the diverse needs of European destinations. Key focus areas encompass several aspects, including the cultivation of best practices to drive excellence, fostering the progression of digital platforms to embrace modern trends, advocating for comprehensive sustainable development choices, devising tools to gauge the societal and environmental effects, and conducting industry research that underpins strategic decision-making based on data-driven insights.

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