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by Padraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolElla

PAGI Sool EllaNext week I travel to Washington DC to participate at the annual conference of ADMEI, the association of destination management executives. This will be only my third time to participate at ADMEI but I do so with great anticipation, mindful of how much I learned in Memphis (2012) and Montreal (2013). Here are some highlights from those events as originally recorded in an earlier version of this blog.

Partners for success in Destination Marketing [ADMEI, Memphis, 2012]

Kevin Kane [CEO of Memphis Convention and Visitor Bureau] spoke passionately about attracting visitors to destinations and the vital importance of this for the economic fabric of a country. Apparently within the next 10 years over 10% of all employment globally will stem from travel. Access to this lucrative market is open to all destinations, big and small, and success will pivot around the brand proposition and marketing messages devised within the destination. DMCs play a seminal role in this process and must become effective destination spokespersons.

Clearly the relationship between Kane’s organisation and local ADME member Destination King is golden. They work together as trusted partners and strive to “create memories” around the brand assets of Memphis – its heritage and history, its flawless musical pedigree and its serendipitous link to three undisputed regal icons – Martin Luther King, BB King and Elvis Presley.

Playing Games [Montreal, 2013]

Montreal Convention LargeI’m in Salon ABC [at the Sheraton,Montreal] excited to have been on time for the SmartHunt, an opening session that we’re promised will be “like no other”. I struggle a little to overcome my pathological dislike of “participative” activities (a dislike I share with a major percentage of the population of the European continent)  and good humouredly join in the “ice breaker” exercise, effectively and expertly managed by the folks at Best Team Building. First we have to organise ourselves into common clusters based on number of siblings in our families and then, even more interestingly, based on month of our birth. The June group, comprised predominantly of hard core Geminis, perhaps not surprisingly, all know each other already!

A Simple Twist of Fate [Montreal, 2013]

By some curious twist of fate our SmartHunt group is 50% old guys and 50% hot young girls. Statistically this shouldn’t happen as the 4 guys comprise only about 20% of the entire group demographic. This simple twist of fate might have been good news for the girls had the 4 guys been anyone other than Stuart Gardner, Alan Waxler, David Adler and Padraic Gilligan with an aggregate age of 200+ and a cumulative number of nightly visits to the bathroom of 20.

We receive our briefing and our iPad and embark on a brilliantly conceived scavenger hunt that takes us out of the hotel to discover Montreal and to leave our indelible mark on the unsuspecting city. But it’s the city that leaves its indelible mark on us. The freezing temperatures are directly counter-pointed by, perhaps, the gentlest, warmest, friendliest people I’ve ever met (outside of Ireland, that is!).

DMC as Destination Marketeer [Montreal 2013]

BrandsDestination Management Companies who prosper in today’s brave new world do so because they know their core function is destination marketing and Emmanuelle Legault’s (Marketing Manager of Tourisme Montreal) meaty presentation provided real food for thought and reflection in this regard.

A brand is no longer a logo, a visual, a packaging or a promise but the sum of the experiences of a traveller during a trip and the volume of stories generated

Thus destination branding needs to establish multiple points of contact with visitors and then turn these visitors into ambassadors who share their stories across the widest possible range of platforms. In a shouty, cacophonous marketplace the challenge to destinations is to be heard above the din. But people don’t listen much to messages delivered via old media like print and broadcast advertising. They listen to their peers. Segmenting the full gamut of destination experiences into precisely defined niches, destination marketers can, from there source the niche experts who create content far more compelling than third party agencies. This is brand experience, not brand expression. It’s not what I say about my destination, it’s what you say about it.

On Social Media and Blogging [Memphis, 2012]

The session on social media and blogging, moderated by the dynamic Cindy Lo of Red Velvet Events in Austin, Texas was worth the registration fee alone. With expert input from Cindy herself, from on-line PR specialist Amy Howell (of Howell Marketing Strategies) and from Memphis CVBs Regena Bearden this was always going to be an impactful session. However, the CVB’s GenY social media specialist Kerry Crawford was the real rock star. The bureau set out to recruit someone who “didn’t look like us or speak like us” and found someone deeply passionate about Memphis and savvy on the new means by which to channel it. As a result of Kerry’s activities local Memphians are re-engaging with their city while a growing global on-line community is kept up to date on everything the city has to offer. A traditionally conservative hotel and hospitality sector is getting behind the initiative and now it’s producing amazing results. Genius! Other CVBs and Tourist Boards please copy!

DMCs – Damned if you do, damned if you don’t [Montreal 2013]

Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 19.11.09By then it was time to head back and prepare for the final act in the unfolding drama of ADMEI’s 2013 Conference. Accuse us of having a persecution complex if you like but we Destination Management Companies and Professionals rarely receive adequate credit for what we do. If things go wrong the blame is often pinned on us (however unjustifiable that might be) and when things go right the other partners in the programme elbow us out of the way and merrily hog the limelight. One of the great things that ADMEI does is put the limelight where it belongs for those programmes and events that over-deliver on value and budget. The final night at ADMEI is our Awards night and is always eagerly anticipated.

Big shout out in particularly to Fran Rickenbach, Executive Director at ADMEI who has been a driver for and huge advocate of ADME international as the truly global association for the DMC sector



2 thoughts on “DMCs in the spotlight as ADMEI comes to DC

  1. James Feldman, CITE, CPIM, CPT, MIP says:

    I was the keynote speaker at ADME and I enjoyed the truly global conversations about the hospitality industry. I was sorry that you could not attend as I looked forward to another conversation where we could share our insights for the future of our industry.

    I believe I did shake up the attendees…in a good way…by demonstrating that Shift Happens!

    1. padraicino says:

      I heard great feedback from your session, Jim but I wasn’t surprised as you’re always engaging and thought provoking. I think you did indeed demonstrate the Shift Happens!

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