Visit SLO CAL Hosts DMO Leaders

It was new attendance record—75 DMO leaders joined their peers in Pismo Beach/San Luis Obispo County for DMA West’s 30th annual Leadership Summit. With one CEO just starting a new position and other CEOs with three decades of experience, both newly minted and veteran DMO leaders learned from one another.

Visit SLO CAL President & CEO Chuck Davison, CDME, welcomed delegates to Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo County—a first-time visit for many of the DMO leaders.

The Leadership Summit offered an opportunity to build face-to-face networks with peer colleagues to garner industry intelligence and resources. The summit included a trio of Peer Learning Sessions along with Operations Roundtables by budget level.

The first Peer Learning Session focused on “Destination Development and Management Strategies.” In his overview presentation, Chris Fair from Resonance Consultancy, noted that tourism, economic development and urban planning are intimately interconnected, and destination development and management strategies offer research and roadmaps that forge and strengthen these connections. As CEOs overseeing tourism master plans for their communities, Brent DeRaad (Tucson) and Chuck Davison, CDME (San Luis Obispo County) shared highlights from their respective plans. The takeaway is that the goal is to ensure that the growth of tourism not only brings economic benefits to a community, but enhances quality of life for local residents as well.

CEO delegates gained insights from a panel of CEOs addressing a multitude of issues associated with travel and tourism in the West. During the session, “Issues Affecting the West – Sustaining a Positive Environment for Travel and Tourism,” four DMO CEOs—Joe D’Alessandro (San Francisco), Debbie Braun, IOM, CDME (Aspen), Joe Terzi (San Diego), and Ernie Wooden Jr. (Los Angeles)—answered questions from moderator Chris Fair about a variety of issues, including contributions of tourism to economic prosperity and quality of life; political viability of tourism interests and local communities, protecting natural, cultural and historic resources; transportation; respecting the needs and values of those who live in the West; homelessness; workforce development and housing; promotion of integrity and authenticity in tourism-related visitor services and more. While no one has solutions to all these questions or issues, it was enlightening to hear how DMO leaders, their organizations and their communities are involved in addressing many of these issues in their destinations. 

Another panel of CEOs addressed “Transparency Practices and Building Trust.” Thanks to peer panelists Tammy Blount-Canavan, FCDME (Monterey County); Brian McCartin (Tempe Tourism Office); and Claudia Vecchio (Sonoma County) for sharing their stories and strategies for building and maintaining trust—with stakeholders, employees, and the community. The panelists discussed creating an organizational culture of openness as well as the value of good governance policies and documents in building transparency and trust inside and outside an organization.

The Operations Roundtables (by budget level) were also part of the program focusing on issues such as funding finances and programmatic budgets; metrics/measurements, board/stakeholder relations; and staff recruitment, management and retention. Thanks to the peer facilitators who guided discussion during the roundtables.

The Leadership Summit kicked off with a special local session, “Beer Before Glory,” with Chuck Davison interviewing David Walker, co-owner/co-founder of Firestone Walker Brewing Company, about growing a company and being a responsible steward in one’s community. The company is a pioneering regional craft brewery located on the coast of California. With deep roots in the Central Coast, the company employs numerous sustainable practices that reflect its commitment to the local community and landscape.

Special thanks to Leadership Summit Signature Sponsors for their sponsorship of key group meal functions—Visit SLO CAL, Madden Media and TripAdvisor. Madden Media sponsored the Monday evening dinner at SLO Brew Rock Event Center and TripAdvisor sponsored Tuesday’s luncheon at Ventura Grill overlooking the ocean. Our event hosts at Visit SLO CAL arranged a beach bonfire and Santa-Maria-style BBQ for CEO delegates and guests. Of course, S’mores topped off the meal. The evening was spent sitting on beach chairs around a fire (with blankets available), watching the waves, enjoying flavorful food and the company of industry friends and colleagues.

“The Leadership Summit was excellent!  The content was extremely relevant – the whole experience was very enjoyable.”    
~John Hutar, President & CEO, San Mateo County/Silicon Valley CVB

“We had a great time in SLO! Thanks for another valuable Leadership Summit.”
~Kevin Lewis, Director, Greater Zion Convention & Tourism Office

CEOs: If you did not attend this year, plan to attend the 2020 Leadership Summit—dates and location to be announced in a few months.