Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tricky Just Got Trickier

One good reason so much misinformation ends up in the newspaper is that there is misinformation at the source.

For example, WUNC repeatedly referred to an inaugural event in the Marriott because we could never get the event to correct the name of the venue. Why does it matter? First, there are two full-service Marriott’s in Durham and second, the event wasn’t held in either one. It was held in the Durham Civic Center, adjacent to the hotel. The hotel doesn’t have function space but it does manage and cater events in the City-County owned facility adjoining.

It is tricky to get news outlets to adopt accurate guidelines so they can catch or avoid being infected by mistakes like this. It also depends on the diligence of the news editor and whether their given time to check.

But this is now getting even more difficult. Many news websites take direct feeds from newswires. So while editors of the print edition may catch and correct mis-references, the websites apparently don’t have gatekeepers. Nor from a recent experience with the Raleigh paper do the print editors feel empowered or responsible to give the web editors a heads up.

So misinformation proliferates. Big problem if we are to believe what we hear and read.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I recently opened the online Leo Quinn (enews type) Letter.

In this one he gave 9 tips on how to survive the financial stress of the recession.

Here is #1


Author Barry Neil Kaufman writes "We stare bug-eyed at the eleven o'clock news, striving to be well informed, as if knowledge of the latest disasters will enhance our sense of well-being."

Why do you need to watch or listen to the news? Very few people NEED to get their information this way. Short of a tornado headed to your house, you can live your life quite nicely without 24/7 news. Try it for a week and see what happens.

Hearing or reading a growing number of voices like his must be disheartening to news media, which at every level is undergoing an unprecedented and very painful transformation.

To me, the glorious promise of 24/7 news was “deeper and more extensive” coverage. But that hasn’t happened. Instead we just get redundant coverage of the same stories, more and more strident and sensational, with more and more media outlets trying to make the news vs. covering it, and more and more a “culture of fear.”

I know some good journalists who agree but feel helpless to change the paradigm. I‘m proposing a solution. The news media should begin covering this as a news story.

Afterall, in the mid 1800’s, newspapers often took each other on about things like this.

Story after story now, at least those that result in feeding frenzies on 24/7 news….are clearly running up huge costs to the public…with little public good in return. Remember the coverage of the Duke Lacrosse “incident”?

If they had to be liable for costs the way us ordinarily citizens are…they’d be a whole lot more judicious. Not “chilled” as many would claim but judicious and responsible for the results of their actions on lives and livelihoods.

I certainly don’t believe in censorship and I love a free press. Plus, destination marketing and news media are inextricably associated and interdependent in many ways. But maybe the only way out of this 24/7 dog pile is to “turn off and tune out.”

Let’s just hope the good, responsible media outlets can stay afloat…

Friday, January 23, 2009

Airlines Don’t Get It – Airports Are No Longer Synonymous With Cities

I’m traveling out to the Pacific Northwest for my Mom’s 80th birthday. She now lives in Olympia, WA at the south end of Puget Sound. See anything wrong with this email reminder from Orbitz?

Yup, it assumes because I’m flying into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (at the very bottom of the map), I must be traveling to Seattle, at the top of the map.

The numerous destinations to the South of the airport including Tacoma, one of the airport’s namesakes don’t appear on the map and obviously Orbitz can’t imagine anyone would go anywhere but Seattle, guess.

Actually, as you might surmise, the airport is called Seattle-Tacoma because it is midway between and co-owned by those cities. But it also serves countless other destinations. I’m going to Olympia for instance which is about 50 miles south of the Airport in the opposite direction from Seattle which is 16 miles north.

So even if I’m going to spend a night near the airport, which I am on the return, I wouldn’t be interested in staying in downtown Seattle, nearly 70 miles from my original destination and far to the opposite side of the airport.

So why is Orbitz annoying me with this information? Because, I suspect, some poor soul has the outmoded notion that every airport is in a central city and arbitrarily picked the first part of the airport name.

A wrong headed assumption not just for SEATC but also DFW, SFO, MSP or RDU. These are all airports serving polycentric regions with no dominant city…

All of this is not only harmful to destination brands but it is particularly sad because Orbitz went to a lot of trouble to try to be helpful while making some extra money…but forgot to ask one critical question during the reservation that would have enabled this email to be targeted to where I was going…the name of my final destination.

I’ll bet my airfare that the proportion of people on my flight actually destined for Seattle will be smaller than the proportion going to one of the many other destinations served by SEATAC...and yet Orbitz and many individual airlines focus their communication materials as though we were still in the pre-WWII days of one airport-one city… or that every region isn’t centric…the Triangle and the Puget Sound area are both polycentric.

Orbitz could easily ask your destination and then have the follow up email above morph to information more relevant to the individual traveler.

The current approach…lots of lost business for many communities. Lots of confused and disgruntled passengers. See any win here at all? Nope, just lose/lose.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Giving Kids Historical Perspective – One Reason For A Museum Of Durham History

I think most parents and schools underestimate the value of local awareness. That’s why the movement to establish a Museum of Durham History is so critical to Durham’s future.

I see the importance in the eyes of local school-age kids as DCVB communications like the recently launched intrigue them with the connection of their hometown or adopted community with historical perspective .

I recently caught a history channel documentary on the “Mountain Men,” fur trappers in the early 1800’s. It was amazing how many times the area where I come from was mentioned or shown.

I don’t recall my parents or the schools making local connections with history. My Grandfathers did most of that.

I come from Fremont County, Idaho and as you might imagine learned in school about John C. Fremont who passed through there in 1843 and credited with opening the American West. I didn’t learn however, that he actually published “guides” and “pamphlets” and that he was in the destination marketing business.

Or that these resources were used by three of my Great-Great Grandfathers who were among 100+ people on a 70+ wagon train in 1847 that blazed the Mormon Trail wagon road from the Midwest to the Rocky Mountain West, now largely the route of Interstate 80.

Another traveled the route in the 1850’s. With no pioneer, frontier or road building experience, they left homes in Massachusetts, the Quaker country of Pennsylvania and the Dutch country of Delaware where they had been carpenters, carriage makers and brick makers.

But I don’t remember learning about Fremont’s local connection when we studied him in school. And I learned about my pioneer heritage long after learning about the movement west when I first read their names in somewhat disbelief on a statue.

As a young boy, I never missed The Adventures of Kit Carson, an early 1950’s television show. But only much later in life did I learn he first became a fur trapper when he traveled to my part of the country just three years after the return of Lewis and Clark. He was initially a recruit of Andrew Henry, co-founder with William Clark of the Missouri Fur Company, along with the equally famous Jedidiah Smith, whose story was the basis for much of Robert Redford’s 1972 classic, “Jeremiah Johnson.”

They built America's first trading post, Fort Henry, near Saint Anthony, ID, a couple of miles south of the ranch and became the first non-Native American’s to winter over in the Rocky Mountains. The area had long been inhabited by bands of Shoshone, Bannock and occasionally Crow Indians. Henry is the namesake for the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River (north fork) that ran 2 miles from the ranch, some of the finest Brown and Rainbow trout fly-fishing in the world and across which the school bus crossed twice each day.

But I don’t remember those connections being made in school or at home.

I learned in school about Chief Joseph and a band of 750 members of the Nez Perce Indian Tribe who rather than leave their homes for a reservation, took a winding 1200 mile run through Idaho and Montana in an attempt to get to Canada before they succumbed to the 7th Cavalry a few miles from the border.

It is now a National Historical Trail but I don’t remember my teachers and definitely not my parents making the connection that the Nez Perce with the 7th Cavalry in hot pursuit passed within 30 miles north of the ranch my Great Grandfather homesteaded about 20 years later….about the same span I’ve called Durham home.

Making these connections may have given me more respect for that area and maybe I wouldn’t have spent more than a decade “running” from Idaho as I like to call that period of my life.

There is even more history in Durham and it is important for natives and transplants alike to make those connections.

Monday, January 19, 2009


When Dr. John Yancy Odom, a former board member of my friend and fellow blogger, Bill Geist, wrote his book Saving Black America, he could have hardly foreseen the election of President Obama.

His six models or eras of ‘Black self perception’ will require a seventh:

Pre- Civil War Hopeless

The Civil War Hopeful

Reconstruction Emerging as first-class citizens

Early Post Recon. Hopeless

Late Jim Crow Aggrieved, determined, defiant

Contemporary Aimless

I think he would add a Seventh, a return to hopefulness after nearly 150 years:

New Dawn Hopeful

Friday, January 16, 2009


I had just turned 15 years old, the month before hearing this speech. I've read and heard it probably hundreds of times since and it always has the same, powerful impact, each and every time.

…I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together…"

Excerpt – Speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28, 1963 in Washington D.C.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

15 Things To Expect From A Destination Marketing Organization (DMO)

Twenty years after DCVB’s launch as the community’s marketing agency, two challenges remain, 1) improving stakeholder understanding of a DMO and 2) getting them to understand what to expect from a DMO.

Here are just 15 things that DCVB's 3,000 visitor-related stakeholders can expect from the community’s destination marketing organization in the course of its core mission of visitor centered cultural and economic development.
  • To be incorporated into the community’s story and woven where appropriate into marketing messages to draw attention to the community as a destination.

  • To be given consideration within tactics and strategies to market the community as a whole for visitor centered cultural and economic development.

  • To generate an ongoing stream of visitors to the community to help make individual organizations, events or facilities sustainable.

  • To prospect, qualify and distribute leads to attract group visitors, e.g., meetings, conventions, group tours, reunions, etc.

  • To provide primers, consultations and updates on destination marketing and about how to harvest a fair share of visitors drawn to the destination including coop marketing opportunities.

  • To be included in inventories of all visitor related businesses and organizations located in the destination.

  • To be populated into publications, information centers, websites, sales promotions and other promotional vehicles both produced and distributed or operated by the DMO and those for which the DMO is a gatekeeper.

  • To be populated on to maps and into map databases nationwide including hard copy, Internet, navigation systems and cell phones.

  • To have events included in the community calendar and images included in the community image bank.

  • To generate or aggregate to research on what visitors do and how they make decisions, how the destination performs and to inform development decisions and individual marketing strategies.

  • To generate publicity or earned media in news releases and provide access to media lists and relay releases to news media.

  • To distill and provide an overall community brand under which to incorporate individual or organization, neighborhood, event and facility brands.

  • To maintain and provide a database of community accolades and media quotes to incorporate in individual marketing materials.

  • To field and forward complaints and to generate categorical visitor satisfaction feedback.

  • To steward place based assets and a protect the community’s brand and unique sense of place.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Like any destination marketing organization should, DCVB puts a lot of time into inventorying each of Durham’s 3,000+ visitor-related organizations, and then making sure each one is coded to update databases that in turn populate publications, and more importantly websites, both DCVB’s and ones we gate-keep.

Whenever a new restaurant opens, like Revolution just did, downtown on Main Street, we’re keen to pick up on all aspects, including whether there will be private meeting space.

Conventions, meetings, reunions, weddings and other types of visitors, often hold what are called off-site meetings. So for example, a restaurant will private meeting space will be coded not only to “places to eat” but also “alternative” or “unique” meeting spaces.

A recent annual study of the members of PCMA or “Professional Convention Management Association” revealed the following about facilities used to host off-site functions:

  • Restaurants 59%
  • Museums 39%
  • Theaters 17%
  • Parks 12%

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bob McCoy

Leading edge healthcare is part of Durham’s brand, and it isn’t unusual for dignitaries to come here from all over the world.

But it really makes you feel proud, and humble at the same time when it is someone you know.

My friend Bob McCoy was sent here for a liver transplant a couple of years ago. He never stopped raving about the process, the teams that worked on him, and of course Durham. But there have been problems since then, and his Doctors told him he’d need another transplant.

Bob’s been my counterpart in Winston-Salem, NC until he got caught up in one of those all too often political power struggles that occur when power politics tries to trump or should I say steamroll policy. Even though he was sick, he did what CEO’s have to do in those cases, and held ground on behalf of the Tourism Development Authority, and the community.

But as another friend of mine told me after he went through a similar problem in Florida, after the blood-letting, and people are ready to move on, very often, no one wants someone in the room with blood spattered all over him. That’s the price that all too often comes with the job.

But for Bob, blood is more than a metaphor. He is selling his house, his art collection and most of his possessions so he and his partner can take care of what matters first, his health.

Well , Friday afternoon he got the call to leave Winston-Salem for Durham within 20 to 30 minutes. Three livers had become available all within about a 24 hour period, and Bob was going to get one of them.

Having seen the drill, Bob and Vince already had bags packed, and at the door. But he had been told a week or so earlier that he had been moved down the priority list due to some sudden, and more serious conditions in other patients. So the call on Friday was a surprise, and I can image they hit the door and were on the road within five minutes.

Bob went into surgery at Duke about 10:30 p.m. Friday night. They finished at 4:30 a.m., well under the expected time. Second transplants are typically harder, and more time consuming due to scar tissue but Bob’s went surprisingly well.

He was in and out of consciousness Saturday, but in good spirits, cracking jokes during those brief moments when he was awake.

He is expected to be out of ICU today, and the next step in about a week or so is a move to an apartment here in Durham during 3-4 weeks of recovery.

This is when the Durham brand means more to me than ever.

Friday, January 09, 2009


Counting my last two years of college, I’ve worked 37.5 years of the last 39 years of work life in destination marketing organizations.

But that doesn’t mean my career hasn’t changed.

There have been at least seven transformations during that span. And each has been intense.

Weaning from Chambers

Initially, I was hired by a Chamber of Commerce which had activated a CVB as a department. But shortly thereafter, I was given the task of separating the CVB into a stand-alone organization. Until the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, some CVB’s evolved first as an incubator within a Chamber. But today, less than 5 in every 100 are still part of a Chamber, mostly in small towns. Today, most DMO’s, similar to DCVB, are chartered from the get-go as stand alone.

Visitors vs. Conventions

Until the 1970’s, many DMO’s focused only on convention visitation I think because it was easier. Then came the realization that focusing on just 10-11% of all visitors didn’t really make sense. First, because many destinations have other core attributes and cultural identities that appeal not only to conventions but segments with much larger potential. Second, because destinations learned that to attract convention planners a community also had to be a good visitor destination overall.

Information based vs. Emulation

I was lucky to be on the forefront of a shift in DMO’s from being organizations that did marketing by emulating other communities to organizations that made destination specific decisions on product and marketing strategies based on information and research. You still find DMO’s that are emulation driven but they are anachronistic.

Community Marketing vs. Marketing for Tourism

Then DMO’s evolved to being visitor centric community marketing agencies rather than organizations that marketed to draw tourism as a means to fuel tourism related businesses. You still hear the term “heads in beds” but very rarely. Communities came to realize that tourism is a means to achieve much greater ends including generating local tax revenue, personal income and value added to the economy overall and that fueling narrow types of businesses was a byproduct.

Public Authorities vs. Private Advocacy

Before coming to Durham, I had worked in non-profit DMO’s that were membership driven advocacy organizations contracting to do tourism marketing. But North Carolina had shifted to a farsighted approach of chartering DMO’s as tourism development authorities. Much more practical, effective, transparent and accountable, but also less likely to be hijacked by special interests.

Official Gatekeepers vs. Distributors

DMO’s I have managed began using computers to accelerate productivity as early as the early to mid-1980’s but the Internet explosion in the mid ‘1990’s revolutionized destination marketing once again. Instead of banking information and distributing it, DMO’s became gatekeepers on the web as the authentic and official source of information on their communities.

Destination Development vs. Tourism Development

DMO’s have also shifted from developing tourism for communities to developing communities as destinations worthy of a “visitor’s deep engagement and a resident’s love.” “Developing a community into “some place in particular, with its own character and charisma” to paraphrase Dr. Russell Scott Sanders.

So the career that chose me is destination marketing but it has always been an evolving ride.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


You would think that with at least 2300 destination marketing organizations worldwide, there would be a broader understanding of what a DMO like DCVB does. Yup, there are 1100 or so in North America alone, another 500 in Europe, 400 in Asia and 300 in Latin America.

With how quickly Destination Marketing Association International is truly becoming International, I can see how within a decade or two, there will be more members outside North American than within. Some, like Charles-Eric Vilain XIIII of Lille, already serve on the DMAI Board. Lille is also accredited putting it in the top 3% or so of DMO’s worldwide.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


This question posed by Indiana University professor Dr. Scott Russell Sanders isn’t as counter-intuitive as it seems.

Nor is it a new idea for tourism development to serve a stewardship role. Yellowstone, the nation’s first national park is an example.

My birthplace is 12 miles away, and a 4WD road trip into the very southwest corner of the Park. But it was established in 1872, some 136 years ago, and 76 years before I was born, and only 20+ years prior to when my Great-Grandfather homesteaded there.

Tourism interests, even then, are credited with establishing Yellowstone. During a few years when financier Jay Cooke controlled the Northern Pacific Railroad, it began running its line west from Tacoma and east from Minnesota to eventually connect. Cooke saw the commercial opportunities in Yellowstone but wanted to avoid what he saw had happened around the Niagara, Adirondack and Catskill areas when too much scenic beauty fell into private hands.

He pushed for Yellowstone to be protected, helping to fund two expeditions, one including a politician and another a US Geologic Survey team on which he funded famous painter Thomas Moran to participate and capture the beauty of Yellowstone. Moran worked closely with painter and photographer William Henry Jackson to chronicle Yellowstone in images.

Keep in mind, this was twenty years before the frontier was declared closed, and several decades before any real conservation movement formed, and four years prior to Custer’s Last Stand, and five years before Chief Joseph, chased by the U.S. Army, took nearly 800 Nez Perce through the area trying to escape into Canada. So we’re talking vision here.

Native Americans had lived in Yellowstone for 11,000 years but the first white man to see the area was John Colter who stayed behind with Manuel Luis on the return of the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1806. But when he described it to the press ,and officials in the East they thought he was crazy.

Cooke lobbied the US Congress using Moran’s preliminary sketches resulting in the creation of Yellowstone Park in 1872, the first national park in the World at the time.

Cooke grasped that scenery in the West could be a tourism attraction. However, he had financial problems in the great recession of 1873, and didn’t see the project through.

For the ten years prior to when the Northern Pacific reached the northern edge of the Park, maybe 1,000 visitors traveled there via train to Corinne, Utah, then several hundred miles by wagon to Virginia City and then to the Park, the first arriving on four wheels in 1878 with auto traffic by 1917.

Even John Muir, one of the founders of the Sierra Club, who had been a sawmill operator and rancher as well as author and explorer saw tourism’s potential as a steward.

Durham is a cultural destination with place based assets including natural, historic and heritage for which tourism can be and should be a steward.

Monday, January 05, 2009


Can Tourism be an antidote to narcissism and homogenization?

Can Tourism help revive our concern for the public realm?

Can Tourism help us recover or create a vital sense of place in our communities?

Can Tourism help transform us from consumers into stewards?

These are four insightful questions posed by Dr. Scott Russell Sanders, an Indiana University English professor at a conference nearly three years ago. And the answer to each question is a resounding “yes.”

But rarely have so few words had such a sustained impact on how and what I think. Partly, because he articulated so eloquently in that speech what some of us have been thinking for many years.

Tourism development must be more than just a form of economic development or putting “heads in beds” or “bottoms in seats.”

Sunday, January 04, 2009


A couple of us walked over to the new restaurant in the city center district of Downtown Durham called Revolution. Great place.

It brought to mind one of the early visionaries for fine dining in the City Center. Downtown has had nationally reviewed restaurants for many years down in the Brightleaf District. But in the early ‘90’s, after a stint with Ben and Karen Barker at the Magnolia Grill, Walter Royall created and launched the Crescent Cafe, also on Main Street and in the Durham City Center district.

Walter was a man before his time but he was and is a visionary. He saw possibilities and took a chance, long before others gave it a thought. He had a great location, great presentation, and great food but just much too early. The Crescent would probably be an instant success today, but for several years now, Walter has been executive chef down in Raleigh, NC at the Angus Barn, one of that city’s most recognizable restaurants.

But as we enjoy all of the new restaurants and bars in the Durham city center, we need to raise a glass to Walter for having guts, having vision and being a pioneer.