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In 2018, the Californian tourism industry generated $140 billion in travel spending, $19 billion in state and local tax revenue, and employed 1.2 million Californian workers. What is the impact of such success on the destination experience and how does California manage this? 

Earlier this year we attended Visit California’s annual Outlook Forum, and the truly inspiring opening keynote from President and CEO of Visit California, Caroline Beteta. Sharing insights on Visit California’s continuous growth over the last few years, we were happy to see that sustainability was front and centre of all planning efforts to successfully shape a sustainable destination environment. 

Shift from Destination Management to Destination Stewardship

 “Sustainable growth requires more than marketing, it requires stewardship” - Visit California

We have spoken previously about the shift from destination marketing to destination management, which is evolving further into destination stewardship. The fundamental role of the DMO has always been to promote the destination. While this still remains its primary focus, many destinations across the world are now opting for a more comprehensive approach which encompasses destination development, community collaboration and sustainable development destination-wide. 

New Era of Stewardship & Sustainability

Visit California is a huge advocate of destination stewardship and believes this is the key to future sustainability in travel. By definition, stewardship refers to the ‘responsible planning and management of resources’. Tourism is the largest sector in the world and it is expected to continue growing 3.3% annually until 2030. For DMOs whose primary role is promoting a destination to attract visitors, there is now an increased level of responsibility to encourage travellers to plan and visit responsibly. DMOs have the power to influence collaboration across the destination, and to leverage the visitor economy for the benefit of visitors, locals, the environment and the industry, and this is the basis of destination stewardship. 

Key takeaways

  1. Destination stewardship is the key to future sustainability within the travel industry.
  2. The traveller experience is paramount, and it is the role of the DMO to reach visitors at different stages of the journey to encourage responsible planning and travel. 
  3. Collaborative action and community alignment are crucial. Encourage local communities, businesses and other stakeholders to get on board with your objectives to enhance and protect the overall destination experience for travellers, residents and the environment. 

Finally, our favourite takeaway is this direct quote from Caroline Beteta,

“We are really at a moment in time to redefine ourselves as communities and destinations.” 

Since awareness about sustainability rose significantly over the last few years, we find ourselves in uncharted territory for what lies ahead. Embrace the opportunity to take a step back, and review ways in which your destination can ‘Rethink, Redirect and Reposition’ your strategy to ensure you are able to balance economic, social and environmental sustainability successfully. 

If you are already a member, you can watch the full talk here. If not, here’s how you can sign up

 

Discussion

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