Travel trends are changing. So how can tourism-based hospitality businesses pivot their thinking to embrace the evolving needs and demands of travelers? To do this, we need to think about the reasons people travel to so-called ‘destination holidays’ - and how that can also drive people to visit local destinations.
To explain further, Wil Slickers joins us to talk about the ways hospitality and tourism innovators - destinationaires - can turn local spots into tourist destinations.
Destinationaire: A person who is wired to create remarkable experiences for others to anticipate and share.
I came up with the word after having a conversation with Ryan Snyder, a hotelier that I very much admire. As soon as he described that set of skills and attributes, it resonated with me as something really important to think about in the industry – something profound and useful, especially now.
I've always believed that the hospitality experience – both for guests and for team members – should be something absolutely unforgettable. In our industry, we talk about this on a daily basis – or at least we should be!
Sometimes we get so caught up in the day to day that we forget our job, at its heart, is to help make experiences memorable and magical for everyone involved. But it’s an important question to think about: how do we go about creating those unforgettable experiences, particularly as the industry is looking at such widespread change?
So with this article, I want to share with you what I think it takes to be a destinationaire – and, hopefully, encourage you to think about what being a destinationaire means to you too.
Destinationaires represent the best of the future of hospitality
A destinationaire is an innovator who embodies the deepest essence of hospitality by drawing people to them through unique experiences and the power of human to human connection.
They have the ability, power and creativity to turn what seems like nothing into something. This requires a strong skill in communication and the ability to get an idea across to anybody and everybody.
We should all be striving to become true destinationaires. So what does that look like in practice? What does a destinationaire do?
1. They create – in service of others
A destinationaire has the vision to see the potential for remarkable experiences where others might not, and then has the passion and drive to create the real-world experience that reflects that potential. As corny as it sounds, it really is about turning a dream into reality.
As I once said in an interview, creating a destination is not easy work. Not only do you need to have these qualities, but you need to be able to execute on these ideas. This takes resources – not just (or even necessarily) financial resources, but the resources you can draw on from within yourself to bring your vision to life. You need passion and utter belief in your goal – and your motivations.
Above all, a destinationaire is not selfish but selfless – this is all about serving others the best way you can, by creating these unique experiences and moments.
2. They find a gap
This is something all great innovators have in common. They see a need that isn’t being fulfilled – be it social, cultural, industrial, economic, technological, the list goes on! – and create a way to fill it.
CJ Stam, managing partner of Southern Comfort Cabin Rentals, is a great example of this. He saw a gap in occupancy in Blue Ridge, GA and created the BBQ Blues Festival and now it's one of the busiest weekends out of the whole year!
Right now, there is a real need in the market for safe, secure, local destinations that travelers are able to access by ground. The desire for a fun, memorable travel and hospitality experience hasn’t disappeared just because international and domestic borders are restricted across world: it’s just that there’s no outlet for that desire.
Holiday makers are open to hospitality options that can make those dreams a reality. It’s up to us, the destinationaires, to create an experience that’s meaningful, fulfilling, exciting, and memorable.
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3. They know how to tell a story
As a kid growing up in North America, I always thought a “destination” was somewhere like Fiji or the Bahamas – somewhere far away, a classic holiday-maker go-to. If you grew up in Asia, maybe your idea of a “destination” was Europe; for young Australians, maybe you envisioned a safari in Africa.
But that said...
It’s not the distance that makes destinations seem magical – it's the idea of getting to experience something completely new; making memories with people we love; getting a wider sense of the world.
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This is the story a true destinationaire knows how to tell. They understand that they can create a space that provides those experiences out of any location – as long as there’s a beautiful, interesting, compelling story to draw in visitors.
It can be creating something out of nothing; it can be repurposing a place to let its best aspects shine; it can be letting an unexpected location draw on nostalgia or desire or hope or adventure.
We become destinationaires through “exceeding expectations by creating destinations”. This is a phrase that has been commonly said amongst my business partners and I as we describe to our clients how we can help them.
I truly believe that the moment we embody this mindset and way of thinking, the opportunity to be able to truly stand out and offer extraordinary hospitality will become endless in every moment, decision, and experience.
Wil Slickers is the host of the popular hospitality podcast Slick Talk. He is a hospitality professional with experience in a variety of roles, ranging from front desk agent to front office and marketing manager, and has a particular passion for the hotel and tourism industries. He now co-owns a company specializing in luxury vacation rental property management.
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