Destinations International kicked off its 2018 Annual Convention earlier this week with over 1,500 attendees from over 16 countries, according to Don Welsh, president and CEO of the association for destination marketing organizations, as well as 65 education sessions and five general keynotes.

Prior to the Wednesday morning keynote address, Jay Burress, president and CEO of Visit Anaheim and a board member of Destinations International, introduced Anaheim—host city for the event—as a destination built on imagination, possibility and creativity, and also said it has been named America’s No. 3 food city. The popularity for the destination remains high, as last year 49 million visitors came to Orange County, according to Burress.

Attendees to the conference had the chance to experience a variety of Anaheim’s food options at the opening night reception on Grand Plaza outside the Anaheim Convention Center, with a casual outdoor event showcasing local food trucks. Options ranged from falafel and burgers to funnel cakes. The evening was hosted by Visit Anaheim, Visit Newport Beach and Visit Huntington Beach.

Prior to the keynote address, which was sponsored by PCMA, Sherrif Karamat, CEO of PCMA, spoke about the organization’s dedication toward “fighting for equality and inclusion across industries” and joining the fight to overcome challenges of gender, sexual orientation, race or disabilities.

He introduced the keynote speaker Abby Wambach, who recently retired as one of the most dominant soccer players in women’s history, and the leading goal scorer of all time in international soccer.

“The day I’m forgotten is the day we will succeed,” was the introductory message from a commercial featuring Wambach, that was played before her entrance.

An Inspiring Intro Keynote

Wambach detailed her four rules to live by.

No. 1, make failure your fuel, she said, referencing her scoring 184 goals in her career. “All of those goals were a byproduct of how many times I failed, how many times I missed, didn’t shoot.”

“Lead from wherever you are,” was her second rule, which she had to learn to do in the 2015 World Cup when she was made a bench player. “If you’re not a leader on the bench don’t ever call yourself a leader on the field.”

The third value is to match your values with your action and time, whether it’s spending time with family or working on something that’s important like philanthropic causes.

Finally, her last rule is to enjoy the ride. “Happiness takes work,” she said, asserting that we have to do things in a positive way, whether it’s a tedious exercise like running sprints or the essential tasks in life.

Let the Sessions Begin! | Welcoming LGBTQ Visitors

Daily sessions Wednesday were geared toward CVBs and DMOs, including the first of several conference sessions focused on connecting to LGBT travelers. In that session, the presenters highlighted CMI’s 22nd Annual LGBT Tourism Research study, as well as the best marketing practices to reach and serve the travel segment, which generates more than $100 billion each year in the U.S. alone.

Presenters David Paisley, research director for Community Marketing, Inc., and Thomas Roth, president of Community Marketing & Insights, emphasized that many of the old stereotypes are no longer valid, such as being luxury travelers. Most fall in the mid-range category.

They also cautioned CVBs and DMOs to update their language on websites—rather than promoting “gay friendly” neighborhoods, wording should be LGBTQ (or LGBTQ+) welcoming neighborhoods.

Meeting planners they said could be missing out on business if ignoring that sector, as well, noting organizations like the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, as potential clients.

Even More Education, World Cup Hype and Other Welcome Distractions

Other sessions ranged from revenue management strategies to business strategies based on Destination Analysts’ study: The CVB and the Future of the Meetings Industry.

Erin Francis-Cummings, president and CEO of Destination Analysts, presented the findings based on a survey completed by 831 planners about how they view the importance of CVBS, as well as the priorities needed by association, corporate and independent planners.

Vendors such as TripAdvisor and Travelzoo, as well as Utrip, which helps CVBs promote their destinations on their own websites, were set up in the main hall. Attendees took a long lunch break to watch the Croatia vs. England World Cup playoffs game, punctuated by cheers and groans.

Another distraction came in the four-legged form, with a puppy pen set up promoting adoptions. Take Carra also hosted fitness classes throughout the day.

Destinations International's 2018 Annual Convention runs from July 10-13, 2018.

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