Record-Breaking Attendance at Destinations International’s First Virtual Annual Convention

July 21, 2020

Event and tourism industry professionals aren’t about to sit out this pandemic, as evidenced by the number of meetings, webinars and conventions taking place virtually these past few months. Among these key industry events is Destinations International’s Annual Convention, which was held virtually for the first time July 14-15. 

With a record attendance of 3,024 attendees from 14 countries, the global destinations industry gathering featured a packed agenda offering more than 20 educational sessions designed to inform and inspire. Keynote presentations were made by Author Mitch Albom, U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcat Fighter Pilot Carey Lohrenz and the Global All-Stars Innovators Showcase, during which a panel of five tourism industry executives reimagined the future of travel post-COVID-19.

Attendees also had a chance to choose from a wide array of virtual programming, including Industry and Executive Roundtables; “Shirtsleeve” sessions for industry members to talk through challenges and ideas; the Marketplace of Ideas trade show complete with virtual exhibits, company resource downloads and 1:1 chats; and 15-minute Evolve and Elevate Microsessions covering a range of relevant, top-of-mind topics. 

The event also provided a range of interactive activities to promote attendee engagement and enthusiasm, including gamification and networking opportunities, health and wellness activities such as yoga and meditation, social media engagement, Zoom happy hours, cocktail-making classes and a live performance by the Destinations International House Band.

On July 14, the convention also addressed the timely issue of systemic racism by premiering the video, 5 Questions About Race,” featuring seven Black destination organization executives who partnered on the video following the death of George Floyd and the overwhelming nationwide response. The video shares the executives’ experiences about race and racism, encourages an open dialogue and calls upon the tourism industry to do its part to eradicate racism and promote equity. Watch the video here. 

“A lot of conversations centered around race may be uncomfortable by many, but in order to grow, we must break out of our comfort zones and have an open dialogue with one another,” said Don Welsh, president and CEO of Destinations International, in a statement.

He continued, “We are excited to debut this impactful video on race with our convention attendees and we are thankful for the travel and tourism leaders who opened up to shed a light on their experiences. Hopefully, we can all learn and start to make real change and put words into actions.”

As it would have done during its face-to-face Annual Conventions, DI recognized and celebrated the educational and professional achievements of its members. These included 36 industry leaders receiving their Certified Destination Management Executive (CDME) designation; 15 destination organizations receiving their Destination Marketing Accreditation Program (DMAP) accreditation; the young professionals of the 2020 30 Under 30 Class; the 2020 Hall of Fame inductees; and the 2020 Destination Organization Leadership Award recipient, Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of San Francisco Travel Association.   

In addition, the association announced its new 2020-2021 board members, which included Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation, assuming the role of chair of Destinations International; and Civitas President and CEO John Lambeth, the new chair of the Destinations International Foundation.

“Although nothing will ever replace face-to-face meetings, we were excited to host our first-ever virtual annual convention,” Welsh said. “We have heard feedback from our attendees that although they missed seeing colleagues in person this year, they were happy to have the opportunity for some professional development and networking – at a time when our industry needs it the most.”

Destination International’s 2021 Annual Convention is set to take place July 26-29 at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago.

 

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Partner Voices

As event professionals and destinations adjust,  adapt and evolve in these uncharted waters,  it is imperative that substantial resources be put in place for all of the people responsible for planning and executing tradeshows and expositions.   At Mohegan Sun we have built an industry-leading COVID-19 Resource Center,  with a combination of pictures from recent successful events held since our reopening on June 1st,  along with several easy to share,  downloadable documents such as our Operati