Helping destinations do battle with politicians on behalf of its members

Destinations International is spending a lot of its energy and resources doing battle with politicians around the world on behalf of its members as they face financial and legislative challenges.

Convention bureaux and tourist boards the world over are facing unprecedented friction with their political masters on the thorny subject of budgets but also over the recent tourism-unfriendly legislation.

This can take the form of the push-back against ‘over-tourism’ as in the recent cases of Barcelona and Venice or legislation such as that by Brunei against homosexuality or women’s rights, as in the case of Alabama’s new abortion laws. Increasingly, Destinations International – an association of tourism organisations – is called upon to assist members.

Speaking at trade show Imex in Frankfurt this week, DI CEO Don Welch said: “We are a third party our members can bring in to help in times of trouble. We are there to champion their cause and help them present opposition to political threats to tourism of all kinds. If a destination needs to mitigate a challenge like budget cuts, we are there to help them and we are doing that all the time.”

The organisation has devised a new lexicon which will be released next month to help members use vocabulary that resonates with the political classes, emphasising the value of tourism to destinations and, ultimately, their populations.

Welch said: “We need to persuade our members that their legislators are also their clients and show them how to communicate and lobby better and speak the language of the politicians. Recently a new mayor of New Orleans wanted to take 50 per cent of the city’s tourism budget and it was stopped with our support. Another bad example is when Mexico’s national tourist office representation around the world was cut.

“We are now using social media to target those who are undermining our championing of sustainability and we are fighting ‘anti-tourism’ around the world. What has been alarming has been some of the decisions around the world threatening women’s rights such as the abortion laws in the USA. And every time there is a change of government there is a change of policy and this is ludicrous.

“We are sending CEOs of tourism boards and convention bureaux to help each other because they are happy to help each other.”

This activity fits well within the four pillars of DI – community, advocacy, research and education. Recently they have even staged education programme called “How to defend your salary”.