Sitting down one-on-one with tourism stakeholders in your community can be invaluable. Not an activity just to be reserved for new-to-the-position executive directors, these meetings ideally happen with appropriate frequency and on a schedule that you can maintain. At a minimum, that frequency might be once a year, and for others, it might be quarterly. It all depends on your workload, your team, and the number of willing-to-participate stakeholders you might have.
Face-to-face and in their physical location is best if possible and safe to do so. When you’re serious about facilitating and nurturing these business partnerships check out these additional tips:
1. Allow Enough Time
Allocate at least an hour for these conversations. Take it one step further and allow for an hour of cushion afterward so that you are not rushed to leave and not late for whatever is coming next on your agenda. This also helps you show, not just tell, that you care about the partnership by not rushing.
2. Prepare in Advance
Create an agenda in advance (See tip #3) and send it with a meeting confirmation seven business days before the scheduled meeting. Gather data points to show the impact or importance of this stakeholder’s impact on your tourism market. Review and update your DMO’s economic impact on residents/taxpayers, as well as any goals and upcoming projects. Doing your homework will pay off.
3. Create an Agenda
Plan to ask leading questions and actively listen for (at least) the first ½ hour of the meeting. Hear their story and understand their passion. This will likely lead you to an hour-long meeting essentially (only) about them. The measure for success of this meeting is that they (primarily) talk, and you (primarily) listen. Virtually everyone appreciates the opportunity to be heard and, when problems are brought up that are festering or have the potential to grow into much bigger issues, you can often deal with them in more constructive, proactive ways going forward. If an opportunity does present itself at the ½ hour mark, be prepared to share ways in which you feel this particular stakeholder is important to the destination and suggest/discuss ideas that have the potential to have a positive impact on growing occupancy in “your” destination. Then spend the last 10 or so minutes making sure each stakeholder understands the role and goal of their destination’s DMO (your organization) and give them an update on the state of the destination in general.
4. Follow Up
Take notes―recapping the meeting with the action items you have noted and following up in writing a few days after the meeting ensures this stakeholder knows you heard them and they are still on your mind. Plan ahead by pinning down a date for the next meeting―even if it’s months away.
Do this with as many stakeholders in your community as you can. You will get your finger on the pulse of the businesses that play a role in attracting visitors to your community while also nurturing relationships within the community. Summarizing the previous stakeholder meetings that have taken place since your last board meeting with your board also goes a long way towards their understanding of your role as the DMO leader and your proactive efforts related to curating a destination where visitors want to spend more time.
If you’re not already meeting with your stakeholders on a regular basis, whether one-on-one or in a group, we strongly encourage you to start today. Making the effort to regularly interact, network and collaborate among stakeholders is an exercise well worth the effort. Plus, it’s always more fun to do the work when it’s done together!