Convene On Site

DMAI Looks to the Future

The sharing economy was a hot topic at this year's meeting in Minneapolis.

Inspirational meeting themes are commonplace, but they aren’t always on point. At Destination Marketing Association International’s (DMAI) 2016 Annual Convention, held Aug. 1–3 in Minneapolis, it was made clear that “It’s a Brand New Day” was no empty-promise slogan. After a year of dramatic changes in the organization’s leadership — including the appointment of President and CEO Don Welsh and a new executive team — DMAI was indeed launching a new chapter in its 102-year history when it convened at the Minneapolis Convention Center, where I was among 1,500 attendees. A steady onstage presence throughout the convention, Welsh reinforced DMAI’s renewed focus on education, certification, accreditation, and advocacy efforts for its members globally.

Convene-sponsored opening-keynote speaker Abigail Posner started things off by encouraging attendees to look at their innate creativity in a new light. That evening, in keeping with the “brand-new” theme, DMAI attendees became the first special-event group to christen the nearly 30-story-tall US Bank Stadium, new home to the Minnesota Vikings and the 2018 Super Bowl. The soaring stadium offers six event spaces, including the 19,800-plus-square-foot Hyundai Club, where we sipped, munched, and networked our way through the evening.


At Tuesday morning’s general session, digital marketer and New York Times best-selling author Jay Baer introduced us to the concept of “smarketing.” Sales and and marketing teams working hand in hand, Baer said, is the “new normal” if you want to attract and retain customers at all kinds of organizations, including DMOs.

Airbnb’s Chip Conley introduces a general session on embracing the sharing economy.
Airbnb’s Chip Conley introduces a general session on embracing the sharing economy.

After a full day of networking and breakouts, attendees gathered for a second general session — a panel discussion on the sharing economy, facilitated by David McMillin, PCMA News writer and Convene contributing editor. Airbnb Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy Chip Conley, Providence Warwick CVB President and CEO Martha Sheridan, San Francisco Travel Association President and CEO Joe D’Alessandro, and City of Tel Aviv Global Director of Tourism Isaac Mizrachi shared how they are partnering together.

The concept of DMOs working with — rather than ignoring or fighting against — the home-sharing company might seem potentially damaging to the hospitality industry, but Conley and the panelists disagreed. “It’s not a zero-sum game,” Conley said. “It’s about enlarging the pie.” Airbnb, he said, wants to be seen as part of the industry, and supports paying occupancy taxes and “reasonable regulations.”

D’Alessandro said San Francisco hasn’t fought Airbnb, because “it’s what the customers want.” Seventy-five percent of the destination’s hotels are in the heart of the city, while 75 percent of Airbnb hosts are outside of the core, in residential neighborhoods — a statistic that supports Conley’s theory of “enlarging the pie.”

Mizrachi said that Tel Aviv — where one-third of the population is 18–35 — is having “a love affair with Airbnb.” The city “is a bit pricey,” he said. With Airbnb, Tel Aviv is able to attract tourists, particularly Millennials, who wouldn’t have been able to visit otherwise.

Sheridan said the Providence CVB has so fully embraced Airbnb that it has hosted Airbnb meetups, where members of the CVB are invited to get to know Airbnb hosts and offer their services as a resource. In Providence, “we saw hotel [occupancy] continue to escalate. If RevPAR is still going up,” she asked, how can Airbnb be having a negative impact?

True to the meeting’s increased focus on education, DMAI’s final day offered a wide variety of sessions, on topics ranging from using video to tell a destination’s story, to how social-media activity can increase international visits. And, fitting for a legacy organization that is remaking itself, DMAI wrapped things up on a hip retro note at The Pourhouse, a four-year-old special-event space with a Prohibition-era vibe.

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.