The founders of Tourism Currents are Becky McCray and Sheila Scarborough, joined by Leslie McLellan in 2012. With their combined knowledge and experience, they share an impressive history of being involved in the arenas of social media, travel and business ownership.
Since launching Tourism Currents in September 2009, Becky and Sheila have compiled a wealth of information into understandable online training materials. Leslie brings her own curriculum especially designed for the business members and partners of CVBs.
How It Started: Two Women Have an Idea
Becky and Sheila met, online of course, through “open mic” night on Liz Strauss’ Successful Blog. They met in person for the first time at the 2008 South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) tech conference, and their common interests developed into a friendship almost immediately.
In 2008, both attended Liz’s SOBcon (Successful Online Businesses) conference. The following year, Becky came to SOBcon armed with a notebook full of possible business ideas, including a travel/tourism/social media education project she hoped to collaborate on with Sheila.
The Power to Reach Visitors Worldwide
Becky was tired of watching small towns die, and she understood that social media was a powerful way to compete and reach out globally. Sheila knew the world of travel writing was shifting from print to online, so they combined forces and started talking to every tourism professional they could meet. They networked locally, regionally and online, connecting with every tourism organization they could find. They used Twitter to participate in every hashtagged tourism conference they could catch.
All this would ultimately help them achieve their goal – easy to understand training that puts powerful social media channels to work for tourism.
With the insight Becky and Sheila gathered, they developed courses and lessons that reflect the actual work tourism professionals do. For example, they dedicate an entire lesson to promoting special events and festivals…including preparations before an event, handling the actual event itself and follow-up after the event to keep the momentum going.
Social Media: Much More Than “Chatting”
Instead of teaching “how to use Twitter,” Becky, Sheila and Leslie take it one step further and show how to reach a network of people who can promote your destination. Twitter is just one part of networking through social media.
The focus throughout our training is not on the tools, but on the application of those tools.
One of the biggest roadblocks they hear consistently is “lack of time” to implement such a program for destination marketing. All three women understand this all too well themselves; Becky is an incredibly busy small business owner (with four businesses,) Sheila is a professional writer and speaker, a parent and writes for multiple online and print outlets and Leslie juggles marketing, speaking and parenting plus launching a new local tourism marketing organization for Lake Arrowhead, California.
Developed with busy professionals in mind, the Tourism Currents lessons were born.
From understanding the basics of social media to utilizing a small army of supporters, this online training shows people how to tell their stories via social media, get the word out and bring visitors to their destinations, attractions and hotels.
The Women of Tourism Currents
Becky McCray is a small town entrepreneur in Oklahoma, where she owns a liquor store and operates a cattle ranch with her husband. She works with city governments on project planning and grant writing, and is a sought-after speaker in social media, small business and small towns. The co-author (with Barry Moltz) of Small Town Rules, Becky started and still runs the annual 140 Conference/State of NOW SmallTown tech event.
Sheila Scarborough is a freelance writer in Texas specializing in travel. She writes for numerous magazines, newspapers and blogs and speaks about social media to a variety of audiences. She’s a 2011 Clarion communications award winner, a 2010 Austin American-Statesman “Texas Social Media Award” winner, a Navy Master Training Specialist and also serves on the National Board of Directors for the AWC (Association for Women in Communications.)
Leslie McLellan is a tourism professional in California with over 20 years of experience in destination marketing. She turned a “no budget” crisis into a nationally-recognized case study in social media marketing, featured on Social Media Examiner. She’s presented at New Media Expo/BlogWorld, the State of NOW 140 Characters conferences and eTourism Summit.
After many years online, “social media” and “the social Web” aren’t new buzzwords or fads for Becky, Sheila and Leslie; they are incredibly powerful and enriching communications tools that can help build interest in (and build community around) destinations, attractions or events.