The founders of Tourism Currents are Sheila Scarborough and Becky McCray, joined by Leslie McLellan in 2012. With their combined knowledge and experience, they share an impressive history in social media, tourism, and small business ownership.
Since launching Tourism Currents in September 2009, co-founders Becky and Sheila built a wealth of information about social media for destination marketing into a comprehensive online course and always-updated knowledge bank. Leslie brings her own decades of expertise as a small business/small town marketing consultant with Just A Small Town Girl and as Marketing Director for Visit San Jacinto Valley in southern California.
These days, Sheila and Leslie are the “day to day” Tourism Currents training team.
Becky is focused on rural entrepreneurship, the SaveYour.Town downtown revitalization project, her Small Biz Survival website for small businesses in small towns, and being a speaker with a positive view of rural issues. Her strategic guidance and sensible approach to adult learning, however, are still an important part of the special sauce at Tourism Currents.
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, now called GeniusShared) 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 struggle. She understood that social media was a powerful way for any town or tourism partner to compete and reach out globally, but first they had to learn how to do it. Sheila knew that both consumer and business travel media was shifting from print to online, so they combined forces and started thinking about how they could teach what they knew to others.
They both spoke to many tourism professionals to see what the industry needed. They networked locally, regionally and online, connecting with every tourism organization they could find, including using Twitter to participate in tourism events via conference hashtags.
All this would ultimately help them achieve their goal – develop online learning that helps tourism and hospitality professionals put powerful social media channels to work for their destination, attraction, or hotel.
Becky and Sheila knew that focused social media training could truly help destination marketers worldwide, so they developed an online course with lessons that reflect the actual work tourism professionals do. For example, they dedicated an entire lesson to promoting special events and festivals…including preparations before an event, handling the actual event itself and follow-up marketing after the event to keep the momentum going.
Social Media: Much More Than Random “Chatting”
Instead of teaching “this is Twitter,” Sheila and Leslie take it one step further and show how to reach a network of people through Twitter, who can promote your destination.
The focus throughout their training is not on generic explanations of the tools, but on the application of those tools to destination or hospitality marketing.
One of the biggest roadblocks they heard about was a “lack of time” to implement such a program for destination marketing. All three women know how to cut to the chase – Becky is an incredibly busy small business owner (with four businesses,) Sheila is a professional speaker and writer, and Leslie juggles marketing and speaking plus running California’s Visit San Jacinto Valley tourism organization.
Developed with busy professionals in mind, the Tourism Currents lessons were made to be both a self-paced course, and an always-updated knowledge bank that customers can return to again and again to get answers and solve problems.
From understanding the basics of social media to utilizing a small army of online supporters, the Tourism Currents course shows destination marketers how to tell their stories via social media, get the word out effectively, and bring more visitors and guests to their destinations, attractions, and hotels.