A farewell, plus 35 years of tourism marketing wisdom

Leslie McLellan Tourism Currents speaking at Oklahoma OTIA annual conference
Leslie leading a breakout at the Oklahoma Travel Industry Association annual conference.

35 is the magic number.

Not being a fan of math or numbers, it was a shock when the number 35 jumped out AT me.

Yes, 35 is the magic number for me, as that is how long I have been in destination/tourism marketing. “Holy cow how can that be?”, I wondered.

It’s crazy, at least in my lifetime, to think about how far destination marketing has come over all these years.

When I first started out, if some of our local hotels had availability for the upcoming weekend, I would take out an ad in the Los Angeles Times (for big bucks), and that would generate the rooms needed. This was long before social media and all the far less expensive digital advertising options we have now.

Thinking about the 3 plus decades I’ve been working as a marketing director, I thought I would pass along four things that only experience (gained over A LOT of years, lol) can give someone. Hopefully this will help some of you keep your “eye on the ball” as your marketing careers move along through 2024.

It Is The Message, But It’s Also The Messenger

Back in the day, when print, radio, and TV were our primary ways to get the word out about our destinations, the message was key. But now, YOU, the messenger are equally as important as the message.

We talk a lot about how to craft messages for your audience – what to talk about, how to say it, etc. BUT, besides what you say, it’s also all about YOU, the messenger.

Your online connections want to connect with YOU. Not personally mind you, but they want to feel like they know and connect with the person behind the posts.

That’s why, for engagement sake, you want to have some sort of personality in your posts. Your online contacts like to connect and interact with YOU. If you have a team that responds online, it’s important to have each of them speak in the same voice. And that then leads to the next point . . .

Having Engaged Social Media Platforms

The more engaged your social media audience is, the more connected your online community becomes.

It’s important to keep your online community interacting not only with you, but with each other. You do that by asking for their input.

Take a look at the cheat sheet we wrote regarding social media engagement. We give you plenty of ideas for what to say to engage your audience.

We also have engagement ideas for marketing small hotels here.

In my mind, having built a few successful online communities, it should be rare that you write a post that does not ask your followers for their input.

Leslie McLellan Tourism Currents speaking about tourism marketing at Heartland Byways scenic byways conference courtesy Stephanie Liskey Sailforth Productions
Leslie speaking at the Heartland Byways scenic byways conference in Leavenworth, Kansas (photo courtesy Stephanie Liskey, Sailforth Productions.)

Don’t Jump Right Away To The Bright, Shiny Object

As we always say here at Tourism Currents, be sure to “fish where the fish are.” Figure out where your market is spending their time, and you be there, too.

While it might be fun to make TikTok posts, if your audience isn’t on TikTok, then it’s a little silly to put time and effort into that platform. Rock the platforms where your engagement is. That is a true key to success.

It’s great to try new platforms but do that AFTER you are connecting with your audience where they mostly hang out.

Just as a reminder, we do say to always grab your brand name on any new platform, but don’t put time and effort into it until you have a plan to be successful on that site.

Never Stop Learning

As a marketer, it’s vitally important to stay on top of trends, new ways of doing things . . . you know what I’m talking about. But so often we seem to not have time or budget to attend a conference or seminar. You are doing yourself and your destination a disservice if you don’t continually learn. And that’s where Tourism Currents can be a big help to you.

Over the years we’ve “morphed” our program to offer a variety of ways to learn in little, less expensive pieces. By offering expert social media audits, we have helped many with their digital growth. By customizing what learning you need, we don’t keep you in a box. And of course, this newsletter is designed to continually provide learning by shedding light on things we come across as we (Tourism Currents) never stop learning.

Related post – how training helps a CVB, DMO, or tourism partner

There have been times over the years when I had a budget that allowed me to attend most major destination marketing conferences, then there were times when my budget was nearly nothing.

Can you relate? 😊

For those whose budget is nearly nothing, it is on you to search out online thought leaders, trend-setters, and others in destination marketing that you can learn from. If you stop learning and stop trying new things, you won’t be worth much to your organization.

So let me stress this again – Never Stop Learning!

Leslie McLellan Tourism Currents at Ned LeDoux concert in Montana thinking about the current state of tourism marketing.

With All That Said, It’s Time For Goodbye

Many of you know my husband and I left Southern California for Montana a few years ago. We love the outdoors, and we love all that this beautiful state has to offer. So, I decided 35 is the magic number, and it’s time for me to “retire” from Tourism Currents.

Now don’t think Tourism Currents is going anywhere – it’s not! Sheila will be taking the company that she co-founded to new heights. I can’t wait to see the great things she is going to do!!

I’ll still be around for a bit online as I have a destination and a couple of hotels I still work with, but Tourism Currents will be all Sheila, all the time.

It’s been my great pleasure to get to know so many of you, via Tourism Currents, over the past 12 years that Sheila and I have been business partners. I want you to know, I’ll still be watching what you are all doing, as I have always learned from you and have no intention of stopping the learning now.


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Commenting area

  1. Leslie, thank you so much for all the wisdom and grounded experience you’ve shared for YEARS. Your practical advice has been incredibly valuable, especially to smaller towns and destinations. You are a wonderful example of someone who really has never stopped learning. All the best for your adventures big and small in the coming years.

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