DI Live With Christopher Keane and Brian Bossuyt
This week, Adam continues his trip to Baltimore, Maryland at the Destinations International Annual Convention. He is joined by Christopher Keane from Visit Baltimore and Brian Bossuyt from Visit the Poconos to talk about what's been going on in their destinations over the past year and a half. Learn about how they have helped their destinations stand out from the crowd and how an anti-littering campaign was utilized in tourism marketing.
"You need to go back and look at what you’ve done really well in the past and how that may differ from other destinations and focus on that. If you can focus on what you do really well, and make sure you can differentiate that from other destinations, you’re going to be successful." -Christopher Keane
"We are stewards of the destination. We have the resources and are the ones that are bringing the visitors, so we should be doing our part to make sure the destination is succeeding and the residents are succeeding as well." -Brian Bossuyt
Meet our Host and Guest(s)
- Name: Adam Stoker
- Position: Co-founder and CEO of Relic
- Favorite Destination: Fiji
- Dream Destination: New Zealand
- Name: Chris Keane
- Position: Director - Mid-Atlantic Sales & Intermediaries at Visit Baltimore
- Name: Brian Bossuyt
- Position: Executive Vice President and CMO at the Pocono Mountains
- Favorite Destination: Park City
- Dream Destination: Hawaii
“DI Live With Christopher Keane and Brian Bossuyt” – Show Notes and Highlights
- Change that came to Baltimore as part of the crisis:
- Stronger partnerships
- Find new opportunities
- Baltimore is very authentic, unique and different from other cities.
- Right now, staffing is the biggest challenge in Baltimore DMO.
- Chris advises looking back at what you’ve done in the past and how that may differ from other destinations and focus on that.
- Pocono Mountains are in Northeastern Pennsylvania focused on family travel, outdoor adventure, and romantic travel.
- Pocono Mountains’ tourism is a strong year in 2020 regardless of the pandemic.
- Pocono Mountains launched their own TV channel in 2018. During the pandemic they started to work with the community and how to get the messaging out.
- Poconos’ major initiative was an anti-littering program.
- Brian advises DMOs to start with a content plan to help get things done more efficiently.
Resources Mentioned in the Podcast:
Adam Stoker: [0:00:00] Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of the Destination Marketing Podcast. As we’ve mentioned, we are here in Baltimore at Destinations International’s Conference, and we’re so excited to be doing this in person. I’m here with Chris Keane. He is the Director of Mid-Atlantic Sales and Intermediaries at Visit Baltimore. Chris, what an amazing destination we’re hosting this event in.
Chris Keane: [0:00:24] Thank you so much for having me here. I really appreciate this opportunity. It’s been amazing. I feel like a kid in a candy shop. I was saying earlier, this is the first live event that we’ve had post-COVID and it’s so exciting to see people here in person, face to face
Adam Stoker: [0:00:39] Awesome. I’ve got a couple of icebreaker questions that we normally ask.
Chris Keane: [0:00:41] Sure.
Adam Stoker: [0:00:42] I’m going to skip those. I’m like breaking my rule here, okay? So, I’m going to skip those because I really want to dig into Baltimore a little bit.
Chris Keane: [0:00:49] Great.
Adam Stoker: [0:00:50] I want to start with these amazing cookies that you guys put in the gift bags for everybody. They’re called Berger Cookies. And oh my goodness, they’re addicting.
Chris Keane: [0:01:00] They are super addicting. There’s no question about it. You can only have one, but I would say, nope, maybe 2, 3, 4. It’s a very addicting cookie. There’s no question about that.
Adam Stoker: [0:01:11] Yeah. I got a bag of five and they are no longer.
Chris Keane: [0:01:15] Were you out too late last night having some fun in Baltimore?
Adam Stoker: [0:01:19] No, I was in my hotel room eating cookies. We went out. We had a nice dinner. We went to Fogo de Chao just next to the hotel. It was great and then we were just exhausted from the flight. So we went into the room and eat cookies. Well, those are great. They’re kind of a staple of Baltimore.
Chris Keane: [0:01:38] They are a staple, very local cookies, outstanding cookies and really enjoy them.
Adam Stoker: [0:01:41] Awesome. Okay. Well, it was a great introduction to Baltimore the moment I came in. Tell me about Baltimore as a destination.
Chris Keane: [0:01:49] What’s amazing about Baltimore is we’re super accessible in the Mid-Atlantic northeast corridor. Really easy to get to by air or train. So, lots of different options to get the Baltimore. But what I love about Baltimore is we’re really just a bunch of different, beautiful neighborhoods. So, we have so many unique neighborhoods. We have little Italy. We have Harbor East. We have Harbor Point. There are just so many cool places, Federal Hill, which is right back behind the convention center over here. And once again, we’re surrounded by water. So, what a better place to come to. Where can you come where you’re surrounded by water and be able to walk on the water, get up in the morning, go for a nice walk, go for a nice run. It’s great. Or late at night have a cocktail right at a restaurant that’s right on the water. So, really fun destination to go to.
Adam Stoker: [0:02:32] Okay. You mentioned having a meal right on the water. Where should we go to dinner tonight? We’re taking a client. Where should we go?
Chris Keane: [0:02:40] Well, last night I went to Maximon, which is one of our new Latin restaurants right below the Four Seasons Hotel. A great place to go if you like Latin food. I’d also recommend if you want to go into Fell’s Point, Fell’s Point is one of our areas where there’s a lot of nightlife later at night when as far as music, but a great place to go is Choptank. You can go to Choptank.
Adam Stoker: [0:03:00] Choptank.
Chris Keane: [0:03:01] Choptank. That’s where I’d recommend. My personal favorite would be if you go to Choptank, a great place, have some foosball tables outside so you can sit outside at the bar. They also have some pool tables out there. And then obviously, if not, it’s a little too warm today, you could eat inside and you can get yourself obviously a Maryland crab cake, which I would recommend, or maybe some oysters if you like oysters, another good option.
Adam Stoker: [0:03:21] Nice. Okay. Those are good ideas. We’ll have to figure out which one we’ll take tonight. I’ll tell you, Choptank sounds pretty good.
Chris Keane: [0:03:30] You can’t go wrong by going to Choptank. I highly recommend it.
Adam Stoker: [0:03:34] Okay. All right. Well, let’s learn a little bit about you, your background, and how you ended up where you are today.
Chris Keane: [0:03:39] It’s kind of crazy to say this, but I went to college for Hotel and Restaurant Management. When I started in college, I wanted to —
Adam Stoker: [0:03:47] you’re like one of the few.
Chris Keane: [0:03:49] I am a glutton for punishment. Let’s just put it that way. Definitely glutton for punishment, but I wanted to, like a crazy person, own my own restaurant. That was like my goal to own my own restaurant when I went to college. And I’m like, this is what I’m going to do. And then all of a sudden, I found out about this great job internship where I was doing sales. And someone said why would you want to own your own restaurant? You can go out to those expensive restaurants, and expensive. And I was like, what is that?
And sure enough, I ended up in sales because I was like, I know how to upsell. I was a waiter. I mean, I know how to say, hey, you want that gin and tonic? No, you want Hendricks. That’s what you want. So, next thing you know, I ended up first working in a hotel, just like everyone else working at the front desk, night audit, begged to get into sales, and ultimately got into sales. And then I was lucky enough to not only get into sales but then lucky enough to get into global sales. And for the first 20 years of my career, I spent it in global sales working for Hilton Hotels, Hyatt Hotels and Omni hotels. So, working for Visit Baltimore is very new for me. I only started in January of 2020, so, a couple of months, right?
Adam Stoker: [0:04:52] What a unique couple of years to be involved in this.
Chris Keane: [0:04:56] I’m blessed and thankful to have a job, for being honest. It’s just an amazing organization to work for. I’ve learned so much over the last year. It’s been one of these organizations where you just really realized right away that Visit Baltimore not only cares about the city of Baltimore and improving the city of Baltimore, but they truly care about their employees. I mean, it’s such a great organization. For me, it’s been a shift. I mean, I came from what we’ll call the corporate world, but working for hotels and now working for DMO are really kind of working for the city of Baltimore. So, it’s very interesting and different.
Adam Stoker: [0:05:30] Great. And one thing that you’re dealing with right now, I know your job specifically, and we’ll get into that, is to fill some of the major conferences and events that come to Baltimore. But this is the first in-person event that’s using the convention center since COVID hit, right?
Chris Keane: [0:05:45] That is correct. It is the first in-person event. Destinations International came back and decided to select Baltimore. They’ve decided back in February. So, this is kind of crazy to think, but in February, we did a site inspection with triple masks, all masked up. And we were at this hotel, this hotel wasn’t even open.
Adam Stoker: [0:06:03] Really.
Chris Keane: [0:06:04] And we were allowed to come in the hotel. It was not open. We were all, I’d say 12 feet apart, not even six feet apart. We were like 12 feet apart. We had to cater food in. So, we got food catered in. We went over to the convention center. We talked with them to see what they thought if we could possibly use them for the general session. And we decided to do that because if we wanted to obviously, at that time, were thinking, okay, we have to social distance. So, even if we’re only going to have 800 people here, we need to have a ballroom that could really fit thousands. So, that’s why we decided to go with the convention center. And it’s been great because like you just said, it’s our first conference back. And it’s amazing. I really don’t know how else to say, to see people face to face again is so exciting, and to get to shake people’s hands and hug people again and just do what we do in sales. It’s really been a great couple of days.
Adam Stoker: [0:06:53] It really has been wonderful to get together in person. And it’s amazing to think that in February, everything was closed. The hotel was shut down. You guys are 12 feet apart. And now, I look out around here and there are people everywhere. We’re seeing some masks, but not a lot of masks. And my gosh, it almost feels like normal.
Chris Keane: [0:07:17] It does almost feel like normal. I absolutely agree with you about that. We’ve come such a long way. You probably heard the term, it’s like the light at the end of the tunnel. And I said to everyone on our team last week when I came back from PCMA which was in Phoenix, I said, “I had such an amazing experience and I’m telling you right now we’re out of the tunnel and all we got to do is keep looking forward. Don’t forget the past because it was a horrible year. Don’t forget that, but we just got to really take the positives.” And what’s interesting for us personally, I think it personally made our team a much stronger team and our hotel community a much stronger hotel community. We have such great partners with the hotels and the restaurants. It’s been amazing. And it’s not just Visit Baltimore, it’s the whole community that put this event on.
Adam Stoker: [0:07:59] So, let’s talk about that because that’s one of my platforms that I’m constantly speaking about. I feel like while a crisis is painful in the moment, and it was much more than a moment, this crisis that we went through, so much good can come from it. Relationships can be strengthened. Innovation happens. A lot of people will then take a holistic look at what they’re doing and say, are we doing it right or are we doing it just because this is the way it’s always been done? So, a lot of change comes with a crisis. What change came to Visit Baltimore as part of this crisis?
Chris Keane: [0:08:35] Well, I mean, let’s start with this. Basically, for us, when I first started, we had 65 employees. And then as of July 1 last year, we were down to 42 employees. So, that was a huge change for us. There were people on our sales team we had to see let go. It was the most difficult day we had. It was just absolutely horrible. And I think from that point on, I just remember when we were talking among ourselves as team members, I said, listen, we’re here for a reason and you might not know why you still have a job and someone else doesn’t have a job, but we’re here for a reason because they believe in you. And once again, I think from our perspective, that’s probably how we approached it. It is like we’re going to make sure every stone, we’re going to turn it over. We’re going to try to find any opportunity. And that’s what we did as a team moving forward.
So, it goes back to that whole thing that we’ve just gotten so much stronger as a team. It’s amazing. And I really do believe the word partnership, which I’m sure you hear a lot, but the partnerships we’ve built are really long-lasting, especially within our hotel community. Sometimes, with CBBs and DMOs hotel community, sometimes, that could be a little confrontational. And in this community, that’s not the case at all. I mean, we are in it together. We understand they’re hurting. So, we obviously were so excited once again that there’s a meeting back in Baltimore.
Adam Stoker: [0:09:54] Yeah, great. Well, as you’ve been looking at meetings, I mean, obviously, Destinations International is based here or at least locally.
Chris Keane: [0:10:02] In DC.
Adam Stoker: [0:10:03] In DC. So, not a huge trek for them. That’s a great first one. What does the outlook look like for you guys as you’re looking at future events? Are they starting to show more and more interest in Baltimore?
Chris Keane: [0:10:15] The answer is yes. There’s no question they’re starting to show more interest in Baltimore. I think the other thing that I think they’re starting to realize now, too, and this has been a great example of this is that our service team, so, a lot of convention services that’s what they would traditionally call people. And those are the people that want me as the salesperson. Once we sign a contract with Destinations International, we hand it off to our service person. Well, we’ve changed that name. It’s our Experience Team now because it’s all about the experience and they really learn how to partner with them. And that’s what we’re selling now. We’re selling, hey, we’re Baltimore. We’re very authentic, Were very unique. And we’re very different. Come and experience that. We’ll bring in our local thought leaders. We’ll bring in our local makers. I don’t know if you had a chance to walk around the hotel, but there’s a pop-up shop downstairs of all our local makers. Super cool. So, how many times have you been at an airport and you’re getting that mug that says, hey, I just came from XYZ City. Are you getting that short for your son or your daughter? You can get something authentic in Baltimore. So, those are the types of things that we try to do when we’re working with these groups to show them that we can really bring a unique experience that’s different than in another city. So, we’re really looking forward to that. It’s a great opportunity. And this is kind of, for us, the catapult that’s going to take us to the next level right now. This opportunity right here has really been great for us.
Adam Stoker: [0:11:32] That’s great because you think about what you grab at the airport might say authentic Baltimore on it, right? And then you turn it over and it says made in China. It’s like wait a second.
Chris Keane: [0:11:40] Exactly. No question.
Adam Stoker: [0:11:42] Okay. What’s the biggest, I guess, outside of COVID because the low-hanging fruit answer is COVID, but what’s the biggest challenge that you as an organization are facing right now?
Chris Keane: [0:11:55] I would say, probably staffing. And maybe our organization, we have added some staff back, not a lot, but we have added some staff back. But I think, really, when you’re looking once again because we’re looking at the whole community, I think from a restaurant perspective and from a hotel perspective, it’s really been challenging because they have those jobs available but it’s filling those jobs right now. That’s what’s been the challenging thing. And I think people have to have a little bit of compassion. I know everyone is itching to travel right now and everyone wants to go and do their own personal family vacations.
So, hopefully, people can pack a little bit of patience because I think that’s what we’re going to have to have for the next 3 to 4 or 5 months. But I can tell you one thing, I know every day, when we signed another group to come to the city of Baltimore, then the hotel said, okay, I’m going to add another salesperson, or I’m going to bring back that bellman instead of having just one guy at the door, we’re going to have two again. And that’s what we want to see.
Adam Stoker: [0:12:50] That’s great. So, it’s interesting to hear you obviously recognize the critical role that you guys play in providing enough business for these people to come back to work and to continue to add staff. It’s interesting. I might be putting you on the spot here, but have you guys ever considered running a staffing campaign here locally showing what jobs are available and stuff like that for people? It’s something I’ve never seen a destination do?
Chris Keane: [0:13:19] It’s so interesting you said that because when we had a meeting earlier, they had a breakout specifically with meeting planners and this was the thing that they were bringing up that, hey, everyone needs to have to pack a little bit of patience. Destinations are still ramping up, and things like that. And someone kind of floated that idea out there and it’s a very interesting thing. I don’t think we’ve ever thought about that in the past, but I could see where our hotels would love that partnership where we could say let’s have a career fair, like that’s the old-fashioned way of saying it. I’m sure now it’s probably a virtual career fair, but let’s have a career fair and try to help get the community back up and running.
Adam Stoker: [0:13:56] Yeah, it’s interesting. One of the main things, I feel like I’m saying that’s interesting a lot, but we’ll just keep rolling with it. But one of the main things that came out of COVID is the M in DMO became management, even though it’s called a Destination Marketing Organization, right? So, I feel like that would be an interesting part of the management function that comes along with the responsibility of the DMO. And it’s interesting that you guys are kind of kicking that around right now. I’d love to hear how that goes if you get a chance to do it.
Chris Keane: [0:14:28] Yeah. It would be an interesting thing. I mean, once again, I think it would be one of these things that we would probably bring it to our hotel and restaurant community first and say to them, do you need the help? Do you think it makes sense? And then we could probably try to put something together like that. So, yeah, it is interesting. We keep using the word interesting.
Adam Stoker: [0:14:46] Well, this is an interesting interview.
Chris Keane: [0:14:48] Intriguing. There we go. Different word but an intriguing thing to take a look at. No question.
Adam Stoker: [0:14:53] Awesome. If you were to give, after all you guys have been through and all that you’ve seen, what would be your main piece of advice that you would give a destination that’s listening that’s probably struggling with the same things that you have?
Chris Keane: [0:15:06] That’s a really good question. What I would probably say is I think you need to go back and look at what you’ve done really well in the past and how that may differ from other destinations and focus on that. I think that’s what you need to focus on because you have limited resources right now and I think sometimes we just have so much going on and you can’t focus on everything. So, if you can focus on what you do really well and make sure you can differentiate that from other destinations, you’re going to be successful. So, that would be my recommendation.
Adam Stoker: [0:15:35] I like it. Great advice. Hone in on your authenticity.
Chris Keane: [0:15:39] Absolutely.
Adam Stoker: [0:15:40] Cool. Well, if people want to learn more about Visit Baltimore, what’s the best way for them to get a hold of you, or ask questions, or anything like that?
Chris Keane: [0:15:46] You can obviously email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please feel free to email if you have specific questions. Love to just talk to you more about Baltimore or if I could help you with any opportunities, we would love to do that also.
Adam Stoker: [0:16:01] Okay. Thanks so much for coming and joining us today and thanks so much for hosting an amazing event.
Chris Keane: [0:16:07] Thank you so much for having me today. I appreciate it.
Adam Stoker: [0:16:09] All right. Guys, go to baltimore.org and check out this city, especially here around the harbor. It’s been a great surprise for me. There are lots of great options. Colby, my business partner, and I had a great lunch today. There’s a lot here in Baltimore and you’ll have to check it out.
[0:16:26] Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of the Destination Marketing Podcast. I’m your host, Adam Stoker. We are in person on the ground at Destinations International. We’re having a lot of fun interviewing people from all over the country. We have today with us, his name is-
Brian Bossuyt: [0:16:43] Brian Bossuyt.
Adam Stoker: [0:16:44] Brian Bossuyt. And he is with the Pocono Mountains. What a cool destination to be from.
Brian Bossuyt: [0:16:51] Yeah, it’s great. We’re close by to here in Baltimore. So, we’re in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Adam Stoker: [0:16:58] So, this is your feeder market here.
Brian Bossuyt: [0:16:59] Yeah, definitely. Definitely, a market we reach out to quite often.
Adam Stoker: [00:17:04] Great. So Brian, let’s talk about, first of all, we got a couple of icebreaker questions we would like to ask. If you could go anywhere in the world that you haven’t been, where would you go?
Brian Bossuyt: [00:17:14] I think Hawaii. My whole family would really love to do that trip, just go to the islands and see Hawaii and the uniqueness of it. We have talked about that as our bucket list as a family trip.
Adam Stoker: [00:17:25] Nice. My wife and I without the kids went to Maui-
Brian Bossuyt: [00:17:29] Nice.
Adam Stoker: [00:17:30] -in November. I’ll plan your whole trip for you.
Brian Bossuyt: [00:17:34] Yeah.
Adam Stoker: [00:17:35] It was amazing.
Brian Bossuyt: [00:17:37] That’s one destination we definitely want to check out.
Adam Stoker: [00:17:39] Okay.
Brian Bossuyt: [00:17:40] Yeah.
Adam Stoker: [00:17:41] All right. Is there a specific island you’re after?
Brian Bossuyt: [00:17:42] I think we just want to check out the whole experience. Go for multiple days, maybe a couple of weeks and just take in the Hawaiian experience.
Adam Stoker: [00:17:51] Two weeks hit every island.
Brian Bossuyt: [00:17:53] Yeah.
Adam Stoker: [00:17:54] Sounds like a dream.
Brian Bossuyt: [00:17:55] Yeah. Hopefully, it happens someday.
Adam Stoker: [00:17:57] Right. Yeah. It’s so easy to get those two weeks off. Right?
Brian Bossuyt: [00:18:00] Yeah. It’s so easy.
Adam Stoker: [00:18:02] Let’s then talk about one of your favorite trips you’ve ever been on. What stands out to you as a great memorable trip that you have taken?
Brian Bossuyt: [00:18:09] Actually just a recent one in Park City with my dad. We did a father-son trip that we always wanted to do and it just kind of happened this year in June. Just the memories that he and I were able to build over that and just kind of hang out together was amazing. It’s something that I’ll always cherish that we got to do that.
Adam Stoker: [00:18:29] Yeah. We chatted a little bit about that trip yesterday. It sounds like you guys were able to do a lot of fun dining and got out into the town. It sounds like a unique experience for you.
Brian Bossuyt: [00:18:40] Yeah. We just really got to hang out. He’s like one of my best friends, my dad. It’s just nice. We are both really busy people. It was just nice to just have no agenda and hang out together. It was fun.
Adam Stoker: [00:18:51] I’m hearing a theme and you like to travel with family.
Brian Bossuyt: [00:18:54] Yeah. It’s fun. Being in this business, you find different ways to get out and see things. Our family goes to the Jersey Shore every year. I grew up doing that with my family. We continue to do that one week out of the summer and then occasionally on some of these business trips. If it works out to bring the family with me and then we’ll stay a little longer and visit the destination and we will learn a little bit more. Yeah. Travel and tourism is in my blood. I love taking my family with me.
Adam Stoker: [00:19:23] Great. Well, tell us a little bit about your destination.
Brian Bossuyt: [00:19:26] Well the Pocono Mountains are in Northeastern Pennsylvania. We are a four-county destination. We are about 2400 square miles. We are in the north eastern tip of PA. We are about an hour and a half from Philly, about two hours from New York. We’re really focused on family travel, outdoor adventure, and romance. The Pocono Mountains have been known for romance for a long time.
We’re almost like the northeastern indoor water park capital. We have four large indoor water parks. Kalahari just opened a convention center in early 2020. We haven’t had a large convention center in our destination before this. Really opening up the meetings market is one thing that we’re really looking at now and then leisure travel is probably as everywhere else. Since we have so much outdoor to offer last year really that played well for us and it always has, but we had a pretty strong year last year regardless of the pandemic. It’s a great destination.
Adam Stoker: [00:20:32] That springs up a question for me that you had so much traffic coming even during the pandemic and that’s continuing into this year. I’m sure. How are you distributing traffic so that everything doesn’t feel crowded for the visitor?
Brian Bossuyt: [00:20:49] Yeah, that’s the one thing. We really kind of changed what we were doing in 2019. We do a lot of outreach to the larger destinations, New York, Philly, the Baltimore-Washington area, the Hilly Market. We’re doing that through broadcast TV digital social and everything else. In our destination, we’ve really utilized out of home to like remind travelers when they get there, there are different things to do. We launched our own TV channel in 2018. A lot of the billboards are pushing that too so that they can go to that channel while they are in destination because they don’t have to have cable. They can find it on Roku, Fire Stick or just online YouTube as well.
That’s one way we’re really trying to educate people when they’re there, all the things the Pocono has to offer. When people come to a destination they’re usually coming for one thing that they research or that they knew or they grew up knowing. It’s really our job when they are in market to educate and what else to do. It really helps to teach the residents too about what’s the offer.
Adam Stoker: [00:21:52] I think that’s great advice. So many destinations are focused on the acquisition, getting people to the destination. They neglect in some cases the visitor experience and how to make sure that the visitors are aware of everything there is to do. You mentioned that you created a TV channel. Now from experience, I know that generating content for a podcast is fairly time-consuming. I can’t imagine a 24-hour a day TV channel. How do you curate enough content to be able to populate that TV station?
Brian Bossuyt: [00:22:22] Well, what we started in 2017 is we want to talk to the residents a little bit more. We started developing these two-minute segments that we run in the news package of broadcast stations. It’s 2 to 3 properties, member properties that we talk about and their themes. One might be on water parks. One might be on spas. We just did one on AAA 4 Diamond properties. Those themes and then their two-minute segments that run the news. We do six of those every year, summer and winter and then we usually do three in the fall. We were already curating this longer-form content. We started saying, “Well we have this new TV channel. Let’s just start putting that on there.”
Over the course of 2018 and 2019, we started to hire our PR staff. We hired people in our market from news stations who knew how to schedule and run TV channels. We started to really curate our own content. We have our own videographer and basically our own video crew that goes out and interviews our members and create storytelling packages that we then use for that. That’s how we built the content and we’re just constantly going out and doing that. During the pandemic was, really just starting to work with the community and how would we get the messaging out. It really just helped catapult that content even more
Adam Stoker: [00:23:45] Great. For destinations that are listening that might be considering doing something like this. I mean from an investment standpoint, what does it take to create all that content and put enough on that channel?
Brian Bossuyt: [00:23:58] I mean it’s an investment. We made a conscious decision that we were going to bring everything in-house. Any fees that we had with media by an agency or creative agency, we really put back into the channel and then into finding the right talent for our team to kind of take that project on. My background and our CEO’s background, our CEO came from the agency. He was also in another destination before that and he was on the resort side of it as well. I come from the resort side too. We really just kind of took the storytelling that we both grew up with. He knew a lot about broadcast. I knew more on the digital line. We just kind of married that together. It’s a financial commitment. If you’re willing to do it, just like everything else develop a budget around it and a plan.
We started out small and then we really kind of moved into, “Okay, now we can really grow this.” This is what we’re going to put into production every year because we do also use a production company that’s local to help us do some of the broadcast stuff. Our in-house team is really doing the community and member stuff. We almost have two teams developing that content and then it’s just really putting that all together.
Adam Stoker: [00:25:12] Great.
Brian Bossuyt: [00:25:13] Yeah. I mean it’s a commitment starting with the staff first, I think helps. If you are already developing content for social or web or everything else, just making sure that it’s high quality, good, strong broadcast quality and then making sure you’re telling the right story and then just building it from there.
Adam Stoker: [00:25:34] Great. Okay. Let’s talk about it from a marketing standpoint. What’s another major initiative that you either are working on or have worked on over the past year that you guys are proud of in the Poconos.
Brian Bossuyt: [00:25:46] We started doing an anti-littering program about three years ago because no one was really doing it. We partnered with adopt-a-highway to really find a vendor that could do two or three of our major interstates because you aren’t allowed to go pick those because of liability and everything. They have vendors. We worked with a vendor there to get our highways and then we partner with the United Way, the Monroe County Waste Authority and a company called Street2Feet. We are helping either near homeless or homeless people get a sustainable wage by going out and picking litter. We are really the whole combination this is something that we’re really proud. We are trying to get people back on their feet as well as also making the destination look better and really kind of go through some things that way. That program has done really well. It kind of took a pause in 2020, just because of-
Adam Stoker: [00:26:44] Sure.
Brian Bossuyt: [00:26:45] -all the restrictions and everything else but in 2019 after we launched it. The first year, I think we were able to place 26 people. They were able to be placed. They found homes and full-time jobs.
Adam Stoker: [00:26:57] Wow.
Brian Bossuyt: [00:26:58] For us that program did so much more than we ever thought it would be. Now this year we’re actually looking at expanding and adding possibly the Salvation Army for another crew. That’s one thing we’re really proud of because we’re really helping the community and it’s just something we’re going to continue to do.
Adam Stoker: [00:27:16] Now, I would imagine a lot of destinations listening haven’t considered it to be the destination’s role to run an anti-littering campaign. Tell me what led to you guys making that decision and how you were able to push it through as a demo initiative.
Brian Bossuyt: [00:27:31] Well, Chris’ background, our CEO and myself coming from the resort side. You always made sure your property was clean when you got your visitors there. Well, we are a destination. The visitors are coming. There was so much litter and so many people weren’t paying attention to it. We wanted our door fronts to look nice. We wanted the destination to look nice. It wasn’t a tough sell to our board. We basically said we want to use hotel tax money to make sure the destination is clean. We do an initiative two times a year now where we do a spring clean-up for Pick Up the Poconos. We get all of our member properties where their staff is going out and cleaning around their resorts outside and on the roads near there. We get organizations to volunteer and pick up roadways. We do another big one in September. The September one, this will be the fourth year we’ve done it. Even in the pandemic last year we had about 600 volunteers. In 2019, we had 2500 volunteers.
Adam Stoker: [00:28:25] Wow.
Brian Bossuyt: [00:28:26] I expect this year we’ll have a lot of volunteers and people love getting out in the destination. It’s a fun day. We go out and we make sure they have all the supplies. We coordinated with all the municipalities and then it’s half a day. They get out. They get t-shirts. They get out just to meet other people. The social media value that we get from just the volunteers of just them being out taking pictures and using the hashtag alone has just been great. It really helps tell a great story. We send our crews out, then film it, and do interviews with people. It’s just another part of the whole process. It really shows that we are giving back to the community.
Chris and I both feel we’re stewards of the destination. We have the resources and we’re the ones that are bringing the visitors, so we should really be doing our part to make sure the destinations are succeeding and the residents are succeeding as well.
Adam Stoker: [00:29:21] I think it’s a great idea and part of the reason, I feel like it’s a great idea is because it’s a very tangible way for the stakeholders in the destination to recognize the value you’re bringing to the community, even though it’s not historically like the DMO handles the anti-littering campaign. That’s not a traditional approach. Right? I’ve got to imagine the community understands better the role that you play in helping the destination as a whole because of this campaign. I think that’s a really cool way to generate stakeholder engagement. It is to help actually engage them for good for the good of the community.
Brian Bossuyt: [00:30:02] Yeah. It wasn’t an easy process to get the community to believe in what we were doing. The first year, they’re like, “They are just going to do one litter pick up and that’s it. We won’t see them again.” Now four or five years into it, they’re like, “Okay, they really mean business.” They’re starting to see the interstates. We added another interstate this year and they’re starting to see that process. Yes, when we do the meetings, it does slow down traffic and we pick off-peak times to have the meetings clean, but they’re starting to see that.
A lot of the naysayers that didn’t think we were going to do are now advocates and volunteers, being part of those to Pick Up days and finding more volunteers for us. It’s a great way to talk to the stakeholders, get people involved and it’s just something we’re going to continue to do. It’s all part of our marketing campaign. It’s not just a project. It’s part of the whole scheme of everything,
Adam Stoker: [00:30:57] Isn’t it always kind of fun. You know you have succeeded when the skeptics got on board.
Brian Bossuyt: [00:31:02] Yeah. There are still skeptics, but they’re less skeptical. You need those in your destination because they’re the ones who really keep you in check and without them, people may not realize you might think you’re doing the right thing but if you’re not hearing from everyone, then you’re really not going to learn what your destination really needs.
Adam Stoker: [00:31:23] Totally. Brian, one minute or less. What’s your main recommendation or main piece of advice you would give to destinations that are listening?
Brian Bossuyt: [00:31:31] I would say start with a content plan first. That’s really where it all comes with. I mean that’s how we developed the marketing plan and then we developed the content calendar for the year and it’s a road map. It’s not set in stone, but it really helps you get things done more efficiently. I would start with that road map of your content and how you’re going to really push it out.
Adam Stoker: [00:31:54] Great advice. If somebody wants to learn more, where do they go?
Brian Bossuyt: [00:31:57] poconomountains.com that’s where you’ll find all the information on everything that we talked about.
Adam Stoker: [00:32:02] Great. Brian, thanks so much for taking the time and sharing your knowledge and experience with us today.
Brian Bossuyt: [00:32:06] Thanks for having me.
Adam Stoker: [00:32:07] Enjoyed the show.
Brian Bossuyt: [00:32:08] Thanks.
Will Seccombe: [00:32:09] Hello. I’m Will Seccombe, President of Connect Travel. We are excited to be partnering with the Destinations Marketing podcast to promote the eTourism Summit, which is coming to Las Vegas on September 20th through the 22nd. This year we are thrilled to be co-locating with US Travel Association and IPW, which are going to bring the entire industry together to help our travel industry emerge out of what has been a very, very challenging year. This is the 22nd year of eTourism Summit which has historically been the go-to event for digital tourism marketers. It will certainly be that case this year as well.
In addition to the actual event, September 20th through the 22nd, we will be announcing the fourth anniversary or fourth year of our eTourism Summit eTSY Awards celebrating excellence in digital tourism marketing. We’re also announcing a new program called Emerging Tourism Stars celebrating some of those up-and-coming rock stars that have really shined in this challenging year of the tourism market. As we lead into the events in September, please join us every other week for a See Tomorrow series. You can learn more about upcoming webinars at etourismsummit.com. We are really exploring some of the challenging issues that are facing tourism marketers coming out of COVID.
Also, I would encourage everybody to sign up and register for the Travel Vertical at thetravelvertical.com they create a weekly newsletter that really informs on some of the great work that’s being done across the country promoting destinations.