“Durango’s Recovery Plan”: Rachel Brown – Show Notes

  • Name: Adam Stoker
  • Position: Co-founder and CEO of Relic Agency
  • Favorite Destination: Fiji
  • Dream Destination: New Zealand
  • Name: Rachel Brown
  • Position: Executive Director of Visit Durango
  • Favorite Destination:
  • Dream Destination: Portugal or Antarctica (to get to all seven continents)

“Durango’s Recovery Plan” – Show Notes and Highlights


About Rachel:

  • Rachel grew up traveling with her parents who owned a travel agency. By the time she was in college, she had the travel bug bad and would live at home to save money to travel all over the world. She has visited every continent, except Antarctica, thus her interest to go there. 
  • With her right, creative-style brain and her left, analytical-based brain, she knew tourism marketing was the perfect job for her.

The Interview Process for Durango, Colorado

  • When she applied to become Executive Director of Visit Durango, she had a phone interview and a written project submission before she flew from California to Colorado for the interview. 
  • She described it as a “hunger-games-type interview process.” There were five candidates for the job. After mingling, the process began. First, the five candidates were put at the front of the room on a stage while 40 people in the audience watched them do a group project together. Then, there was a full 8-hour day of panels. An assessment-center-type interview, she said. 
  • This interview style is used in government, giving people an environment in which to show their true colors.
  • Rachel got the job and has been the executive director of Visit Durango, Colorado for about two months. Located in the Southwest part of the state, she loves the nature and scenic views that surround the area.

Visit Durango and the Coronavirus

  • Travel to Durango, similar to every other destination, decreased greatly during COVID-19, and almost came to a halt. At one point, their occupancy dropped 86% below what was expected.
  • During the crisis, the destination never turned their marketing off because the team wanted to stay top-of-mind. They had a campaign called “Durango Dreaming” that showcased beautiful vistas and people-free shots.

Visit Durango’s Recovery Plan

  • Rachel recently presented her destination’s recovery plan to stakeholders. They responded well to the presentation via a webinar. She kept it optimistic and focused on where their tourism economy will go moving forward.
  • In the presentation, she started off with a tourism sentiment survey that was sent out both nationally and locally. Sent via Qualtrics, the survey received 1,500 responses. Unsurprisingly, people in Durango won’t be traveling by plane. Surprisingly, visitors are less likely to stay in a vacation rental. It is also surprising that people were more likely to take the local train and other local attractions. 
  • Visit Durango is going to focus on their advantages for marketing including, their rural small town with an outdoor environment that affordable and friendly.
  • Their recovery plan will have four phases
    • 1. Triage, pre-recovery phase, very little advertising
    • 2. Focusing on locals including a video series of shopkeepers and their cleanliness
    • 3. Focusing on drive markets out-of-state in a 10-hour radius with a fine gear escape campaign
    • 4. Fly Markets, if international travel restrictions are cleared
  • The only negative feedback when presenting this plan was some attendees didn’t see the advocacy efforts in all the marketing plans. 

Seeing Opportunities in Crises

  • Although crises are viewed as negative, it brought positive things with them as well. As a new executive director, it would have taken months to meet everyone in her destination. Today, she’s met everyone via Zoom.
  • This crisis has brought the people of Durango together in strategies and partnerships and support groups to help keep the town and individuals in it doing well and staying healthy. 

Resources Mentioned in the Podcast