Like most industries, the CVB industry has evolved tremendously since its formation. Unlike some industries, though, individual CVBs almost always have collaborated and had a strong industry association (now called Destinations International, est. 1915) that helps to shape evolution of the business.

Tourism also has been emerging for at least 40 years as an academic field of study, so for quite a while, there literally has been a textbook for destination marketing/management, which many CVB staffers have formally studied in bettering their work.

Since its founding, GRCVB itself has been attuned to the industry’s evolution. The Bureau’s first president and CEO, David L. Heinl, had served as chair of our industry association from 1982 to 1983, just a few years prior to arriving in Raleigh. Currently the second generation of GRCVB leadership under Denny Edwards is heavily involved in Destinations International’s body of work, too.

Just in my 21-year career, I can trace an evolution in how CVBs or destination marketing organizations (DMOs) view themselves/their role, and where we’re arriving at today is truly exciting—because to me it combines best practices drawn from 100 years of business, some new findings from academia and frankly lessons derived from humanity on the whole, e.g., the Golden Rule. DMOs of this decade will be based on value and values.

In 2000, it was sufficient for a CVB to position itself as its community’s advertising/marketing agency, i.e., like an ad agency representing the whole place instead of a single client. Then came the application of branding (gleaned from big business and mass marketing approaches) to an entire destination, making a DMO the brand manager. Product development or even facility management was added to many Bureaus’ repertoires by 2010 as enhancing “the total experience” of the visitor became king.

In recent years, CVBs in many parts of the country again have proven their worth (the value of demand-side economic development work happening on much deeper levels than the surface-level advertising seen by visitors) alongside their other economic development peers such as downtown associations and chambers of commerce (from which a lot of CVBs once originated, including GRCVB); long-term destination strategic plans, like Wake County's, make a CVB's economic developer role crystal clear. Now the COVID tourism crisis has made (tourism) workforce development an imperative for destination management as well.

In 2021, DMOs worldwide are cooperating to define an inspirational set of nine core values that can shape the present and future of the destination marketing/management industry: passion, awareness, transparency, inclusion, engagement, collaboration, innovation, stewardship and relevance. Important to me and, I imagine, to many others is that the sum of enacting or living these values equates to professional work that prioritizes more than wealth alone. It incorporates putting locals first and doing what is right by people.

In a workbook published this summer, Destinations International best summarized the evolving work of DMOs this way: “Every community must compete with every other community for their share of the world’s attention, customers and investment. To compete, people need to be aware of a community, have a positive impression and want to visit to experience the community and meet its people.

DI quote about community

“This is achieved through clearly developing, articulating and managing the community’s brand. Efforts must be made to promote, market, sell and engage potential visitors. And all of this must be reinforced again and again.

“Destination organizations are uniquely positioned to do this. Addressing this need for destination promotion is for the benefit and well-being of every person in a community. It is a common good. It is an essential investment to develop opportunities and build quality of life to benefit all the residents of a community.”