Want more visitors? Find your Percy. Five critical qualities of a tourism leader.

March 4, 2014 • By

Tambourine: Hotel and Destination Marketing

Meet Percy

He’s lived alone in the same well-kept little house for decades.

He’s in his sixties but can outrun, outlift and outdrink guys half his age.

He has not been to a doctor in forty years.

He has no college degree or formal business experience.

…without these five qualities, no tourism leader can truly thrive.

Meet Percy, the greatest tourism leader we’ve ever seen (note: he would be horribly embarrassed if he knew about this article, so I’m changing his name to safeguard his privacy). Incredibly, he’s not the tourism director for his region… he’s not even on one of their many committees.

This is a monumental blunder on the part of the local tourism authority.

He’s a simple tour guide, driving tourists around his destination in a spotless white van. He has no political ambitions or big financial goals… but has five important qualities that tourism marketing organizations need to inspire and attract visitors. They may not be the only five required for success, but we believe that without these five qualities, no tourism leader can truly thrive.

If your tourism authority or DMO wants more visitors, you’d be wise to find your Percy.

Here’s why:

  1. Percy knows his region:   He knows thousands of people by name. He knows where to get the best local food of every type. He knows the cook, as well as their mother/father/grandfather and the complete family tree of the farmer who cultivated the vegetables on your plate. He knows the high and low temp for the day, the ocean temperature (in Celsius and Fahrenheit), the chance of precipitation, the dew point and the pollen count. He can speak about the region from his heart and infuse that message in the region’s communications.
  2. The region knows Percy:   As important as it is for your tourism leader to know the region, it’s also important that local stakeholders/constituents know him or her as well. Go anywhere with Percy and people call out to him with love and affection. They trust him to convey their messages to the world. He is in touch with them daily, not sequestered in a sterile office building sending emails. And because he is humble, they know he will use the funds he’s entrusted with wisely. They know he will always do the right thing to ensure the critical flow of tourism dollars into their region.
  3. Percy symbolizes the region:   Percy is a man of the people. He is a textbook characterization of the regional profile. He eats where the locals eat. Shares their love of sports and maintains fierce regional pride. Does your leader reflect the region’s values? Does she embody the authentic essence of your destination? If your region is known for golf, it makes sense to find a leader who knows and loves golf.
  4. Percy is a great listener:    Percy has no ego. He talks 1/10th as much as he listens. But when he listens, he listens intently, treating CEOs and busboys with the same care and genuine interest.  He asks tourists why they chose his region and what they love most. He asks airline personnel about load factors. He listens to the ideas of other local tourism officials, even when he knows they are misguided. His amazing skill for listening is not something he works on… he is simply and genuinely interested in hearing what you have to say.
  5. Percy sees the future:    Most tourism officials are only in office for a few years, so they have a hard time taking a longer view of destination development. Percy knows that attracting tourists to the region is a never-ending process. He realizes that one of the most important ways to make tourists feel comfortable in his region is to get the population of his region to treat tourists with an extra dose of courtesy, respect and appreciation. So he starts with the youth of his region… he goes to schools and talks to kids about the importance of tourism! He is planting the seeds for a better tourism environment with no compensation or benefit to himself. How awesome is that?

Many DMOs have already found their Percy

At this point, many of you may be saying: “Hire an everyday tour guide as our Tourism Director… come on Dave, are you nuts?”

But before you condemn me and fire off a flaming comment below, take a moment to ask yourself a few tough questions: What qualities does your current tourism leader possess that have a tangible impact on your region’s actual results?

Does their ability to manage meetings generate a significant increase in tourist dollars? Has their political savvy increased local occupancy rates?

Fortunately, many DMOs have already found a Percy with the complete skill set: professional management capabilities combined with a deep, intrinsic understanding and love of their destination. Look closely at these regions’ results and it’s no surprise they are usually thriving while their competitors continue to struggle.

About Tambourine

Tambourine drives revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide using advanced marketing technology. The firm is celebrating its 30-year anniversary. For more information, visit Tambourine.com.