A Change to Tourism as We Know It; a Review of Skift’s SEE Conference 2020 Keynote Address

Difficult periods of time seem to intensify everything: anxiety levels, raw feelings, social issues, political divisions, inequities. This tension should not be wasted. It is in times like these that we can refocus, reengage, and reimagine our contribution to our small corner of the world.

CrowdRiff Founder and CEO, Dan Holowack, argues in his keynote address at Skift’s SEE Conference 2020, that we must use our power as destination management professionals to change tourism as we know it.


2020 has presented the tourism industry with unrivaled challenges. However, prior to this year, increasing visitation also created different problems related to over-tourism in some destinations. Areas known as ‘tourist traps’ are regions that have become disconnected from locals who have essentially given them up to visitors. And tourists are often detached from the people and the culture of a destination.


“If all we do is bring back travel, shame on us.”

Holowack quotes Todd Davidson, CEO of Travel Oregon

Holowack believes that the era of mass tourism is ending, to be replaced with the “local-first tourism economy”, where the destination is defined by the locals and a sustained balance exists between livability and visitability. The movement encourages destination organizations to shift from representing tourism to representing the destination, from serving the visitor to serving the local community.


“It’s not what locals can do for tourism but what tourism can do for locals.”

Signe Jungersted, CEO, Founding Partner, Group NAO


As destination marketing organizations, we have been tasked with bringing more visitors to a destination. Embracing a local-first mindset does not mean a shift away from the mission of tourism promotion. In fact, it will improve the visitor experience and destination brand by increasing transparency, trust, and authenticity.


Technology has changed the way people consume information and trust is sometimes difficult to attain through traditional advertisements. Destination promotions shaped by local input, embracing user-generated content, and telling stories of the local community in an authentic and locally-directed way is recognizing that the tourist wants to experience a destination ‘like a local’.


“This new local-first era is one where destinations are defined through the eyes of their locals, and visitors are attracted to destinations not just because of attractions, but also because of the character and culture of the people, who make a destination unique.”

Dan Holowack, Skift Founder and CEO,

This local-first, also known as community-based, movement is contemporaneous with anthropological tourism. Anthropological tourism is a heightened awareness and focus on the humans who intersect with tourism and the hosts are an important element in that mix. Tourism, in an ideal world, is about learning from the people and cultures that make a destination unique. The destination organization’s goal should be about enabling the tourist to connect with the destination and learn from experience in an authentic way. That starts by aligning with the people in the destination.

“We all have the same mission, we all have the same purpose. And that’s to serve our communities. And once you take that mindset, it really changes things.”

Mitch Whitten, Executive Vice President for Marketing and Strategy at Visit Fort Worth

Watch the entire keynote address here: https://crowdriff.com/see2020/keynote/

Meagan McGuire, CDME<br>Vice President, Sales and Services – Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority
Meagan McGuire, CDME
Vice President, Sales and Services – Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority


Meagan is the Vice President of Sales and Services for Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority, the official regional destination marketing organization for the cities of Des Moines, SeaTac and Tukwila in Washington State.

With a Master of Arts degree in Anthropology from Washington State University and 15 years’ experience in the tourism industry, Meagan approaches her work through a social science lens. From psychographics to storytelling, tourism marketing is best delivered by studying people and culture. She leads an exceptional team to ensure business growth and expand the organization’s long-term growth strategy through group sales and marketing activities.

In 2019, Meagan was accredited with a CDME (Certified Destination Management Executive) from Destinations International.

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