What makes a successful Destination Leader

By Susan Russell, Marketing Manager, Festivals Edinburgh

Susan RussellWhat makes a successful destination leader?  Is it the destination?  The leader? Or a combination of both?  Regardless of what sector you work within, an understanding of both your product, and you as an individual is critical to overall success.  Playing to your strengths, recognising your weaknesses and exploiting opportunities are all elements which might seem obvious, but are critical.

In 2015 I spent nine months looking at exactly that; through Napier University's Destination Leaders Programme, and for anyone considering undertaking a programme of study within the tourism sector, I couldn't recommend it highly enough.

Over the nine months our group (only eighteen of us) had the chance to not just learn about our own leadership styles and ambitions, but as future destination leaders, what we MUST consider NOW to ensure we're successful (both individually and as destinations) in the future.  We looked at everything from policy making and sustainability to marketing and the digital economy.

What was surprising throughout all the presentations and group discussions, was that there are some really easy things to implement that can have immediate results.  Without playing 'jargon bingo' here are just a few:

  • Collaboration (who do you work with now - or could in the future?)
  • Action (don't moan about who's not doing what - what can YOU do?)
  • Tomorrow (yes - it's another day, but TO do lists start TOday)
  • Listen (those around you likely have the same frustrations, recognise the same opportunities and could easily work with you)

One of the highlights was working with peers on a project - defining an opportunity for our destination (Edinburgh) and leading on the outcomes to put into the marketplace something tangible.  We focused on the Chinese leisure tourist, and considered how ready Edinburgh was to fully capitalise on one of the top Emerging Markets that everyone wants a bite of.  Is Edinburgh ready?  Not yet.  But we've provided a framework to take forward - for the city to be ambitious in its approach - an Emerging Market has to stop emerging at some point - right?

It's an exciting time to be a destination leader - we can't be complacent, we should be ambitious and competitive. Through collaboration our joint leadership could really transform our (your) destination.