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Gadgets lose their luster. A trip can get lost in the day-to-day. But an experience? That can last a lifetime. For destination marketers, one of the greatest challenges they face is having to market a product they don’t control. From initial inspiration to post-visit advocacy, there are endless variables that impact the entire visitor engagement. However, by investing in experience development, not only does that give destination marketers a measure of control, but it creates a currency for your destination that your visitors can trade on time and again, and even at a multiple.

As a marketer and entrepreneur, I’m always looking for the ROI, and for Joe Veneto, experiences are where the money is at for destinations. Heck, they don’t call it “The Experience Economy” for nothing.

As the head of the Veneto Collaboratory, Joe has spent the last 30 years working across the tourism landscape, helping destinations and their partners realize the untapped potential of their visitor experience. And last month, Destination ENV proudly sponsored his 2019 Experience Lab.

With Madison, WI as a backdrop, marketers and experience managers from over 30 CVBs and DMOs gathered to workshop with Joe and immerse themselves in the various programs he developed with the Destination Madison team.

Over an intensive 3 days, my colleague Brian Ryback and I listened to the challenges faced by destination marketers from British Columbia to Southern Florida. While very different destinations, the themes were the same, as was the shared enthusiasm for the inspirational magic Joe was cooking up. And no better way to teach and inspire experience development than immersing yourself in experiences that are already successful.

Sure, we visited the National Mustard Museum, but it is another thing entirely to embark on a food tasting led by a mustard expert. From guided tours of the city and local creameries to immersive art creation, cheese board making, and even an Old Fashioned fueled super club bitters boot camp — we didn’t just “spend time” visiting the town, we were treated to a uniquely Madison, Wisconsin travel experience.

And in the end, that is the point. Joe empowered Destination Madison and their partners to take some control of their product, developing experiences that not only create new revenue opportunities but leave visitors with an experience they are compelled to share with others.

I’ve always loved Madison and I’m confident each participant left the lab inspired to take their CVBs own experiences to the next level. How am I so sure? Because it works. Just ask the recipient of the first Old Fashioned I served with my own personally made bitters and a side story of how I brought them back from my trip to Madison, Wisconsin.

Thanks Joe, and to everyone who participated for, well…an experience.