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deep marlin

Against the Tide - Second Wave

Dave Bahlman
Jul 7, 2021 9:30:20 AM

“We’re going after monsters,” said Captain Mike dryly as I boarded his boat for an all day deep sea fishing trip. He added, “There are three kinds of monsters we’ll be hunting. Big Eye Tuna, Blue Marlins and the prize of all monsters, the White Marlin.” I felt slightly nervous—monsters don’t just swim under the waves or under our beds, they sleep and wake inside our heads. 

My head was awake and pounding on the two-and-one-half hour ride out against the tide.  There were three to five-foot waves, my anxiety was high, my stomach was sick and confidence was low. Feeling ill, I wondered if I was cut out for 15 hours on the ocean. Despite it all, my ambition remained because I wanted to hunt monsters. I wanted to reel in a fish story to be told at the docks and bars throughout Ocean City. Real monsters eat you from the inside out and I wasn’t going to let that happen. 

There is an Art to “fishing,” otherwise they would call it “catching.” As a competent angler, I have fished ponds, rivers, bays and off-shore from Alaska to Florida. But never have I been to the Bluewater Canyons that sit 75 to 100 nautical miles off Maryland’s coast. And out on the open water bad things happen fast. This requires a whole new level of knowledge and skill.  I was the greenhorn ready to transform. 

The engines roar, it's too loud to talk, so you have hours to look out over the sea and think. In a noisy world, quiet is the solution. My mind soon wandered to my business, because it is a business that I love, and I made the simple connection: our industry was faced with monsters this year, but we stood strong with several DMOs that willingly committed to transformation and hunting the monsters within.  

Visit Florida

VISIT FLORIDA - Fail Fast is  a guiding private sector technology philosophy that requires extensive testing and development to determine whether an idea has merit. Unfortunately, there is little room for this private sector theory while maintaining stewardship of public taxpayer dollars. Evidence is required for justification to legislators, not hyperbole or assumption. Data-led insights provide the rationale for the administration of an investment. At VISIT FLORIDA, they have always tested the boundaries of the latest vendor's products. However, to transform their entire organization to be data-led this required the distribution of the burden of justification to all their departments and the removal of unintended bottlenecks. To achieve this organizational data-led transformation, it is necessary to have fast-moving, high-resolution, and frequent data sources with the capacity to connect them together. This provides dynamic insights and outcomes not only to Fail Fast but also to optimize success. As they return to in-person office time, they will challenge their teams to use these dynamic insights to be curious, keep digging further and ask the tough questions that they know will bring justification and support to their strategic goals. A creative whiteboard will be installed for the staff to share their findings through storytelling. 

Visit Austin

Austin CVB  - The genesis of having a Government-funded Tourism Office was to generate tax revenues to spend on public education, public safety and transportation. Several years ago there was a shift. Tourism Offices began to work closely with their Commerce or Economic Development Departments. The transformation to connect tourism to the economy is not a new idea, but having the data-led insights to have the Tourism Office take full ownership of the visitor economy is transformative. VISIT AUSTIN now has the capability to provide the visibility needed for the economic development teams to evaluate where visitors and residents intersect. By understanding visitor flow, potential investors have the insight needed to decide where and what they should build. This supports modeling and maximizing the potential to build Austin for a better future. The DMO as the source of this type of data  elevates the Tourism Office as a key component of the city’s economic goals.Entrada_Client-Logos_Color_0011_panama-city-thunder-beach-motorcycle-rally-frank-brown-park-south-padre-island-texas-beaVisit Panama City Beach - Every destination has events, festivals and concerts in their community, but Panama City Beach wanted to determine which ones were the best investment to their visitor economy. The DMO invests a significant budget in support of these shows. Are just the locals attending? Are they generating room nights, shopping and dining? Panama City Beach wanted answers and working with them we tracked the number of residents attending the concerts vs. the visitors coming in from out of town. They learned that several of the long-standing concerts and festivals were primarily attended by the locals. While these were great for the community spirit, they were not drivers of the visitor economy and no longer in the best interest of the DMO. These new data-led insights helped transform the destinations budget allocation, data provided to the local lawmakers and support given to the hotels and restaurants for future staffing. 

St. Tammany Parish

Louisiana North Shore- St. Tammany Parish - Using  data-led insights is giving St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana the opportunity to confidently proclaim to her board members and commissioners, that their Q1 Marketing spend is working and their community is recovering. Using a new metric of visitor-to-resident ratio, this is backed by irrefutable proof that can be benchmarked and continuously monitored. This metric resonates with the community and politicians, as it appears as a human with a timestamp. The metric also has granularity that can be broken down geographically by regions, zip codes, political districts, neighborhoods and census blocks, all while adhering to privacy laws and maintaining anonymity.    In addition, it provides the board and commissioner staff members information including who is coming, where they are going and how long they are staying. This is the beginning of helping to transform advocacy efforts by providing consistent, easy-to-understand data points that support  becoming the trusted source within the community.  

Final Riptide

We got skunked. Zero monsters caught, but we began to reel in the lines, one by one, still hoping for that last minute strike. I wasn’t upset at all. Life was all around me in the crystal clear bluewater: whales, porpoise, sea turtles, sunfish the size of golf carts, and sharks. I was armed with new skills like baiting a hook with ballyhoo. I learned that deep bluewater fishing was a community and a team sport. Captains share and collaborate their situational awareness to figure out how to land the fish. I was not defeated.—I was hooked. Like our industry, I had begun my own long sea cruise of transformation.  

It is not our enemies that defeat us, it is our fear. Don’t be afraid of the monsters. Make them afraid of you.

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