5 Questions From Zarticon All Destinations Should Be Asking

We like to say that Zarticon changes the way you look at things. We plan this annual user conference for Zartico’s destination clients to learn and share information about data innovations and applications. 

We also want to challenge our users. You’ll find things at Zarticon that you don’t see everywhere — a conference agenda that invites doodling, a 4-foot sticker-by-number fox, more clients than Zarticans on the stage, and a complete lack of salespeople.

If you’ve ever attended an industry conference, you know that stepping into a new way of thinking feels expansive and energizing when you’re in the moment. But once you return to an overflowing inbox and the daily demands on your attention, that excitement is hard to hold onto.

To carry the spirit of Zarticon 2024 throughout the year — until we gather again in Aurora, Colorado in 2025 — I’d like to pose five big questions that tap into what inspired us this year.

What if we make our thinking visible? 

On day one, Zartico’s Director of Product Innovation Abs King extended the very first invitation to re-imagination. She shared a practice that helps her cultivate a creative habit while simultaneously taking in lots of detailed technical information. 

Using colors and shapes to take notes — sometimes called “sketch noting” — aids recall and activates more parts of the brain. 

By making your thinking visible, you can illustrate the relationship between concepts and offer new ways to connect to the information. Data visualizations like graphs and maps offer the same benefits when we use them well.


What if we use our tools for the things they’re best at… while also creating better ones? 

Opening keynote speaker Britney Muller took us on an eye-opening journey through the past, present, and future of AI. Tools like ChatGPT have awesome capabilities, she said, “but we need to figure out how we can use it to do the things it’s qualified for, versus the things it’s not very good at.” Mic drop.

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Zartico Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer Jay Kinghorn returned to this idea later in the week, highlighting the ways our company has adjusted course as we’ve learned how best to leverage the powerful data sets we work with. Innovations like our Place-Based Strategy and the Strategic Planning Principles are designed to apply destination data directly to what it’s best at.

We also don’t have to be satisfied with the tools we have today. Zartico Lodging Data opens the door for destinations to look at lodging performance in a whole new way, with insights that have daily granularity, traveler origin markets, future booking outlooks, and no restrictions on sharing with stakeholders.

What if we expand our default settings?  

“No one knew what I was capable of doing until I showed them,” said artist, author, and closing keynote speaker Noah Scalin. “And no one knows what you’re capable of doing until you show them. No one is asking what else you can do.”

The scope of how destination organizations are involved in their communities is expanding rapidly, and motivated leaders can’t wait for an invitation — the time to dive in is now.

In breakout sessions we heard from Fallon Tullier at Visit Baton Rouge about a new holiday lights event they’re facilitating to expand visitation into a traditionally low season. They’ve used insights from ZDOS® to identify the timing, location, and target audience.

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And in the prize-winning presentation during Data Storytelling Happy Hour, Cassie Townsend from the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority shared their creative holiday campaign designed to capitalize on VFR (industry speak for “visiting friends and relatives”), turning this traditionally ignored visitor segment into economic impact potential. 

What if we question our assumptions?

Other Data Storytelling Happy Hour contenders had us rethinking what we believed. 

Katie Kole from Visit Tallahassee dug into the data on her state’s annual legislative session, when restaurant and retail spending peak but — surprise! — accommodations aren’t as full as one might believe.

And Jay Cloutier from Visit Albany leaned into the Cailtlin Clark effect and analyzed the data to find that visitors traveling to NCAA Women’s Championship games outspent men’s basketball fans in almost every category.

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What if we change our perspective? 

The total solar eclipse was a huge driver of travel to many destinations this spring, but Dan Quandt from Visit Waco had a unique view. The eclipse itself is not news — “Julius Caesar used to talk about these things,” he said. Instead, the destination itself is the variable because it’s the experiences a person has in your community that makes memories.

Zartico CEO Sarah Lehman promised everyone present that Zartico is and will always be “unapologetically innovative,” which means always being open to change as what we see in the data, in the needs of our destination clients, and in the future of the industry evolves.

“It’s all about perspective,” said destination leader and 2024 Chasing Innovation Award winner Vic Isley from Explore Asheville. When it comes to doing the best work for our communities, we must “try to at least understand where the other person or position is coming from.”

Looking at things from a different perspective can have beautiful results, as Noah Scalin demonstrated with this memorable masterpiece.