The pandemic has been a very rough time for the nation’s destination marketing organizations, as it has for the hospitality and meetings industry as a whole. On the West Coast, at least, their response has been unprecedented: working together. It’s a modern version reflecting what Benjamin Franklin is said to have advised his fellow signers of the Declaration of Independence: “We must hang together or surely we shall hang separately.”

“One of the many positive things that happened during the pandemic was that all of us smaller DMOs in Southern California came together to share best practices (and have some group therapy within peers),” is how AnaLaura Becerra, CMP, CTA, director of corporate sales for Destination Irvine put it.

A total of 15 DMOs—second- and third-tier markets, but also majors like L.A. Tourism and San Diego Tourism Authority, and even one Nevada destination, Visit Henderson—participated in an hour-long Zoom road show this week. Each destination presented a quick overview of its allures, but also reinforced the overall value and resources of DMOs for planners.

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“DMOs always are in touch with what’s hot, what’s new and what’s happening,” in the words of Mariles Krok, CMP, CMM, CTA, vice president for meeting and partnership sales at Visit Anaheim. She was a co-anchor of the road show and also helped to present her destination.

Keeping Eyes on the Screens

Raffle prizes—gift cards from Amazon, Visa and Southwest Airlines—were awarded at three junctures during the broadcast.

The other lure to retain viewers was a live interview with celebrity chef Bruno Serato, owner of Anaheim’s venerable Northern Italian Steakhouse, White House. Serato’s many honors over a long career include being knighted by the Italian government and cited as a CCN Hero for his charitable foundation, Caterina’s Club. Named for the chef’s mother, it was launched in 2005 and today serves warm meals to 5,000 needy children daily in 20 locations at 62 locations. The nonprofit offers affordable housing assistance and hospitality job training to homeless and low-income families throughout Southern California, as well.

Noting the current difficulty in finding workers in his industry, Serato said, “We have to be the mentors.” More than 250 teens “who might have joined gangs instead” have been trained to date. Some have gone on following the after-school program to intern at White House and one was hired into the kitchen.

Chef Serato also told the story behind (and attendees will receive the recipe for) one of his signature dishes, Salmon Chocolat, with white chocolate mashed potatoes.