February 20, 2018
When planning a meeting or incentive, one of the most important things is where it is held. That was the message emphasized at Destination Showcase on Feb. 13. "Your event begins and ends with the destination," said Don Welsh, president and CEO of Destinations International, which organized the event, held in the Grand Ballroom of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Over 1,000 were in attendance, and 140 destinations showcased at this one-day gathering of meeting professionals and representatives from destinations throughout the world. 

"What a great way to connect with more than a hundred meeting planners as well as CVBs in an afternoon's time," said Carlo Nocella, sales and product development professional with Tuo Travel, a Rome-based destination management company who attended the event.

Invigorating music filled the ballroom courtesy of a DJ sponsored by Experience Kissimmee. Attendees were draw n to innovative booths - such as Visit Denver's color wall - and sweepstakes such as Visit Baltimore's giveaway of locally made backpacks. 

José Andrés, author, television personality, and chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup was the event's keynote speaker. "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are," he said. "Tell me the destination you love, and I'll tell you who you are." 

The day included an education session sponsored by PCMA about disruptive change and the digital revolution shaping the industry. Derrick Johnson, CMP, DES, senior director of meetings for the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers, moderated the session, using Slido.com to crowdsource the audience members' reactions to his talk. 

But there was plenty happening before the event itself. The previous night, the Spirit of Hospitality Celebration took place at National Geographic's Washington, D.C. headquarters. This annual pre-show gathering brought together industry leaders to raise funds that would go to support destinations and the global travel industry. The event hosted nearly 400 guests and raised $7,000 from the sale of raffle tickets for trips to Asheville, NC; Bermuda; and Savannah, GA.  

Stephanie Pace Brown, president and CEO of Explore Asheville and Destinations International Foundation chair, presented National Geographic Traveler with the Spirit of Hospitality Award, which recognizes individuals and organizations that show exceptional dedication and commitment to the travel and tourism industry. George Stone, editor-in-chief of National Geographic Traveler, accepted the award.