Why would the president of a CVB on the east side of Cincinnati that encompasses a county, three cities, 14 townships, and 11 villages take a job in Owensboro?
“Opportunity,” said newly appointed President of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Mark Calitri. “You have the Convention Center, the SportsCenter, the riverfront, and hotels – there really is tremendous opportunity and I think we can capitalize on that. That’s what intrigued me,” Calitri explained.
About a month ago, Calitri was on his way to a conference in Nashville and swung through Owensboro because executive search contacted him about the available position. “I spent a day and a half on the way down and a day here on the way back. Owensboro is a best-kept secret. We’re going to have to blow our own trumpet here and get the word out.”
For example, he says he looks forward to Owensboro being on the radar for conferences for every major organization in the state so Owensboro becomes front-of-mind for event planners and conference organizers like Louisville and Lexington are.
Calitri says he’s also looking forward to interviewing the staff to get a better understanding of the situation, but he’s clearly impressed with the staff and what the board has done to this point. “I’ve had a chance to meet the staff briefly. This current board has done an outstanding job and the staff has done a great job too.”
Mr. Calitri is from Richmond, KY, is an EKU grad, and spent the last 14 years in Ohio. “We’re excited to make this place our home and get the kids in school and become a part of this community.” The Calitri’s are bringing with them their three younger kids (out of five total), a ten-year-old daughter and twin five-year-old boys. “We’re looking forward to getting acclimated quickly and getting our kids involved in t-ball and cheer.”
Going for ‘GOLD’
By Keith Lawrence
The Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau will celebrate its 45th anniversary this fall with a new president and an expanded effort to help fill local hotel rooms.
Mark Calitri, former president and chief executive officer of the Cincinnati East Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Clermont (Ohio) Sports Development Corp., began his duties as president of the local CVB on June 1.
Ruth Ann Dearness, the CVB’s board chairwoman, said the decision to hire Calitri was easy.
“We interviewed three people,” she said. “Mark has the track record we need. He came with incredible recommendations. He has Kentucky roots, and he lived in Northern Kentucky. He understands the culture. He impressed us with the homework he had done on Owensboro. He came here and studied the community before his interview.”
Dearness said Calitri fits the job description so well that, “Had we known Mark first, it would look like we built the job description around him.”
Candance Brake, president of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, served on the CVB’s search committee.
“Mark’s success at his last position was remarkable,” she said. “That track record along with his fresh perspective on how we can be better are so impressive and will lay the groundwork for our success for years to come.”
She said the chamber, CVB and Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. work together to promote the community.
Calitri, the first person from outside the region to head the CVB, was born in Barbourville and grew up in Richmond.
Back then, he wanted to be “a musician with facepaint — like Kiss” — or a professional wrestler when he grew up.
But Calitri was introduced to the hospitality industry — and found a different career — when he landed a job working the front desk at a Days Inn when he was in college.
Fifteen years ago, he got a job in hotel sales and moved into hotel management.
Four years ago, a consultant he had worked with in the past recommended Calitri for the CVB presidency in Clermont County, Ohio.
Place DNA is at the core of the three layers of place branding that help destination marketers understand how residents, visitors and potential visitors perceive a place. By articulating the intrinsic character of your destination, DNA provides an authenticity test for all marketing activities that follow. Identifying the elements of place DNA will help ensure that your destination’s marketing efforts are made more effective by emphasizing your true sense of place.
Elements of the place DNA code
In case you’ve never studied genetics, here’s a quick crash course: DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid – an extremely long molecule of nucleic acid in a double helix pattern contained in every living cell. This molecule determines characteristics that make each species biologically unique, passed down from one generation to the next. Since places and destinations should be treated as living organisms rather than consumer goods, we can think of place DNA as its hereditary material. Nearly every cell within a place has the same DNA and no two places are exactly alike.
The uniqueness of DNA molecules comes from combinations of four building blocks represented by four nitrogen bases with these abbreviations: guanine (G), adenine (A), thymine (T), and cytosine (C). You may recognize this sequence from the 1997 movie “Gattaca” starring Ethan Hawke, in which the world prizes people with the most “valid” genes as a cautionary tale against bland conformity. We can use the same letters to identify the elements of place DNA:
G is for Geography – This describes the environment, which includes a place’s history, natural surroundings, location, size, landscape, resources, capacity, and more.
T is for Technology – This describes the human impact on a place, which includes factors like its heritage, monuments, buildings, landmarks, planning, infrastructure and economy.
A is for Authenticity – The traditions, attitudes, cultural contributions, dominant traits, habits and peculiarities of a group of people who live and interact with one another are all factors that create a sense of place and express that place’s authenticity.
C is for Continuity – This element reflects how a place has combined the three previous traits over time and how that change affects the place’s DNA. Places are not reinvented overnight and marketers must respect how their place has been moulded over time.
By describing your destination or place in terms of these four elements of place DNA, you can guarantee that your marketing efforts are better aligned with your destination’s identity and residents.
The perils of ignoring place DNA
What does this look like in practice? When places don’t respect the four elements of their DNA, marketing can go awry. This campaign from Singapore is an unforgettable example for all the wrong reasons. The Singapore Tourism Board briefly stepped into the international spotlight with this 2014 promotional video featuring the slogan “Singapore. See where the world is heading.” The couple in the video gives us a demonstration – complete with over-enthusiastic exclamations – on what to do on your first date in Singapore. After the couple does a few sightseeing activities and has a romantic dinner, the clip ends with a surprise positive pregnancy test. After swift online criticism, the destination removed the video from its YouTube channel. Nothing in this video really gives viewers a reason to visit or live in the city-state.
Examples abound in a documentary called “Pretpark Nederland” (Amusement Park The Netherlands) by Dutch filmmaker Michiel van Erp. The film follows a series of Dutch mayors who launch zany ideas and campaigns to earn quick cash for their towns – from medieval fantasy festivals to dance parties in the rural countryside. The mayor of Zutphen, Holland infamously attempted to turn his city into the region’s chocolate capital. While entertaining, the documentary points to a sad reality: These kinds of money-driven, inauthentic, one-shot campaigns give city marketing its bad reputation. Have you ever met a politician who hasn’t said that their region or city can improve the economy by becoming a shopping Valhalla? These leaders will have a hard time earning real results without considering place DNA.
Some destinations lead by authentic example
Fortunately, there are also many positive examples of destinations who align their marketing with their authentic place DNA. Destination Cleveland, a long-time target of jokes and victim of negative public perception, has recently reimagined that image into something positive by engaging its residents and offering “world-class experiences without the world-class ego.” Across the pond in Belgium, Charleroi has been ranked as the ugliest city in the world. Instead of denying this, some residents have taken this with a sense of humour and created the very unique Charleroi Safari, which tours places like the “ghost metro” and “the most depressing street in all of Belgium.” This experience is perhaps not for everyone, but to a select audience, the overt industrial decay makes Charleroi one of the most Instagrammable places on the planet. Cleveland and Charleroi have at least one thing in common: rather than battling negative perceptions, they embrace their DNA.
Other destinations have created events to celebrate their unusual uniqueness. The small town of International Falls, Minnesota is surrounded by nature’s elements. Their place DNA includes the fact that they have the coldest average temperature in the United States. After branding themselves as “Icebox of the Nation,” they started to organize a festival called “Icebox Days” that includes sports like frozen turkey bowling and the “Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard Run”. Another place that combines a healthy sense of humour with a good helping of truth is the town of Klute, Texas, which has created an annual event called “The Great Texas Mosquito Festival”.
These towns show that every place, big or small, can create a sustainable competitive advantage by embracing their identity and authenticity. The events stem from their DNA, not the other way around. If you don’t think your destination is unique, you likely haven’t been digging deep enough.
One last, great example comes from Yubari, Japan, a coal mining city on the northern island of Hokkaido. The city went bankrupt in 2007, with a debt of $353 million and a small population of approximately 12,000. Young people moved to more metropolitan areas and the downward trend seemed inevitable. Yubari’s leadership worked with a Tokyo-based agency to research the city’s DNA. Their research uncovered the fact that Yubari boasted the lowest divorce rate in Japan. From this, they created a campaign with the slogan, “Yubari, no money but love” and two mascots, a couple called “Yubari Fusai”. “Fusai” means both “debt” and “married couple” in Japanese. The “no money but love” idea was an honest, yet endearing articulation of the situation the city faced. By 2009, visitation to Yubari had increased 10% year-over-year, bringing much-needed funds back into the economy. The Yubari Fusai icon was just the right means to generate word of mouth, reenergize its citizens and help make the city economically viable once more.
What lesson can we learn from these examples? In the movie Gattaca, those with flawless DNA are the most highly valued. As an “in-valid” specimen, Ethan Hawke’s character uses his imperfections to overcome the system he lives in. Often, it’s our flaws and quirks that help us make the difference others can’t. Places and destinations face the same challenge as they use their authentic strengths and weaknesses to create something unique.
June 21, 2016 by Frank Cuypers
Every day Owensboro touches the world was presented by Mark A. Calitri, president of VisitOwensboro to the Chamber Young Professionals. This group’s high energy and brain power is an awesome asset to Owensboro Kentucky.