44 minutes | Sep 30th 2020

Episode 199: Cathedral Thinking: Preparing to Rebuild in the Post-COVID Future, with Rick Antonson

Rick Antonson is the author of the travel narratives: To Timbuktu for a Haircut: A Journey Through West AfricaRoute 66 Still Kicks: Driving Americas Main Street, and Full Moon Over Noah’s Ark: An Odyssey to Mount Ararat and Beyond. He is the co-author of Slumachs Gold: In Search of a Legend. He was president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver, is past chair of the board for the Destinations International, based in Washington, DC, and served as deputy chair for the Pacific Asia Tourism Association, based in Bangkok, Thailand. He speaks around the world about the multi-generational philosophy Cathedral Thinking. Rick and his wife Janice make their home in Predator Ridge, Okanagan Valley, Canada. You can find him online at www.rickantonson.com and www.cathedralthinking.com.

Destination on the Left is joined by Rick Antonson, the former president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver, the past chair of the board for Destinations International, based in Washington, DC, and the former deputy chair for the Pacific Asia Tourism Association, based in Bangkok, Thailand. He initially joined us on Episode #44, where we talked about using cathedral thinking to create a brighter future. During our conversation, we talk about the importance of scenario planning and managing a crisis. We discuss the different ways the pandemic has shown tourism affects everyone. And we discuss the power of cathedral thinking in rebuilding the future.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:
  • What was going through Rick’s mind as the pandemic gained momentum and spread across the globe
  • Rick’s approach to crisis management in the tourism industry
  • What we should be doing to respond to the crisis right now to prepare our destinations for regrowth
  • The concept of cathedral thinking, and how DMOs can use it to plan for rebuilding in the future
  • Different ways in which the pandemic has shown tourism’s effect on entire communities
What Comes Next After COVID?

Rick Antonson is the former president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver, the past chair of the board for Destinations International, based in Washington, DC, and the former deputy chair for the Pacific Asia Tourism Association, based in Bangkok, Thailand. He initially joined us on Episode #44, where we talked about using cathedral thinking to create a brighter future. During our conversation, we talk about the importance of scenario planning in managing a crisis. We also discuss the different ways the pandemic has shown tourism’s effect on entire communities. And we discuss the power of cathedral thinking in rebuilding the future.

Crisis Management 101

At first, we were facing more of a business and marketing crisis than a worldwide shutdown like we see today. That is the first step in crisis management—identifying you are actually IN a crisis. But in crisis management, the most immediate thing is to then determine what the situation is and get the facts. This enables tourism organizations to have more strategic discussions based in realism, not idealism. You can’t react to a crisis based on what you wish was happening or somebody’s artificial forecast. You have to react based on the facts, and sometimes you have to go below the surface to get away from the noise and piece together what is really happening.

Stepping Stones

Rick recently authored an op-ed that ran in the Vancouver Sun titled “Immediate Financial Assistance Needed to Save BC Tourism Sector.” In this piece, Rick talks about the importance of funding tourism now in order to regain lost business by the year 2023. This is not a quick rebound. Even if a vaccine is approved and distributed in major markets across the globe, it will take time for the wheels to start turning again. People have to individually want to travel again—not desire. But making travel a priority when they’re concerned with getting back to work and replenishing their savings is also going to take time. The pandemic has taken a toll on our industry, but we do have the power to rebuild it better than before.