By Drew Hays, Visit Wichita sports sales manager

Last month, I had the privilege of attending Destinations International’s annual convention in Montreal, Canada, as a newly selected member of the organization’s 2017 “30 Under 30” class.

Formerly known as DMAI, Destinations International is the largest organization of official destination organizations, convention and visitors bureaus, and tourism boards. For their “30 Under 30” program, they choose future leaders who have demonstrated exceptional potential. I was thrilled to be chosen along with 29 impressive colleagues from all over the world: from Midwestern cities like Omaha and Kansas City to larger market cities of Atlanta, NYC and Washington, D.C. to international cities of Canberra, Australia; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Cape Town, South Africa. I’ve already made contacts within the class who I’m certain will help me along my tourism journey for years to come.  

In addition to networking with my classmates, I also attended educational sessions designed for the “30 Under 30” group. Session topic ranged from career development and strategic planning to presentations on bicycle tourism and travel habits of Generation Z.

I was really interested in the session covering Generation Z. I learned that according to research, we have only 8 seconds to target someone born after the year 1996. Gen Zers can operate up to five devices at one time, so you can see why it might be tough to get their attention. When traveling, Gen Zers want to culturally immerse themselves in the city they are visiting, which means they are interested in personalized experiences. While we are focused on Millenials right now, destinations should be also be targeting Gen Zers because according to the research I heard in this session, that age group will account for 40 percent of all consumers with disposable income to travel by 2020.

It has been a great experience to be a part of Destinations International’s “30 Under 30” class. In addition to the annual convention programming, Destinations International also will have education sessions and networking opportunities for all “30 Under 30” members throughout the year. Being able to meet, learn and share experiences with other “30 Under 30” colleagues in the industry will be a valuable asset moving forward for me and for Visit Wichita. There were a lot of new ideas brought forth through education sessions that I'm looking forward to implementing to help further position Wichita as a fantastic destination.