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2024 Schedule of Events

All concurrent and general sessions will take place at the Greater Columbus Convention Center (GCCC), located at 400 N High St, Columbus, OH 43215. 

*Please note, times are subject to change.  


Monday is Destination Day!
Wear your favorite destination attire for a chance to win two 2025 registrations.


Conference Credentials: All delegates are issued a name badge at registration. This non-transferable badge is required for admission to all official ESTO functions. Should an identification badge be lost, a replacement may be obtained at registration. Badges must be worn at all ESTO events.  

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Saturday, August 10
TIME & LOCATION Event
3:00pm to 5:00pm
Experience
3:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Experience
3:00pm to 5:00pm
Experience
3:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Experience
Sunday, August 11
TIME & LOCATION Event
8:00am to 10:00am
Experience
8:00 am to 10:00 am
Experience
8:30am to 5:30pm
Experience
8:30 am to 5:30 pm
Experience
8:30am to 5:30pm
Experience
8:30 am to 5:30 pm
Experience
8:30am to 5:30pm
Experience
8:30 am to 5:30 pm
Experience
10:00am to 12:00pm
Experience

PRE-REGISTRATION REQUIRED

What to Expect:

Check-in by 10 AM.

What to Wear:

Please wear athletic clothing and tennis shoes, something casual, cool, and comfortable. Average temperatures in August are a high of 83 F and a low of 65 F. Make sure you bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a water bottle.

In case of inclement weather, attendees will be notified of any changes to the scheduled immersion tour.

About the Immersion: Explore Columbus’ newest neighborhood, The Peninsula, on one of CoGo’s new e-bikes while discussing how the city’s development plans are making it a bike-friendly destination. Hear from a local official about the intersectionality of active transport with local economies, safety, new development, and community livability. You’ll also visit Franklinton, the city’s emerging arts district, and enjoy a stop at Land-Grant, a popular local craft brewery and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams Street Treats to cap off the ride. You'll leave inspired with ideas to bring back to your community and how to highlight your own bike-friendly experiences and routes. 

Riders will board a bus back to the Greater Columbus Convention Center. This ride is for all ages and abilities and will not be strenuous or involve physical challenges. 

10:00 am to 12:00 pm
Experience
10:00am to 12:00pm
Experience

PRE-REGISTRATION REQUIRED

What to Expect:

Check-in by 10 AM.

What to Wear:

Casual, cool, and comfortable. Average temperatures in August are a high of 83 F and a low of 65 F. Make sure you bring sunscreen, sunglasses and we recommend a hat. In case of inclement weather, attendees should bring rain ponchos and/or umbrellas.

In case of inclement weather, attendees will be notified of any changes to the scheduled immersion tour.

About the Immersion: As one of the top fashion cities in the U.S., home to fashion designers, major retail headquarters, and several thriving fashion districts, this immersion reveals why Columbus is a fashion powerhouse and how fashion fuels the city’s image and the industry’s future. Learn how your destination can bridge economic development, education, and creative industries to spark innovation in your own destination. You’ll also enjoy a private shopping experience and hear from designers at Common Thread, an incubator for design talent.

10:00 am to 12:00 pm
Experience
10:00am to 12:00pm
Experience

PRE-REGISTRATION REQUIRED

What to Expect:

Check-in by 10 AM.

What to Wear:

Casual, cool, and comfortable. Average temperatures in August are a high of 83 F and a low of 65 F. Make sure you bring sunscreen, sunglasses and we recommend a hat. In case of inclement weather, attendees should bring rain ponchos and/or umbrellas.

In case of inclement weather, attendees will be notified of any changes to the scheduled immersion tour.

About the Immersion: Immerse yourself in Columbus’ unique districts and neighborhoods that line the city’s main thoroughfare, High St. Nicknamed the “Five on High,” you’ll get an overview of Ohio’s capital city as you explore the University District, Short North Arts District, Arena District, Downtown and historic German Village. Learn how to leverage your city’s unique neighborhoods to tell your destination’s story and create authentic experiences while connecting visitors with your destination’s personality. 

10:00 am to 12:00 pm
Experience
10:00am to 12:00pm
Experience

PRE-REGISTRATION REQUIRED

What to Expect:

Check-in by 10 AM.

What to Wear:

Casual, cool, and comfortable. Average temperatures in August are a high of 83 F and a low of 65 F. Make sure you bring sunscreen, sunglasses and we recommend a hat. In case of inclement weather, attendees should bring rain ponchos and/or umbrellas.

In case of inclement weather, attendees will be notified of any changes to the scheduled immersion tour.

About the Immersion: Explore Columbus’ unique food and drink scene on this immersion! Learn how Experience Columbus curates and creates free experiential trails to engage visitors—and be inspired for trails you can start in your own destination. Taste your way through the city as you visit local businesses that are part of the Columbus-Style Pizza Trail, Columbus Distillery Trail and Columbus Coffee Trail and learn how these trails boost the local economy and improve the visitor experience. 

Plus, you’ll receive a trail redemption gift at the end of the tour! 

10:00 am to 12:00 pm
Experience
1:00pm to 2:30pm
Peer Open Forum

Peer Open Forums are facilitated open discussions for DMO and state tourism office staff only. Please sign up for your preferred Peer Open Forum topic during registration.

 

PLEASE NOTE: We ask that all ESTO sponsors refrain from attending the peer open forums to foster an environment of collaboration for staff from DMOs and state tourism offices. Thanks for your understanding!

1:00 pm to 2:30 pm
Peer Open Forum
2:30pm to 4:00pm
Experience

Solutions Hub presentations are 15-minute presentations with the goal of offering DMOs hands-on education and marketing insights that can be implemented in their home destinations. 

 

Content provided by:

Adara, A RateGain Company

Epsilon

Expedia

Madden Media

Matador Network

Nativo

2:30 pm to 4:00 pm
Experience
4:15pm to 5:15pm
Main Stage
4:15 pm to 5:15 pm
Main Stage
5:45pm to 7:15pm
Networking

Don’t miss this year’s Networking Reception for U.S. Travel’s ESTO! Taking place in the unique indoor-outdoor event venue The Kee in the Warehouse District, dive into the vibrant art and music scene in Columbus with a thrilling and sleek summer block party that will kick your week off right. Accompanied by a live DJ, you can sip and savor diverse flavors from Columbus’ thriving, nationally lauded food scene, or experience The Kee’s interactive games and activities. Immerse yourself in art and play throughout the brightly colored venue, or connect and network while enjoying craft cocktails and beverages in hand from Columbus’ beer scene (ranked third best in the country by USA Today 10Best). No matter how you spend this kickoff to ESTO 2024, it’s sure to be an event you won’t forget. 

5:45 pm to 7:15 pm
Networking
Monday, August 12
TIME & LOCATION Event
7:00am to 4:00pm
Experience
7:00 am to 4:00 pm
Experience
7:00am to 4:00pm
Experience
7:00 am to 4:00 pm
Experience
7:00am to 4:00pm
Experience
7:00 am to 4:00 pm
Experience
8:30am to 9:15am
Networking
8:30 am to 9:15 am
Networking
9:15am to 9:30am
Main Stage
9:15 am to 9:30 am
Main Stage
9:30am to 10:30am
Main Stage

In this keynote, Sekou challenges our traditional view of growth. Ever since we were little, we’ve been obsessed with growth. But in order for the transformational leader to keep reaching the proverbial "next level," you must first transform your concept of the word "growth" in a sustainable way. Prepare to supercharge your resiliency through an energetic and inspiring keynote like no other.

9:30 am to 10:30 am
Main Stage
10:30am to 11:00am
Main Stage
10:30 am to 11:00 am
Main Stage
11:00am to 11:30am
Break
11:00 am to 11:30 am
Break
11:30am to 12:30pm
All Access

[Leading Forward] The DMO Role in Workforce Development 

This session tackles a surging request for destinations: workforce development. Learn a clear framework for making informed decisions on your DMO’s role by exploring real-world scenarios from destinations who successfully managed it themself, those who delegated, and those who found a collaborative approach. Gain valuable insights into factors to consider, such as workload, resources, and existing skillsets. By the end, you'll be equipped to confidently navigate this decision and determine the best path for you and your team. 

 

[Accelerating Growth] Three Second Rule: Why Short Form Content is Key to Social Success 

The results are in, you officially have three seconds to capture your audience’s attention before they scroll. This session will explore how short form video content isn’t going anywhere – making it more important than ever for destinations to prioritize content creation that inspires travel. Hear from content experts and DMOs that are seeing great ROI. Get ready to create short form videos that convert, because after this session, you’ll leave with actionable tools to inspire your content strategy and capitalize on best practices from destinations large and small.   

 

[Impactful Insights] Making Data Decisions on a Shoestring Budget 

Understanding data doesn’t always require a massive budget or dedicated research team. As a destination marketing leader, you have more data at your fingertips than ever before but knowing where to begin – or make sense of the numbers – can be overwhelming. This interactive session walks participants through the process of evidence-based decision making, providing clear next steps to create impactful and cost-efficient destination marketing strategies. All session attendees will receive a copy of the DMO Toolbox White Paper Project from the inaugural Travel and Tourism Research Association International (TTRA) Think Tank initiative.  

 

[Destination Evolution] Strategy Activators: Using Little Insights to Make Big Impacts 

No matter the size or scale of our destination strategies, one thing remains constant: the success hinges on how we activate those approaches. Failure to activate leads to disengaged stakeholders, misaligned resources, a lack of measurable outcomes, restless boards, and a plan gathering dust on a shelf. However, when we reorient to being strategy activators, our destination plans come alive and help our communities flourish. Strategy activators can be any one of us and it all starts with little insights that lead to big impacts. This session will explore actionable strategies, navigate common challenges, and uncover effective approaches that empower destination leaders to bring their strategies to life. 

11:30 am to 12:30 pm
All Access
11:30am to 12:30pm
All Access
Impactful Insights

Understanding data doesn’t always require a massive budget or dedicated research team. As a destination marketing leader, you have more data at your fingertips than ever before but knowing where to begin – or make sense of the numbers – can be overwhelming. This interactive session walks participants through the process of evidence-based decision making, providing clear next steps to create impactful and cost-efficient destination marketing strategies. All session attendees will receive a copy of the DMO Toolbox White Paper Project from the inaugural Travel and Tourism Research Association International (TTRA) Think Tank initiative. 

11:30 am to 12:30 pm
All Access
Impactful Insights
11:30am to 12:30pm
All Access
Destination Evolution

No matter the size or scale of our destination strategies, one thing remains constant: the success hinges on how we activate those approaches. Failure to activate leads to disengaged stakeholders, misaligned resources, a lack of measurable outcomes, restless boards, and a plan gathering dust on a shelf. However, when we reorient to being strategy activators, our destination plans come alive and help our communities flourish. Strategy activators can be any one of us and it all starts with little insights that lead to big impacts. This session will explore actionable strategies, navigate common challenges, and uncover effective approaches that empower destination leaders to bring their strategies to life.

11:30 am to 12:30 pm
All Access
Destination Evolution
11:30am to 12:30pm
All Access

The results are in, you officially have three seconds to capture your audience’s attention before they scroll. This session will explore how short form video content isn’t going anywhere – making it more important than ever for destinations to prioritize content creation that inspires travel. Hear from content experts and DMOs that are seeing great ROI. Get ready to create short form videos that convert, because after this session, you’ll leave with actionable tools to inspire your content strategy and capitalize on best practices from destinations large and small.  

11:30 am to 12:30 pm
All Access
11:30am to 12:30pm
CEO/CMO

This session tackles a surging request for destinations: workforce development. Learn a clear framework for making informed decisions on your DMO’s role by exploring real-world scenarios from destinations who successfully managed it themself, those who delegated, and those who found a collaborative approach. Gain valuable insights into factors to consider, such as workload, resources, and existing skillsets. By the end, you'll be equipped to confidently navigate this decision and determine the best path for you and your team.

11:30 am to 12:30 pm
CEO/CMO
12:30pm to 1:45pm
Networking
12:30 pm to 1:45 pm
Networking
1:45pm to 2:15pm
Main Stage

Hear from social media experts from the National Park Service and Wendy's Corporation – both widely recognized for their authentic approach to building a brand. Learn how they each grab attention, engage with followers, and inject their unique personality. You’ll learn “the secrets” to building an authentic brand and pioneering innovative marketing strategies that you can apply to your destination and own marketing arsenal. This session is sure to be full of witty (and maybe sassy) comments – looking at you, Wendy, in addition to a guidebook for understanding all the mountain peaks and valleys of finding and building your destination’s true brand.

1:45 pm to 2:15 pm
Main Stage
2:25pm to 2:55pm
Main Stage
2:25 pm to 2:55 pm
Main Stage
2:55pm to 3:25pm
Break
2:55 pm to 3:25 pm
Break
3:25pm to 4:25pm
All Access

Influencers can play a critical role in DMO marketing strategy. However, influencers are people and people come with a variety of opinions and viewpoints that may not always be consistent with your brand. In an increasingly polarized world, learning to work with third-party validators without entangling your brand is imperative. In this session, we’ll explore how to avoid landmines when it comes to partnering with influencers, while also sharing best practices in justifying your influencer strategy to stakeholders.

3:25 pm to 4:25 pm
All Access
3:25pm to 4:25pm
All Access

[Leading Forward] Using the Power of Your State Brand to Amplify Your Local Brand

Unleash the full potential of your destination. This session will explore the expectations between state tourism offices and DMO partners and how destinations of all sizes can leverage what their state has to offer to amplify their destination. Learn how to maximize state resources such as grants, co-op programs, and advocacy initiatives. Hear the state and local destinations’ perspectives on how they’ve successfully partnered together to market their destinations and how state tourism offices balance supporting destinations of all sizes with varying needs.

 

[Accelerating Growth] The AI Revolution Is Here. But Has It Changed the Way We Travel?

This session will take a deep dive into AI and the digital acceleration on how personalized recommendations, automated customer service, predictive analytics, and smart itinerary planning are transforming destination marketing. Discover AI-driven innovations that enhance traveler experiences and learn how to optimize marketing strategies and gain a competitive edge in the dynamic travel market. You’ll also walk away with a better understanding on the consumer landscape and how consumers are using AI. 

 

[Impactful Insights] Dropping Vanity Metrics and Adopting New Industry KPIs

Visibility without value is vanity. And in the dynamic landscape of destination marketing, we need metrics that add value – and show relevance to our marketing objectives and strategies. In this session, we’ll delve into the multitude of KPIs available and equip you with the knowledge to decipher the difference between vanity and value. Whether your goal is to boost visitation numbers, enhance visitor experiences, or elevate destination awareness, you’ll leave this session understanding which metrics truly matter and how to leverage them for tangible results. 

 

[Destination Evolution] Beyond the Likes: Balancing Brand Alignment and Influencer Partnerships Influencers can play a critical role in DMO marketing strategy. However, influencers are people and people come with a variety of opinions and viewpoints that may not always be consistent with your brand. In an increasingly polarized world, learning to work with third-party validators without entangling your brand is an imperative. In this session, we’ll explore how to avoid landmines when it comes to partnering with influencers, while also sharing best practices in justifying your influencer strategy to stakeholders.

3:25 pm to 4:25 pm
All Access
3:25pm to 4:25pm
All Access
Impactful Insights

Visibility without value is vanity. And in the dynamic landscape of destination marketing, we need metrics that add value and show relevance to our marketing objectives and strategies. In this session, we’ll delve into the multitude of KPIs available and equip you with the knowledge to decipher the difference between vanity and value. Whether your goal is to boost visitation numbers, enhance visitor experiences, or elevate destination awareness, you’ll leave this session understanding which metrics truly matter and how to leverage them for tangible results. 

3:25 pm to 4:25 pm
All Access
Impactful Insights
3:25pm to 4:25pm
All Access

This session will take a deep dive into AI and the digital acceleration of how personalized recommendations, automated customer service, predictive analytics, and smart itinerary planning are transforming destination marketing. Discover AI-driven innovations that enhance traveler experiences and learn how to optimize marketing strategies and gain a competitive edge in the dynamic travel market. You’ll also walk away with a better understanding on the consumer landscape and how consumers are using AI.  

3:25 pm to 4:25 pm
All Access
3:25pm to 4:25pm
CEO/CMO

Unleash the full potential of your destination. This session will explore the expectations between state tourism offices and DMO partners and how destinations of all sizes can leverage what their state has to offer to amplify their destination. Learn how to maximize state resources such as grants, co-op programs, and advocacy initiatives. Hear the state and local destinations’ perspectives on how they’ve successfully partnered together to market their destinations and how state tourism offices balance supporting destinations of all sizes with varying needs.

3:25 pm to 4:25 pm
CEO/CMO
6:00pm to 11:59pm
Experience
6:00 pm to 11:59 pm
Experience
Tuesday, August 13
TIME & LOCATION Event
7:30am to 2:00pm
Experience
7:30 am to 2:00 pm
Experience
7:30am to 4:00pm
Experience
7:30 am to 4:00 pm
Experience
7:30am to 4:00pm
Experience
7:30 am to 4:00 pm
Experience
8:30am to 9:15am
Networking
8:30 am to 9:15 am
Networking
9:15am to 9:45am
Main Stage

Explore the evolving public perceptions of travel, its profound impact on personal growth and community development and gain insights on whether the concept of tribalism translates into impact on travel behavior. Three industry leaders will share insights and strategies to optimize travel as a catalyst for positive change, emphasizing its role in economic stimulation, cultural exchange, and social cohesion. 

9:15 am to 9:45 am
Main Stage
9:45am to 10:45am
Main Stage

Win the moment. Impress and influence. Disrupt and defy. Inspire and aspire. Overdeliver, outthink, and outperform. Yes, it’s good to be better. But, it’s better to be different. In this session, we’ll dive into why we’re impressed by certain people and brands – and how to capitalize on your own. Join Sally Hogshead – a New York Times bestseller, a Global Brand Guru, and “force of nature” who “changed the face of North American advertising” to dive into what makes us each different based on our own results from Sally’s personal brand measurement, which identifies your most fascinating and impressive qualities. Be sure to take THE FASCINATE® TEST ahead of time to fully engage with this keynote. A FASCINATE® TEST code is available to all registered attendees.

9:45 am to 10:45 am
Main Stage
10:45am to 11:20am
Break
10:45 am to 11:20 am
Break
11:00am to 12:00pm
All Access

Discover the transformative power of sports and sports fans in fostering community collaborations and enhancing a destination. This session will explore turning sports stadiums and arenas into vibrant hubs that transcend game day excitement – not only for fans, but local communities and tourists alike. By the end of the session, you'll emerge with a deeper understanding of how sports and community assets can serve as a catalyst for tourism growth, along with concrete strategies to drive engagement and economic development in your destination, regardless of size. 

11:00 am to 12:00 pm
All Access
11:20am to 12:20pm
CEO/CMO
11:20 am to 12:20 pm
CEO/CMO
11:20am to 12:20pm
All Access

[Accelerating Growth] Beyond the Game: Transforming Stadiums into Community Destinations

Discover the transformative power of sports and sports fans in fostering community collaborations and enhancing a destination. This session will explore turning sports stadiums and arenas into vibrant hubs that transcend game day excitement – not only for fans, but local communities and tourists alike. By the end of the session, you'll emerge with a deeper understanding of how sports and community assets can serve as a catalyst for tourism growth, along with concrete strategies to drive engagement and economic development in your destination, regardless of size.

 

[Impactful Insights] Customizing Travel Experiences Amid Evolving Consumer Trends

Understanding and adapting to new consumer demands and trends is essential for a destination’s success. This session will delve into the evolving consumer landscape and examine how leading travel brands are engaging today’s dynamic consumer. From luxury travel to culinary adventures to digital detoxes and everything in between, this session will explore how to use data-driven insights into the consumer trends reshaping how we connect with and market to travelers.

 

[Destination Evolution] Coopetition: Creating Synergy Across Destination and State Partners

Collaboration or competition between destination and state partners is an age-old story. This session will explore coopetition and how to leverage these unique relationships to share innovative efforts, distribution channels, marketing campaigns, costs and risks, and much more. Hear how destinations have worked with their “competition” and the success stories of joint marketing campaigns to elevate not only their own destination but their neighboring destination or state and create a valuable experience for all.

11:20 am to 12:20 pm
All Access
11:20am to 12:20pm
All Access

Understanding and adapting to new consumer demands and trends is essential for a destination’s success. This session will delve into the evolving consumer landscape and examine how leading travel brands are engaging today’s dynamic consumer. From luxury travel to culinary adventures to digital detoxes and everything in between, this session will explore how to use data-driven insights into the consumer trends reshaping how we connect with and market to travelers. 

11:20 am to 12:20 pm
All Access
12:20pm to 1:50pm
Networking
12:20 pm to 1:50 pm
Networking
1:50pm to 2:55pm
Main Stage
1:50 pm to 2:55 pm
Main Stage
2:55pm to 3:30pm
Break
2:55 pm to 3:30 pm
Break
3:20pm to 4:20pm

[Accelerating Growth] Unlocking Opportunities with Public Private Partnerships (PPP)
PPPs can create a lot of value but can also be time consuming and complicated. This session will talk about not only the benefits but the steps to creating great partnerships and a win-win situation for all brands. 

[Impactful Insights] Beyond Cliches and Tourist Traps: Creating and Marketing Authentic Travel Experiences 
In a world inundated by screens and digital connectivity, Millennials and Gen Z travelers seek more than just snapshots; they crave real and authentic connections. Authentic travel offers a gateway to understanding cultures, traditions, and lifestyles beyond the surface level. This session will explore why younger generations crave authentic travel experiences and how we, as destination marketers, can capitalize on this growing trend. Through case studies, expert insights, and interactive discussions, you'll gain a deeper understanding of the principles that underpin authentic destination development.

[Destination Evolution] The Evolution of Meetings and Group Travel Marketing
The world of meetings and group travel marketing is constantly in flux. This interactive session explores the most noticeable changes impacting the industry today. Uncover success stories from the past two years and gain firsthand insights from industry leaders who will share their own experiences and winning approaches. Learn how to adapt your marketing efforts and leverage partnerships with tour operators and event planners to remain competitive in this ever-evolving landscape.
 

[Destination Evolution] Empowering Minority Businesses: Proven Strategies for Community Engagement
Minority-owned businesses play a pivotal role in building vibrant communities and inclusive travel destinations. Discover practical approaches for fostering collaboration and partnership between destination stakeholders, community organizations, minority-owned businesses, and travelers. This session will explore a range of innovative strategies implemented by destinations that are driving positive change in fostering a more inclusive and prosperous business environment. Participants will gain valuable insights on effectively gathering participation from minority-owned businesses, securing funding opportunities, and cultivating a collaborative ecosystem that benefits all stakeholders. 

3:20 pm to 4:20 pm
3:30pm to 4:30pm
All Access

In a world inundated by screens and digital connectivity, Millennials and Gen Z travelers seek more than just snapshots; they crave real and authentic connections. Authentic travel offers a gateway to understanding cultures, traditions, and lifestyles beyond the surface level. This session will explore why younger generations crave authentic travel experiences and how we, as destination marketers, can capitalize on this growing trend. Through case studies, expert insights, and interactive discussions, you'll gain a deeper understanding of the principles that underpin authentic destination development.

3:30 pm to 4:30 pm
All Access
3:30pm to 4:30pm
All Access

The world of meetings and group travel marketing is constantly in flux. This interactive session explores the most noticeable changes impacting the industry today. Uncover success stories from the past two years and gain firsthand insights from industry leaders who will share their own experiences and winning approaches. Learn how to adapt your marketing efforts and leverage partnerships with tour operators and event planners to remain competitive in this ever-evolving landscape.

3:30 pm to 4:30 pm
All Access
3:30pm to 4:30pm
All Access
3:30 pm to 4:30 pm
All Access
6:15pm to 8:15pm
Experience

Illuminate the Night: A Glitzy and Glamorous White Party

Join U.S. Travel and Miles Partnership for a dazzling evening to celebrate this year’s best and brightest marketing visionaries at the 2024 Destiny and Mercury Awards. Come dressed in your bright whites and glitziest metallics and prepare to be captivated by the most creative destination marketing campaigns.

6:15 pm to 8:15 pm
Experience