‘Show Up’ to Succeed, DMO Leader Says

Jorge Pesquera, retiring president and CEO of Discover The Palm Beaches, reflects on his more than 50-year career in hospitality and the changes he has seen in the DMO industry.

Author: Curt Wagner       

man with greying hair in jacket and shirt

Jorge Pesquera will retire as president and CEO of Discover The Palm Beaches at the end of the year after 16 years of service at the DMO.

Jorge Pesquera, president and CEO of Discover The Palm Beaches, the official destination marketing organization for Palm Beach County, is retiring at the end of this year after 16 years of service at the DMO. Convene recently spoke with Pesquera via email about the high points of his 50-plus years in hospitality, the lessons he’s learned, and what he’s looking forward to in retirement.

“I plan on volunteering at a number of local cultural institutions, hopefully providing guidance and support on their governance structure,” he said, further showing why his colleagues have called him “a prominent community leader” and “champion of Palm Beach County” in their tribute to him.

Here are highlights of our interview.

As you look back on your career, what stands out to you?

What stands out is how fortunate I have been to have chosen a career in hospitality. While some of my friends have done very well as lawyers, doctors, financiers, etc., I feel privileged to have spent my career supporting an industry that delivers life’s great moments — travel experiences that couples and their kids reminisce about during holidays and in retirement. Working for great companies like Hilton International, Conrad Hotels, and subsequently, the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau, Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association and, finally, Discover The Palm Beaches, represents a pearl string of mostly positive experiences that have contributed to the wellbeing of those communities. Whether helping to staff the key positions for a hotel in Istanbul or creating a new brand for Palm Beach County, it’s been a great run.

What are you most proud of accomplishing in your 16 years at Discover The Palm Beaches?

Building a great team stands out the most. They are top performers who are considered leaders in their respective fields within the destination marketing and management industry. In addition, evolving the destination identity or brand over a decade ago from PB County, Florida, to Discover The Palm Beaches (and eventually The Palm Beaches). Also, establishing clarity as to our positioning statement contributed to our rapid recovery and success post the Great Recession. Finally, establishing one of the industry’s foremost research functions stands out.

What is the biggest lesson you learned over the course of your career?

There have been many, but these stand out:

  • Success only comes when you can articulate and present a vision for the organization and destination that your team and community will embrace.
  • You need the right people on your bus and that comes from carefully attracting and selecting like-minded people.
  • In times of crisis, leadership must rise to the occasion and make the tough choices.

Whats the best thing about your job?

The pride that comes from seeing people grow in their roles, advance their careers, and take on leadership roles in their own right.

Whats the best thing about the industry?

The joy that comes from knowing that we help create lasting memories for visitors and quality of life for residents.

What are the biggest changes you have seen in the role of DMOs during your career?

I have seen significant change since I started in 1993 at the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau. Technological changes are obvious, and most recently the massive shift to digital marketing channels, social media, brand activations, alliances, and clarity in brand management, securing transformational events and conferences — are just a few. The importance of rigorous research, performance tracking, demographic segmentation, etc. to craft the right marketing plans have increased significantly. A role that many DMOs did not have before relates to product development or what some call destination defining development — which advocates for government and private sectors to invest in tourism infrastructure, attractions, hotels, transportation, access, and so on. Finally, the biggest change has been relative to investments in community engagement, rallying the residents behind the role of the tourism economy and portraying what we do as a “shared community value” that folks will appreciate and cherish.

Whats one piece of advice you would give to others in destination marketing?

You need to “show up.” At the local level, you must earn a seat at the table where the big discussions on economic development, workforce issues, housing, resilience, sustainability are taking place. At the industry level, you need to serve on committees and boards that keep you on the cutting edge of what’s happening in the industry.

What are your thoughts on the future of destination marketing?

I am optimistic about the future and I have seen an increasing recognition that the role we play in shaping the future of our communities is critical. That may not be the case in less- intensive tourism regions, but in Florida, the Caribbean, and similar places where I’ve had the opportunity to work or spend time, I believe that destination organizations are getting more professional and perceived as key stewards of community resources and vision.

What are you most looking forward to in retirement?

Traveling, biking, reading (non-industry stuff!!), and marveling from afar at how my former colleagues and friends succeed.

Curt Wagner is digital editor of Convene.

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