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STHM Students Step Outside the Classroom to Destinations International Conference

By: Jamie Cann
First Published: October 1, 2018
Topics: STHM School, Student Stories, Tourism & Hospitality

STHM students get an exclusive look at the travel and tourism industry at the 2018 Destinations International conference in Anaheim, California.


The backbone of any program at the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM)is making important, powerful connections. One of the many ways this is shown comes in the form of STHM’s annual visit to the Destinations International Annual Conference—the premier event for destination event and marketing professionals. Spanning over 3 days, the conference hosts over 1,620 attendees, 100 speakers, and 120 events.

The idea to introduce students to this conference began with Professor Michael Sheridan. Prior to joining STHM, Professor Sheridan had been a long-time professional in the tourism and hospitality industry and attended the conference many times. He knew how attending a conference such as this, with industry leaders discussing travel and tourism’s hottest topics, could uniquely impact STHM students and their knowledge of the industry. By 2014— with the help of tireless fundraising—students from STHM’s Destinations International student professional organization headed to Las Vegas for the 2014 Destinations International Conference and began an annual tradition that continues to this day.

This past July, five STHM students traveled to Anaheim, California to attend the 2018 conference. The conference took place over the course of three days beginning with a first-timers session followed by an opening night mingling event. With many industry professionals in attendance, the event provided students with an exclusive opportunity to network with tourism’s key influencers and leaders.  

At first, some of the students found themselves a little intimidated. “It definitely helped us to push our boundaries,“ said one student. “I am pretty outgoing, but it’s a little daunting to approach someone who has been working in the industry longer than you’ve been alive and striking up conversation.” It’s no surprise they would feel this way, attendees of the event represented companies including Visit Maine, Visit Grand Junction, Hershel Entertainment, Destination DC and even the CEOs of BrandUSA and Destinations International, itself. Once the ice was broken, the students felt more comfortable. In fact, they became the talk of the evening as STHM was the only school who sent students this particular year.

The next two days each began with a different keynote in the morning, then sessions before and after lunch and finally a closing keynote. One of the stand-out sessions for STHM student Jonathan Pott featured Philadelphia’s own Julie Coker Graham —  President & CEO of Philadelphia’s Convention & Visitors Bureau. “She discussed what goes into bidding on big events such as the NFL Draft or the World Meeting of Families. This gave me some insight on the inner workings of the industry that I might not have been able to learn in a classroom. Potts also ran into fellow owl, Anthony Brenneman, who is the Sports Development Manager for Visit Anaheim. “Mr. Brenneman gave us a back-of-the-house tour of the convention center and explained how the design of the building was able to draw in unique events including a Google product unveiling event.”

Another stand-out session that made an impression on STHM’s Kaitlyn Nevin was titled China’s Digital Marketing Landscape; Enabling Brands Insights Into Digital Marketing in China and led by Devon Dow, the US Business Director for Mailman Group. “Ms Dow gave a brief overview of the major digital channels in China as well as the travel trends and what platforms different destinations should consider across different lifecycle stages. She spoke about how as a destination organization, it’s important to know who your key consumers are, what these consumers are reading and what platforms they are using.”

When not in sessions, students had the opportunity to network with some influential industry people. “All of us were able to get out of our comfort zones and approach sales directors, CEOs, business development managers, etc.” reflects STHM student Carl Ruppel, “one of the best parts of networking was that everyone seemed to know about STHM. At one point, we were told that Temple students are some of the hardest working in the world and that we should be  proud of the culture we are building both within the academic and professional world.”

All five students agreed that this experience was so much more than they expected. Not only were they able to get an insider-perspective on powerful industry planning, but each received first-hand, personal connections in addition to multiple offers for future internships and possible positions after graduation. Carl Ruppel’s final thoughts on his experience at Destinations International were those of absolute gratitude and excitement for the future. “I believe that if STHM continues to send students to this conference, it will be a worthwhile experience for the students involved. It was a pleasure being able to represent the STHM community on this trip and I hope students in the future are able to say the same.”

To hear more about the 2108 Destinations International conference, check out this recap video.


Learn more about getting involved in a student professional organization at STHM.

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