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ESTO 2023: Get Ready, The Travel Industry is Roaring Back

By Jarrod Lopiccolo

September 6, 2023

esto2023 recap

ESTO is the creme de la creme of travel industry conferences. Short for Educational Seminars for Tourism Organizations, it’s where the U.S. Travel Association brings travel and tourism marketing pros together to level up their skills. This power-packed event covers everything from leveraging data to mastering storytelling. But it’s not all nose-to-the-grindstone workshops. There’s plenty of opportunities for fun and connection amongst the packed schedule, particularly since it was hosted by Visit Savannah.

We recently returned from soaking up the vibes and knowledge at ESTO 2023. This year’s event set another record with more than 1,200 attendees and the energy was electric. Conversations flowed like water, filling the air with an excited roar we’d almost forgotten could exist. Hundreds of attendees brought their A-games, ready to network, reunite and ideate like the future of travel depends on it. 

Spoiler alert: it does.

esto2023 travel and tourism event recap

Key Takeaways from ESTO 2023

While sustainability, AI and data took center stage, connection was the real star of the show. Rather than classroom-style lectures, ESTO facilitators encouraged out-of-the-box thinking and organic relationship building. Here are some key lessons we’re integrating after our time in the trenches:

1. Travel is BACK.

From buzzing exhibit halls to parties flowing onto the streets, ESTO cracked and fizzed with exuberance. Laughs echoed through crowded auditoriums as ideas sparked and imaginations caught flame. After years of fear and limitations, the industry is roaring back – and innovation is leading the charge.

2. Data is everything.

Historically, tourism marketing has followed intuition. But the future is digital, measurable and optimized. ESTO speakers preached passionately about data-informed strategies for everything from forecasting demand to curating valuable, personally relevant experiences. While marketing analytics might initially appear daunting, we stand ready to embrace anyone who needs help. Information is power and data is a competitive advantage we can’t ignore.

3. Sustainability matters.

No longer a nice-to-have, sustainable business practices are mandatory for the travel industry to survive and thrive. ESTO attendees discussed eco-conscious solutions for transportation, accommodation, dining and attractions. The bottom line? Prioritizing people and the planet is our shared responsibility. We’re motivated and ready to create real positive change – just look at how Visit San Luis Obispo and Visit Lake Tahoe have introduced sustainable tourism initiatives in recent years.

4. Partners = Possibilities.

By tapping into our vendors’ and partners’ specialized knowledge and enthusiasm for creating remarkable travel experiences, we sparked innovative ways to collaborate. Look no further than the ESTO Destiny award win with our client Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority as a proof point of the power of collaboration. We’re taking these expanded networks back to the drawing board, excited to dream up more game-changing, award-winning partnerships that fully leverage our collective capabilities.

esto 2023 destiny awards

People Make the ESTO Magic

At its core, travel is about human connection. 

No matter how advanced technology gets, nothing compares to the spark of sitting down with someone, hearing their story and sharing your own. If ESTO reminded us of anything, it’s that stronger ties between bright minds is how we’ll build a brighter future.

Post-ESTO, we’re still processing everything we learned and everyone we met. Message me on LinkedIn if you attended too – I’d love to keep the conversation going! 

After the isolation brought on by the global pandemic, the chance to connect face-to-face reignited our passion and courage. We’re taking big swings, embracing innovation and getting uncomfortably excited for the road ahead. The future of travel is unwritten, and we’ve got pens in hand. Let’s color outside the lines together and make it amazing. Contact us today.

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