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Destination Leadership

Destination Leadership
August 29, 2023 Billy George

Usually, the only time you hear a place referred to as a “destination” is in reference to travel or tourism business. However, a destination is an aspirational place in many contexts related to business and development, as well. A destination is the end goal, the place where people and businesses want to be, and may look different for various audiences and users.

Destination leadership organizations refer to the growth of a physical space as well as revenue potential in business, development, and tourism. The Greater Freeport Partnership is the epitome of a destination leadership organization with the inclusion of all these services in one, seamlessly integrated format. Bill Geist, a nationally recognized tourism researcher, described the evolution of community growth organizations in his white paper in 2020. “(Chambers, CVBs, downtown groups, and economic development) and other groups are all dedicated to community growth and success. It is, to be sure, an organic way of addressing niche needs. But, it does not take into consideration the bigger picture; that all of these initiatives are intertwined and must be collaboratively addressed if a community is to truly succeed. That is what this moment in history allows us to reconsider.”

“This truth is the basis for a new way of viewing the job at hand. To be successful, a community’s brand and messaging must be cohesive. On the surface, merging these organizations into one mega-agency would suggest an ability to provide continuity of message …,” Geist wrote.

I had a chance to speak with Mr. Geist at a conference last fall after hearing him present on this topic. I was beaming to let him know that our region in Freeport and Stephenson County were already progressing as a destination leadership organization and that many of his ideas were coming to life in our area. He responded that he was aware of Freeport and Stephenson County’s collaboration and was very interested in the model of what we were accomplishing here. The Partnership is on the cutting edge of this work.

Telling the story of Freeport, Stephenson County and all our villages and businesses isn’t just about tourism. Branding our area with positive messaging, stories of success, and professional creative strategy is advantageous to every sector of our area. And while our destination story may seem future-focused, it is only by embracing and improving the lives of our current residents that any of the messages hold genuine and true.

The message continues to be: Freeport and Stephenson County is the destination – not just for a weekend stay for visitors, but for residents, business, development, workforce, and our growth and retention efforts.

To be a part of the marketing sub-committees that work on messaging in these focus areas, please contact me.

Nicole Haas, MIOP is the Brand Director for the Greater Freeport Partnership. She can be reached at or 815-801-3676.