Last week was National Travel and Tourism Week. While, in my humble opinion, every week of the year is a good time to take a vacation, this week in particular is when we celebrate the travel and tourism industry. The theme this year is “The Faces of Travel,” highlighting the special people who work tirelessly to make sure every tourist has a memorable experience. From the hotel concierge providing those impossible-to-get show tickets to the tour operator who mesmerizes with their in-depth knowledge—it’s the people, as much the destination, that define the travel experience.

It’s also the people who have the power to define the destination’s brand. We often talk about the importance of Brand Ambassadors when it comes to characterizing a destination brand. A logo, tagline, print ad, digital banner and video can do a lot to put your destination in the traveler’s consideration set. It can tell the world who you are, what you stand for, and why they should care.

It cannot, however, silence a bad review. In this world of social connectivity, there is no more powerful a voice than that of the consumer. People cultivate reviews. They believe them because the reviewers have no agenda attached to their communications (shame on all of us evil marketers). The difference between a good or bad post can often be the difference between clicking the “Book Now” button or not.

So what makes a good Brand Ambassador? It’s more than a pleasant demeanor, patience and a willingness to go above and beyond to help tourists—it’s a knowledge of the brand position, and more importantly, it’s an understanding of how that insight can enhance the visitor experience.

Our client, Destination Niagara USA, has facilitated the development of EXP Niagara – an official destination education and visitor services online training program. One of its objectives is to educate the Niagara Falls USA hospitality and tourism community on the pillars of the brand so there is a synchronicity between the experience they provide and the one the visitor is expecting.

This initiative is an acknowledgment by Destination Marketing Organizations and their agencies that branding goes beyond marketing. It is aligning marketing creative with the experiences visitors have in the destination that will ultimately define its brand. And that experience is more than attractions and sites, it is the personal interactions travelers have at every level of their visit.