Development Counsellors International (DCI) is the leader in travel, economic development and talent attraction marketing, increasing visitor, business and talent inquiries for destinations around the globe. Ted Levine founded DCI in 1960 with a vision. He recognized early on the ability for place marketing — through the dual engines of tourism and economic development — to bring jobs, open doors, and elevate the lives of the people living and working in those places. DCI’s leadership team and staff continue to pursue that purpose today from locations across North America, including New York, Denver, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Montreal and Toronto. The agency has worked with more than 500 cities, regions, states, provinces, and countries to attract investors, visitors, and talent.

What started as a humble yet ambitious team in 1960’s New York City has grown into a dynamic staff of nearly 100 individuals working from across North America. DCI’s tourism, talent attraction and economic development marketing teams have the skills to create strategic campaigns to attract new business, talent and visitors to your destination.

DCI believes that the work we do every day is making a difference in the lives of those who live in the communities we serve. Our company’s core values as a creative marketing agency guide us in everything that we do today and were born from our founder Ted Levine’s desire to give back more than 60 years ago. We believe DCI’s inclusive and collaborative company culture is the reason we are one of the best companies to work for and have some of the best employees in marketing.

1. What is your organization most known for?
Development Counsellors International is a specialist in marketing places – that’s all we do. We are hyper-focused on increasing North American visitor arrivals, spending and dispersal throughout the destinations with whom we partner. Our team is passionate about our calling to leverage tourism as a force for good, creating living-wage jobs and improving the quality of life for people around the world. Since 1960, we have worked with more than 500 travel destinations around the globe.

2. What can media expect when working with your PR firm?
As public relations professionals, we’re always on the hunt to identify journalists who are the right match for the stories we are trying to tell on behalf of our clients. Getting to know you and your needs through in-person meet-ups, media marketplaces and virtual coffee chats is what we live for! Whenever possible, we also love to share trends, suggest sources to interview and offer up amazing photography of the destinations we serve. Our team is particularly focused on ensuring that the spokespersons we put forward reflect the depth and breadth of perspectives and life experiences found within our client communities. This approach is core to our commitment to elevating Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in the tourism and economic development industries.

We try our best to respond within one business day to every request we receive, but like most media, our publicists receive a couple hundred emails a day. We appreciate the grace you can extend as a fellow human being whenever we are unable to meet your deadline.

3. What are some of the resources DCI provides destination marketing professionals?
If you’re a destination public relations professional, you should definitely visit our resource section on for the latest insights you can use in your strategic plans and board reports. We go in-depth on a variety of destination public relations topics – ranging from the travel trends that are impacting editorial decisions; to tools that effectively measure the value of your public relations efforts; to methods for sourcing great ideas to tell your local hospitality stories. Journalists too will find helpful profiles of editors and what they are seeking in terms of content and pitches for the outlets they oversee. You’ll also find a variety of research which can provide perspective and statistics that can inform your own editorial.

4. What sort of thinking process does the team go through when developing a marketing campaign for a specific destination?
Every great destination public relations campaign begins with research. Industry insights always guide our point of view. It’s not enough to know how to pitch a good story. The angles we pitch are rooted in listening to what consumers and media have to say. We are then able to shape a pitch to help tell a story that needs telling. Our team is always looking for stories that will enhance consumer understanding, inform decision-making or change perceptions. Ultimately, we see public relations, particularly our work with media, as a vital avenue for helping travelers decide where to spend their time and resources.

There is never enough time or budget to prioritize every aspect of a destination experience. Decisions are made annually on where the investment of resources will be most impactful. I share this background so that media members of NATJA understand that not every story you want to tell about a destination will align with a destination’s strategy at a given time. When there is a misalignment, there may not be resources available to host you in a destination to pursue a particular story. Sometimes we are the bearers of the “bad news ‘no’.” When that happens, it’s always good to remember it’s not personal, it’s strategy.

5. How did you hear about NATJA, why did you join?
In this industry, relationships are key. While hosting a press trip in the late 90s, I met Bob and the late Sandy Nesoff. Later I worked with Jeffrey Lehmann on half a dozen Weekend Explorer shows that spanned the globe. They convinced me to look further into NATJA, and I found that it offered great opportunities to meet with journalists in the annual media marketplace. I make the initial connection with a journalist at the marketplace and then dive deeper into a formal relationship over meals, professional development sessions and activities during the annual conference.

6. Is there anything else you feel travel media should know about your organization?
DCI has a long history representing many destinations. Over time we have developed an ability to serve as an essential resource, providing examples for stories, connections with spokespersons for interviews, and helpful statistics on traveler and meeting planner preferences. Please contact me to learn more at

Karyl Leigh Barnes is the President of Development Counsellors International. In the last 25 years she has worked with destinations on every continent to help tell their stories and welcome visitors. She is inspired by the opportunity to leverage travel as a source for good – helping improve the quality of life for those who live in the communities with which she works.

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