Building it so They Will Come -Tourism Product Development 101
This first part of a three-part blog will guide you through the basics of tourism product development working with existing resources to attract more visitors to your destination.
Part I- What are you talking about?
So, maybe you’re a modest destination marketing organization (dmo) or have a nice little downtown that wants to attract more visitors- visitors who will come to your corner of the world, spend money and then go home!
It can be a daunting prospect, but the payoff is significant. More visitors mean increased foot traffic to local businesses, job creation and public and private investment, all resulting in a stronger local economy.
This is the tip of the iceberg to the benefits of tourism!
Product development for a destination is an opportunity to tell a story that attracts visitors and engages them when they arrive. Visitors (in turn) stay a while, spend money, post on social media, tell friends about you and return for another visit.
When done right, it’s a great relationship.
A story may be based in history, art, local culture, traditions, architecture or home-grown quirkiness (or a combination of elements) but your goal is to create a visitor experience that encourages engagement and affinity.
Before you start developing a product and invest resources of time and money, take stock of your corner of the world and ask:
Why do we want more visitors?
What does our destination have to offer that sets us apart?
Are we visitor friendly?
Do we have a story to tell and what is it?
What are our assets?
If you are scratching your head, thinking you don’t have that special something, think again. What attracted people to your location originally? What is your area known for – food? Cultural offerings? History? Keep an open mind, it might be something that is less than flattering or even negative (on a side note: “dark tourism” is an emerging niche that we will cover in a subsequent blog) Chances are pretty good that you do have something…something that can be developed or combined to build a tourism product that is visitor-worthy.
While you are collectively “soul searching” let me throw a few considerations into the mix
Make it authentic - Remember that any product reflects your destination so in the interest of integrity and managing expectations, be genuine. Authenticity sells, particularly to the millennial generation. This doesn’t mean you can’t enhance it …like holding a concert or poetry slam in a historic space but establish your story and build around it. Only Disney can “do Disney”.
Include Mother Nature - Nature-based tourism is a growing tourism segment that spans hiking, biking, birdwatching, kayaking, fishing and on and on. If you have nature-based asset near your destination, be sure you don’t overlook it as an opportunity. Remember that these nature-based tourists need a place to eat and shop too!
Embrace the phone - Revolutionize your walking tours, outdoor recreation and history with one of many apps that are available. If you are feeling ambitious, you can create your own but, in the meantime, utilize an existing app; this is a way to engage all ages of people.
Establish partners - There is typically a cadre of stakeholder who are involved with every project that comes along. Although destination management organizations (and Main Streets) need those pillars, branch out a little and develop partners that aren’t usually at the table. This could be the local Audubon chapter, a historian or local artist. Think big and think broad!
Leverage events – If your town has a local event, focus your energies on how you can add to it. Many destinations have themed festivals or annual events so collaborate on how you can bring resources to them that will attract non-local visitors.
Part 2 of the series will provide the beginning framework to develop tourism product so be sure to watch your FB, Linkedin, twitter and mailbox for more.
Eastwick Solutions specializes in helping destinations reach their potential. Kimberly Stever is a seasoned tourism and economic development professional. To learn how more, visit www.eastwicksoutions.com
Eastwick Solutions develops revitalization strategies for towns and municipalities, activates rivers and trails through recreation, education, and environmental programs to spur economic development in nearby towns, provides Main Street marketing to supplement existing staff, engages stakeholders of all levels to ensure buy-in and support, stimulates economic development strategies leveraging nature-based assets (rivers, trails, agriculture, events), designs and develops nature-based asset programming, events and activities to maintain engagement and build affinity, writes grants for project-related funding, and conducts asset assessments to build image, programs, and events around.