Leakage: Locally earned money spent elsewhere see more
Nearly every community has some form of leakage. When you go on vacation (other than a staycation) you are taking money you earned locally, and spending some of it where you are vacationing.
But for many communities, particularly in the rural areas, locals often go shopping in other towns, or even on Amazon. This is also leakage. But just as you like exploring other areas, you want people to come explore your area. When they do so, they come, spend money, then head home and tell others to do the same. We love that!
The best, most successful destinations import more cash than they export, when they spend money elsewhere. Isn’t it great that tourism can help subsidize your local economy? No wonder tourism is the purest form of economic development!
Want some tips and tricks help your community? Visit our Resource Center to access our videos and how-to guides on branding, product development, finding funding & support, marketing, as well as case studies here.
Your DDA membership includes full access to our discussion boards, weekly emails, monthly webinars, and our Resource Library that contains over 75 videos, how-to guides, and much more!
Here are some additional ways to connect with us!
- Travel tips and tricks to make your travel easier, subscribe to Roger's Travel with Roger Brooks travel blog here.
- Visit our YouTube channel for informative and entertaining videos here.
- Connect via LinkedIn with Roger and Natalie.
- Follow Roger on Instagram here.
Not finding what you need? Give Natalie a call, to discuss how we can help your community!
Quick Thought - Downtowns | Tourism see more
The best way to close the sale - getting people to visit you - is to be helpful. Rather than provide lists, help us by showcasing your “Best Of’s.” The most engagement you’ll get on social media channels, blog articles, and website content is when you promote your Top 3 or Top 5 activities, attractions, etc.
This is exactly how TripAdvisor became the most visited travel site on the planet. If you subscribe to Travel+Leisure, or CondeNast Traveler or any others, every email showcases a “Top 5, 7 or 10” - “Top 10 small town bakeries,” “Top five scenic drives in Nova Scotia,” “Top 3 trout fishing spots in Montana.” Don’t let local politics get in the way of you closing the sale!
Think of your favorite destination downtowns. What do they have in common? see more
We call this the 7-8-7 rule because of the three most important statistics that make a downtown a successful and vibrant destination. Think of your favorite destination downtowns. Are they beautiful? Do they feel safe? Are there things to do after 6:00 pm?
1. 70% of first-time sales at restaurants, retail shops, lodging facilities, and attractions can come from curb appeal. Travelers often use these phrases: “That looks like a nice place to eat.” or “That looks like a nice place to stay.” Virtually every person on the planet has said those words at least once, if not dozens of times. You can spend millions of dollars marketing a town or downtown, and none of that will make me—the visitor—walk through your shop’s door. You, the merchant, must do that. Beautification, or curb appeal, will always be an investment with a tremendous return.
2. Women account for 80% of all consumer spending. Yes, it’s true. I use this statistic a lot in speaking engagements, and I always pause to hear the audience reaction, which ranges from “You go girl!” spoken by women, to “That’s all?” from the guys. Women will spend more money in places that look inviting, are clean, and feel safe. If you cater to women you will ultimately win the entire family’s business. Women also account for 70% of all travel decisions including places to stay and eat, and “must see” attractions.
3. 70% of all consumer retail spending takes place after 6:00 pm. Are you open? This is one of the reasons downtowns are dying – they’re not competing with malls’ later hours. In the 60s, stores typically closed at 6:00 pm, 5:00 on Saturdays, and were closed on Sundays. In the 70s malls were open until 8:00 or 9:00 pm, but still closed at 6:00 on Saturdays and were open from noon to 5:00 on Sundays. Fast forward to today, and you’ll find just about every successful mall opening at 10:00 and staying open until 9:00 (or later) seven days a week. Meanwhile, traditional downtowns are stuck in the 1960s, and most are dying.
While we are moving to the European standard of dining and shopping later in the evenings, downtowns haven’t made the change at all.
Let me know what changes you are making in your downtown!
Here’s why an assessment can be the best thing you’ve ever done. see more
Over the years our team has “secret shopped” more than 1,500 communities around the world. These Destination Assessments are our most popular program. Here’s why an assessment can be the best thing you’ve ever done:
1. We can say things you’d like to say but can’t without paying a political price locally. The Destination Assessment is a week-long process where we come to your community, as any visitor would, looking at your gateways, ability to find your attractions and amenities, things to do after 6:00 pm (when the bulk of spending takes place), curb appeal, hospitality, and many other factors, both public and private.
2. For every shortcoming that is noted, a low-cost solution is provided. At the end of the assessment week, we provide a two and a half hour “Assessment Findings & Suggestions Workshop,” where, using dozens of photographs, we share our experience. For every challenge we find, we show a possible solution: suggestions showing how retailers, restaurants, museums and cultural activities, and the jurisdiction can make the visitor experience better. Often the Assessment will include 40 to 60 suggestions—things that could be implemented today to make a difference tomorrow.
3. The Assessment brings the community together. The Assessment looks at your neighborhoods, schools, medical facilities, parks, downtown, your historical and cultural attractions, and your amenities, such as parking, public restrooms, to finding visitor information. It’s the perfect way to get just about EVERYONE thinking about actions they can take to make the community an even better place to live, work and play. The Assessment provides suggestions that can be implemented by auxiliary organizations such as Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs, hospital and school boards, downtown merchants and associations, the local Chamber of Commerce or destination marketing organization. Often communities will make a list of the suggestions, then hand out “assignments.” For the first time, people are singing out of the same hymnal, working towards a common goal.
4. It’s the perfect baseline or foundation for your community development efforts. The Assessment is followed up with an “Assessment Findings & Suggestions Report,” which provides a baseline for your branding, product development, and marketing efforts. It’s an honest look at where you are today from the eyes of a first-time visitor, and it often uncovers things you simply don’t even notice, but that visitors do.
5. It provides an incredible return on investment. We continue to have people tell us that they got more from the Community Assessment than they did from plans and studies costing four to five times that of an assessment. There is simply NOTHING that can done for less money, that will bring the community together, and will result in putting the community “on the map” as a desirable place to live, work and visit.
If you’d like to learn more about the Destination Assessment program, here are some resources:
There are essential steps in increasing tourism. We can help with all of them! see more
There are essential steps in increasing tourism. We can help with all of them!
Step 1. Educate your stakeholders on the importance of tourism (Learn more)
Step 2. Conduct a destination assessment (Learn more)
Step 3. Narrow your focus and stand out from other communities (known as your unique selling proposition)
Step 4. Develop a tourism action plan (Learn more)
Step 5. Make it happen – tourism plan implementation
Step 6. Tell the world! (effective destination marketing)
What is the best term to use for outsiders who spend time in your community? see more
When I go SCUBA diving in the Caribbean, I go as a tourist. Or is that as a visitor? Or traveler?
The general public thinks a “tourist” is a leisure visitor. A “traveler” is thought to be somebody who is traveling – sometimes to other dimensions and periods of time. And a “visitor” is someone from out of town.
But the terminology is not always clear, and at times, can be downright confusing.
When I go on vacation to some far away destination, like diving along the shores of Bonaire in the Netherland Antilles, I’m obviously a tourist. But if I travel to beautiful Mackinac Island (pronounced Mack-in-awe) – which I highly recommend, by the way – I would probably be referred to as a ‘fudgie’, an endearing term for visitors who buy tons of fudge from the dozen or so shops located in the island’s downtown core.
Back home, when I talk about the industry, it’s referred to as the “travel industry.” But when I speak about tourists, I use the word visitor. See how confusing things can get?
The top three reasons for travel include (and this is in order of why people travel):
- Visiting friends and/or family
- For business
- As a leisure visitor/vacationer
The word “visitor” easily encompasses all three categories without people thinking that “tourists” are only leisure visitors. In reality, anyone traveling 50 miles or further from their home and spending time in your community is technically a tourist. A visitor, in contrast, would include people from other communities perhaps just 25 miles away; the “out-of-towners.” Both are important, because when any of these folks spend money in your community, it’s a good thing!
Since tourism is about importing new cash into your community, offsetting the export of locally earned money spent elsewhere, you want as many “out-of-towners,” or “visitors” as you can possibly get to spend time and money in your downtown, at your attractions, and with your complementary activities (I’ll explain “complementary activities” in my next blog).
Since I’m on the road about 250 days a year, I could be termed a professional tourist. Yet I don’t really feel like a tourist because I’m working in your communities as a visitor. That term, visitor, just seems to fit all occasions and uses.
And by the way, locals often discover the place they live as a tourist. But once they become a resident, they want no more tourism. “Visitors” are always welcome, even if “tourists” are not. Using the term “visitor” is often a softer and more effective way to sell the tourism industry to locals.
Happy travels all you visitors!
Effectively prioritize how you market your destination's experiences and activities see more
I absolutely love the Route of the Hiawatha (ridethehiawatha.com), a Rails to Trails mountain bike ride that begins at Lookout Pass in the Bitterroot Mountains on the Northern Idaho/Montana state line. I’ve met people there from as far away as New Jersey and during the last visit, I spotted license plates from 18 states and provinces. It’s easily worth the six-hour drive from Seattle. This makes it perhaps the area’s biggest summer “attraction” or “primary draw” to the area.
Attractions can include ski resorts, an amazing trail system, a great downtown – it’s the primary activity that draws visitors to you. Note that I used the word “activity.” A mountain is an amenity, so are lakes, rivers, prairies, parks, and other “facilities.” The primary activity that draws people would include downhill skiing, fishing, stand-up paddle boarding, boating, river rafting, and other activities that take place at or on your best physical asset.
Remember, people are searching for activities that cater to them, not necessarily specific mountains, lakes, rivers or trails. Sometimes the trail can be so amazing that it is the attraction, but when you market it, make sure you include the primary draw to that trail. In the case of Ride to Trails, you could say “biking the Route of the Hiawatha,” or “biking the Hiawatha Trail” is the primary draw.
What I LOVE about the Hiawatha Trail is that you start by biking through a 1.7-mile tunnel (pitch black, by the way, but thank goodness the rental bikes come with a flashlight mounted on the handlebar), and when you’ve conquered that, you bike down the scenic, wide, compacted gravel trail through 10 shorter tunnels and over seven high railroad trestles that are hundreds of feet above the spectacular mountain terrain below. This is the kind of mountain biking I love! You start at the top and for the most part, coast all the way down the 15-mile trail. Then they pack you and your bike into a converted school bus and shuttle you back to Lookout Pass. Yes! Extreme biking without breaking a sweat! That’s my kind of biking!
During the summer months “Biking the Hiawatha Trail” is one of, if not the, primary attraction in this area of Northern Idaho for families, biking, and even non-biking enthusiasts.
The average visitor is active 14 hours a day, yet they typically spend only four to six hours with the primary activity. The Hiawatha Trail, including travel time, getting geared up, and enjoying the experience takes three to four hours to complete. Other activities take about the same amount of time.
What do you do with the rest of the time in the area?
This is where your “complementary activities” come into play. You always promote the primary draw, the Hiawatha Trail in this case, and then the “while you’re here you’ve got to…” activities.
The number one complementary activity in the world is shopping, dining and entertainment in a pedestrian-friendly setting. Once we rode the Hiawatha Trail, we spent time in nearby historic Wallace, Idaho.
Of course, we had to visit the Oasis Bordello Museum (which closed as a bordello in 1981 – that’s not a typo), we shopped the shops, rode the Silver Streak Zipline, and took the Sierra Silver Mine Tour, followed by dinner, the purchase of fudge for a late-night snack, and so on. The complementary activities trigger the decision to make it an overnight stay. Without these complementary activities, the Hiawatha Trail would just be a day trip from Spokane, Washington or a “while passing through” activity along Interstate 90.
Visitors will spend 8 to 10 hours doing complementary activities – that’s how important they are. And for the mine tours, ziplines, and historic downtowns that aren’t happy being labeled a “complementary activity,” consider this: Eighty percent of all non-lodging visitor spending takes place with complementary activities. Why do you think there’s a Downtown Disney next to each of its parks? Yep, to get that 80 percent!
Finally, there are the “amenities.” These include the unheralded requirements of public parking, restrooms (or washrooms for our Canadian friends), visitor information, wayfinding signage, sidewalks, downtown beautification, benches, local parks and playgrounds, and lodging. The “amenities” are what enable us to all have an enjoyable experience and are a key contributor to bringing us back.
THE BOTTOM LINE
In your marketing, always promote your “anchor tenant” – your primary activity. Then add in the “while you’re here, don’t miss this” list of complementary activities. Finally, make sure the supporting “amenities” are in place to ensure a great experience.
And if you’re ever in the area, be sure to bike the Hiawatha Trail and spend time in nearby historic Wallace, Idaho! You will love it!
Tourism and downtown folks never really talk to each other; everyone does their own thing see more
"What do downtowns have to do with tourism?"
I was speaking at a conference and afterwards a woman approached me and asked this very question. I couldn’t pass up an opening like that and instantly started spouting facts and statistics about downtowns. Before I knew it, about fifteen people had gathered around and were jotting down notes as fast as possible.
One gentleman noted that the tourism and downtown folks in his city never really talk to each other; everyone does their own thing. Half a dozen other people echoed the same sentiment. Sound familiar?
After I rattled off a few more facts and figures, a member of the impromptu meeting said, “That’s amazing stuff. Can you come and tell this to our community?”
It is amazing stuff and it made me realize that, although I certainly understand the power of a great downtown, many professionals don’t.
I’m well-known for sound bites, so here are a few facts about downtowns you can share:
1. The heart and soul of every community, besides its people, is its downtown. The health of a community can instantly be portrayed by the vitality of its downtown. It is the litmus test for all your economic development efforts – both tourism and non-tourism. Downtown provides that all-important first impression of the community that answers the questions: “Is this a place I’d want to live? A place my employees would want to live? A place I’d want to hang out? Show off to friends and relatives?” If you want people to visit your community, to open or relocate a business there, or move to your town, downtown needs to be a place they’d enjoy spending time in.
2. The number one activity of visitors throughout the world is shopping, dining and entertainment in a pedestrian friendly setting. It’s typically not the reason we go to a destination, but it is the top diversionary activity of visitors once they’re there.
3. Consider this: The average visitor is active 14 hours a day, yet they only spend four to six hours with the primary activity that brought them there. Then they spend eight to ten hours with diversionary, or secondary activities. Diversionary activities are things they could do closer to home but will do while in town. As an example, Branson, Missouri hosts 7.5 million visitors a year, and the average visitor will see one or two shows a day, totaling approximately four hours. The 49 theaters are what brings them to town (the primary lure), but once there, they spend the rest of their time shopping, dining, at theme parks and attractions, or on recreational pursuits: hiking, biking, boating, fishing, golf, etc.
4. Here’s the amazing statistic: Secondary activities are where 80% of all visitor spending takes place. It’s ok to be a “diversionary” activity. When we’re out fishing or hiking or biking, we are not spending money. When we are competing in a sports game, we are not spending money. But when we’re done, guess what? We’re off looking for the nearest watering hole, great shops, restaurants, and entertainment. Why did Disney build Downtown Disney outside of Disney World? To capture that other 80% of visitor spending. Smart move.
5. Curb appeal can account for 70% of visitor sales at restaurants, golf courses, wineries, retail shops, and lodging facilities. Amazing isn’t it? You could spend millions of marketing dollars to pull people into your community, but none of that will make a visitor walk into a restaurant or retail shop and say, “Here’s my credit card.” The merchant must do that. It’s that old adage of “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Many merchants have no idea how to pull customers in the door by presenting a beautiful, welcoming entry with planters, benches, attractive signage and window displays.
We all travel. Have you ever uttered these words: “That looks like a nice place to eat.” Other than asking a local, or finding where the most local pickup trucks are parked, this is our only other clue to help make a decision.
6. If local residents do not hang out in your downtown, neither will visitors. Visitors are not looking for “best kept secrets” or “solitude” when downtown. They are looking for places where other people go. They want to be in a lively, thriving environment. If downtown has the activities and attractions to draw residents, visitors will want to go there too. The number one reason people travel is to visit friends and relatives. When they visit you, where do you take them? That’s what I thought.
7. Then there’s the 10+10+10 rule or the “Rule of Critical Mass.” After researching 400 towns and downtown districts in the U.S. and Canada, we found the minimum critical mass it takes to make downtown a destination. In just three lineal blocks (not square blocks) you must have a minimum of ten places that serve food: soda fountain, bistro, café, bakery, confectionary, sit-down restaurant, coffee shop, to name a few. The second ten are destination retail shops. These are NOT big box and chain stores, but ten specialty shops. These might include galleries, clothing, outfitters, artisans in action, wine shops, books, antiques (not second hand stores), home accents, gardening and gourmet cooking stores. And the third ten: Places open after 6:00 pm, preferably entertainment.
8. And that brings us to today’s most important and amazing statistic. A full 70% of all consumer spending (locals and visitors alike) takes place after 6:00 pm. Are you open? And you wonder why downtowns are dying while lifestyle retail centers are thriving.
For you in the tourism industry, consider this: people spend the night where there are things to do after 6:00. Not just dining, but also shopping, activities or entertainment. Few people, particularly leisure travelers, want to be holed up in a hotel room twiddling their thumbs watching reruns of Fear Factor.
These few statistics are why more and more Destination Marketing Organizations are now being forced to step out of the comfort zone of focusing all their efforts on marketing, and into the realm of product development. After all, a good product sells itself, and many downtowns need work to become a good product. Tourism and downtown professionals should be joined at the hip. Get cozy.
How to get the best use out of your billboards. see more
Nothing creates more impressions, locally, than billboards—if they’re done right. When travelers, even commuters, see a message seven times, they remember it, whether it’s on television, radio, in magazines, online, or on billboards.
While we're not big fans of billboards, particularly in scenic areas, if you’ve got them, and they’re in great locations, then take advantage of them.
They are a great way to either catch the attention of drivers passing through your area, or they can provide ideas to visitors looking for a reason to stop. Either way, to create big visibility along the freeway, you need to use a BIG sign.
The most important message to convey with a billboard is a Call to Action! Tell drivers why they should take the next exit. Give a specific reason for people to stop (not an event or a ‘welcome’ or ‘friendly’ service promise). It can be as simple as what Little America does along Interstate 80 in Western Wyoming with multiple billboards, each with a single teaser: “50¢ ice cream cones—Little America” and the next one: “Spotless restrooms—Little America.”
Here are rules to use when designing your billboard campaign:
- Use no more than 12 words on a billboard—people have only four seconds to read a sign while they are driving at highway speed. Make it simple with a single message (including the name of the business or attraction).
- Choose locations for your billboards that are attractive, free of litter, and not close to rundown buildings. If you put your billboard in an area full of trash, it will automatically detract from the appeal of your message.
- Use contrasting colors and only one simple (one color) graphic so that your billboard is easy to read from a distance.
- The best color combo is yellow text on a dark background. Yellow pulls the eye. Don’t include a phone number, address, or website URL that people will not have time to write down. All information on a billboard needs to be simple.
- Including ‘Next Exit’ or ‘Exit #’ to help direct drivers is perfectly fine—but no specific information they can’t absorb in a few seconds.
The examples shown here are terrific samples of how to design and use billboards. They should NEVER look like print ads! Simple, short, to the point, with the reason WHY we should stop (or stay).
If you’ve got billboards, use them effectively!
Tourism and economic development should be united in your community. see more
“Economic development,” in its purest form, is the process of improving the quality of life for citizens by increasing the local tax base and economic well being of the community.
Of course, this is done by fostering and promoting investment in communities, which leads to additional jobs, which results in an increased population, which leads to the development of supporting retail, professional services, and activities.
The number one reason for travel is to visit friends and family. So the larger the population, the more tourism you’ll have. The second reason for travel is business. The more businesses you have, the more tourism you’ll have based on their visitors. And with the success of those two drivers, your activities and attractions will bring in leisure visitors, making you a well-rounded destination as a place to live, work, and play.
Here are the three reasons why tourism is the purest form of economic development:
1. People come, spend money and go home. If you attract the right visitors, you don’t need more police and social services; they impact your infrastructure very little; yet they support your retail shops, restaurants, hotels, and get to know you as a community. If visitors like what they see and experience, they tell their friends via Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites. That’s free marketing and a third-party endorsement.
2. Tourism is the front door to your non-tourism economic development. Any site selector, investor, or commercial real estate firm will arrive in your community, as what? A visitor. With quality of life leading economic development, tourism provides the marketing and visuals that promote the best you have to offer in terms of nightlife, downtown, your amenities such as trails and parks, and your activities. Tourism showcases your community as a very desirable place to not only visit, but in which to live and work.
3. Tourism is a downtown’s best friend. The number one activity of visitors, in the world, is shopping, dining and entertainment in a pedestrian-friendly, intimate setting: your downtown. This is typically not the reason they visit, but it is their number one activity once they arrive. While local residents provide the sales so retailers break even, tourism can provide the profit margin. A great downtown, over time, can be an attraction in itself. Tourism and downtowns should be joined at the hip.
Tourism is the purest form of economic development, but it is often seen as the ugly stepchild. Yet tourism is one of the fastest growing industries, can provide a quick return on your investment, and provides you with the marketing that showcases the best of what you have to offer.
We want to help you double – even triple – your downtown and/or tourism spending. see more
My goal is to give you outstanding, useful content and a “what to do” item that can help you double – even triple – your downtown and/or tourism spending.
Here are the three ways to double the spending locally:
- Jettison the generic and narrow your focus. With the world at our fingertips, via the web, in less than a second, we now look for places and activities that cater to us specifically. Phrases like “something for everyone” are totally ineffective. In an upcoming article I’ll give you the List of Words & Phrases to Avoid. To win you MUST make sure you differentiate yourself. If your introductory text can fit anyone else, then toss it and start over. You have only eight seconds to pull me in and it needs to cater to the customer specifically.
- Strengthen your product. All successful downtowns and visitor destinations are built on product not marketing. In fact, the days of the traditional destination marketing organization (DMO) is coming to a close. You must now get into the product development game. The communities that have done this are seeing big rewards. Remember, you are only as good as the product you promote.
- Tell the world digitally. Most destination marketing organizations will spend at least 80% of their marketing budgets on advertising and collateral (printed) materials. If that’s you, you have it backwards. Forty-five percent of your total marketing budget should now be spent on digital marketing. Your advertising should drive people to your website and it needs to be good enough the close the sale. Does yours?
WHAT TO DO
- Go to the home page of your website, grab your marketing brochure(s), grab a local visitors guide.
- Now pull up a map of your area and locate a small town a two-hour drive from you – one that’s not really a great destination (I’m sure you can think of several) and that you wouldn’t make a special trip there to visit.
- Now go to your introductory text. Take out the name of your town (or business – this applies businesses as well!) and insert the town you found on the map and read it. After reading it would you make a special trip there based on what you just read? Did it still ring true? If your opening text is generic and could fit just about anyone anywhere, then you just lost a sale.
- Then rewrite your opening paragraph so it fits no one, in your market, but you. And make sure it’s based on things to do, not the location (city, town, county, downtown). We are looking for things to do, not just places to go.
My entire career has been to help communities increase local and visitor spending. If there is anyway I can help your community, please let me know.
How does your community bring your downtown to life? see more
With the rise of strip malls, expansive parking lots and freeways, downtowns have spent years on the decline. But after decades of suburban sprawl, people want vibrant downtowns again. Whether they are visiting a new place or hanging out close to home, they want ambiance, entertainment, shopping and good food. They want to be able to stroll from shop to shop, and sit at an umbrella table for coffee and people watching. They want places that are open late and offer things to do after dark. They desire a sense of community that only a great downtown can offer. This is the age of “Third Places.”
How does a community bring their downtown to life? Turn it into a thriving “Third Place?” Roger Brooks International has worked with communities all over North America and we’ve discovered the key ingredients for reinventing downtown.
1. Create a Third Place
People are looking for that “Third Place”—a place to gather with friends and neighbors during their leisure time; to socialize, relax, shop, dine, and play together. According to Ray Oldenburg (The Great Good Place), the “First Place” is where you live—your home. The “Second” is where you work. The “Third Place” is where you go to hang out, spend your leisure time. Throughout history, downtowns have provided an essential “Third Place” for their communities. If your downtown is a vibrant place where locals go to shop, dine and hang out, visitors will go too. But if locals don’t hang out there, visitors won’t either.
A vibrant downtown will have a variety of shops and restaurants clustered together in a small area. It will be pedestrian friendly and beautified with street trees and flowers, creating a pleasant ambiance.
2. Stop being all things to all people
The days of being all things to all people are as gone as the industrial revolution. People are bombarded with thousands of advertising messages, and this oversaturation causes people to simply tune out things they don’t feel apply directly to them.
The solution? Focus on what makes you unique, worth the drive, and promote the heck out of it. Don’t try to be the “something for everyone” destination. That kind of promotion is ineffective and largely ignored. What makes your downtown special? What makes it a better experience than hanging out in the downtowns of your neighboring communities? Discover what makes your downtown special and focus on it. Being all things to all people means you get lost in the shuffle and become nothing, to anyone.
3. Jettison the Generic!
If your marketing messages could apply to just about any community, anywhere, it’s time to take a fresh look at what makes you unique. Remember “stop being all things to all people?” It’s worth repeating, and it has to carry into your marketing messages. “Something for everyone,” “Unique,” “Discover,” and the most overused of them all, “A great place to live, work, and play,” are just some of the phrases you should avoid at all costs. If it is so generic it could apply to anyone, throw it out! Tell people what makes you special. Generic messages are meaningless and ineffective. Repeat after me, “Jettison the generic!”
4. Downtowns and Tourism Organizations Work Together
Tourism is the front door to your non-tourism economic development efforts, and creating a great downtown is a big part of that process. Downtowns and tourism organizations should be joined at the hip. Working to create an inviting downtown will enhance all your tourism and economic development efforts, as well as creating that “Third Place” that locals and visitors are looking for.
Attracting more visitors hasn’t always required such emphasis on being unique. see more
Before she met the wizard, Dorothy lived with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in a black and white Kansas. When a tornado dropped Dorothy – house and all – into the Land of Oz, the dust settled, she opened her front door, and the world was suddenly brilliant Technicolor. Dorothy scooped up her dog and said, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore. We must be over the rainbow!” There was no mistaking that you were now in Oz—it was as different from Kansas as Disneyland is from, well, Kansas.
Any community trying to attract more visitors needs to be a little like Oz. They need to take visitors over the rainbow to a new place, providing them with activities significantly different from what they can find closer to home. They need to tell the world how they’re truly unique and worth a special trip. That image, the vision that sets one community apart from all others, is its brand, and branding a community is critical to its success in creating an outstanding downtown destination and increasing tourism spending.
Attracting more visitors hasn’t always required such emphasis on being unique. What’s brought us to this situation is three-fold: a change in the international psyche, the state of the economy, and the plight of travel.
As we grew up, most of us went on vacations to the places our parents took us: camping in the great outdoors, Grandma’s house, locations with scenic beauty, destinations they’d heard about, read about or saw on television. It was the age of the two-week vacation. Kids were packed into the station wagon and the luggage strapped to the roof. For the most part those days are long gone.
The Internet has changed everything, opening our eyes to new places and adventures we have never heard of before. We don’t even need to know where we want to go to find a great vacation destination—all we need to do is search for the activity we want, and a wealth of opportunities in different locations is instantly available.
By simply typing “horseback riding South Dakota,” into your favorite search engine, you’ll find nearly every horseback riding opportunity in the state in just seconds. The same applies to fly fishing, antiquing, concerts, wine trails, farmers markets, boating, and just about any other activity you can think of. For the first time ever, the destination is now secondary to the activity. Locations travelers have never heard of before are now on the first page of search results alongside well-established destinations. And since more than 216 million Americans have immediate Internet access (71%), the web is, by far, the number one resource for travel planning. The playing field has been leveled.
State of Travel
Since deregulation of the airline industry in 1978, air travel has grown five times faster than the population. We have enjoyed inexpensive travel, more direct routes, and air travel has become the norm, rather than a luxury. Well, the bubble is bursting. 2007 was considered the worst year in aviation history in terms of customer satisfaction, and this year is projected to make last year look good. Some airlines are filing for bankruptcy, while others are merging so they can reduce options and routes. Nearly every airline is increasing ticket prices, adding fuel surcharges, and adding charges for third bags, meals and entertainment. Airports are overtaxed with antiquated equipment and over-committed space. According to a recent USA Today/Gallup poll, 45% of all air travelers say they are less likely to fly this year because of rising fares. With increasing delays, cancellations, over-bookings, cramped quarters, and overall aggravation, who wants to fly anymore?
For those planning to drive instead, fuel prices are going through the roof. According to the Travel Industry Association, the “breaking point” for consumers, where people will start to cut back on travel, is at $4 a gallon. Ninety-six percent of leisure travel in North America is by private vehicle, and higher fuel price fluctuations could hit most drive-to destinations hard.
With rising travel costs, tighter credit, and a sagging economy, many people are second-guessing the value of extended road trips or booking flights for vacation getaways.
While all this sounds like gloom and doom for the travel industry, the fact remains that people still want to travel. Travel is seen as a necessity now, not a luxury. We love our cars, we love new adventures, and we’re reluctant to give those up. What has changed is how we decide where we’re going. And this is where the importance of branding becomes paramount.
With the Internet at our fingertips, let’s go back to planning that horseback-riding getaway in South Dakota. We search for the activity, but when we see the results and start looking at websites and the location, two powerful questions surface:
1. Could I do this closer to home?
2. If I can’t do it closer to home, is this experience so great it will be worth the extra cost and the hassle?
While 94% of web-enabled people use the Internet to plan their travel, 70% are frustrated in their planning efforts. Why? Because most communities haven’t yet learned to market activities and experiences. Instead, many still focus their efforts on counties, cities and geographic locations. They also insist on promoting themselves as having “something for everyone.”
This all-things-to-all-people mentality does nothing to set a community apart from the competition. It causes as much as 97% of advertising to be ineffective.
Travelers won’t go someplace because it has something for everyone—they go places because there’s something specifically for them. And every town has “unique shops and dining”—so what is it that makes your shops different? Worth a special trip and the added cost to get there?
With the wealth of options and information on the Internet, travelers are able to find places that cater to their specific desires. They don’t want to go to a place that bills itself as“all things to all people.” The generic approach of being“unique, just like everyone else,” simply doesn’t work anymore.
Savvy communities know they need to offer something specific—to fill a niche—or they’ll be left behind in the flurry of developing destinations. Every year another 1,500 communities in the U.S. and Canada are coming online in the tourism industry. Competition has never been this fierce. Creating and promoting a primary attraction that sets you apart from everyone else will make your community worth a special trip, repeat visits, and an extended stay.
Welcome to the era of the brand. Simplified, branding is the art of differentiation, finding that one thing that sets you apart from everyone else. Your community’s brand is the image or perception that people have of you, and the experiences they can expect when they visit. We are now in the “age of specialization.”
Nevada in particular is making impressive progress towards helping its towns become distinctive destinations. When someone mentions Nevada, your first thought is probably Las Vegas, the most successful of the “age of specialization” cities. After 48 out of 50 states legalized some form of gaming, Las Vegas took the brilliant step of removing the gaming focus from their marketing, and branded themselves“the playground for adults.” They put together the most successful branding effort in history with tag line and ads promoting “What happens here, stays here,” a perfect fit for “sin-city.”
The results have been jaw dropping. Since visitors can go to many casinos closer to home, Las Vegas took the focus off gaming and put it on entertainment. As a result, gaming revenues hit a record high of nearly $41 billion in 2007. The city hosted 39.2 million visitors in 2007, second only to Orlando with 48 million visitors. The 137,000 hotel rooms are seeing a 90+% occupancy level, a full 27 points above the national average.
But what about all those rural towns scattered throughout Nevada? How can they attract visitors? Here’s a look at what a few of these communities have done.
A town of only 2,500 residents, Hawthorne adopted the brand and tag line of “America’s Patriotic Home.” While not unique across America, the brand is unique to the region, and you’ll see the largest American flag west of the Mississippi, visible from several miles away, flying proudly above Hawthorne. The town is developing patriotic pole banners and decorative crosswalks, while the tops of buildings will be adorned with stars and strips. The museum of modern weaponry is not to be missed, and their Veterans Day parade is spectacular. There’s still much more work to be done to “own” the brand, but they’ve made great progress.
About 90 miles east of Reno, Lovelock is a town of about 3,000 residents, and the community recently adopted the ancient Chinese custom of locking one’s love on a never-ending chain—a perfect draw for a town with the name Lovelock. Go to Lovelock to forever lock your love. Once in town, visitors can buy two heart-shaped locks, have them engraved with their names, and lock them together on the never-ending chain that will eventually wrap all around the county’s round courthouse and throughout town. Then post your love story on their website. Buy an extra lock for your rear view mirror or for your office desk. How cool is that?
Here’s one struggling mining town that turned a negative into a positive. With its remote location and extremely high altitude (nearly 7,000 feet), Tonapah has an exceptionally dark night sky and nearly 340 days of clear weather. The clear, thin air gives visitors a stunning view of the stars, with the Milky Way easily visible as a shining river across the sky. Tonapah is developing a terrific brand as the “Stargazing capital of North America.”
About 90 miles east of Reno, Lovelock is a town of about 3,000 residents, and the community recently adopted the ancient Chinese custom of locking one’s love on a never-ending chain – a perfect draw for a town with the name Lovelock. Go to Lovelock to forever lock your love. Once in town, visitors can buy two heart-shaped locks, have them engraved with their names, and lock them together on the never-ending chain that will eventually wrap all around the county’s round courthouse and throughout town. Then post your love story on their website. Buy an extra lock for your rear view mirror or for your office desk. How cool is that?
A town of about 30,000, Pahrump is undergoing its branding process right now, although it already has a strong “brand” among RVers. From Las Vegas, RVers head “over the hump to Pahrump,” which has one of the highest-rated RV parks in the U.S. The town is conveniently located just an hour from Las Vegas and an hour from Death Valley. While they want to work to becoming more than a just a hub location, it’s a great beginning, and the town already has a strong brand among high- spending RV travelers.
About two and a half hours east of Reno, this ranching community is home to about 20,000 residents. A successful Winnemucca High School graduate is investing some of his wealth back into his hometown by developing a $50 million classic car museum. Sure to be one of the most spectacular car museums in the west, Winnemucca, soon to become “Hot Rod Heaven,” will be a major destination for auto enthusiasts from throughout the west.
The remote drive from Salt Lake City west towards Winnemucca takes you through the small town of Wells, which embodies “Life on the Frontier.” A resting stop for many pioneers of yesterday and weary travelers of today, Wells is working with local merchants to become a “Must Stop” destination for homemade pies and coffee. And while there, take a look around town and see what life was like on the frontier.
For a true taste of the wild, wild west, Virginia City is a must-see destination. Within an hour’s drive of Reno, this popular town was once Mark Twain’s home, and still embodies the rough and tumble days of the 1860’s gold rush era.
Just down the road from Lake Tahoe, Reno, and Virginia City, Nevada’s capital city is now an outstanding golf destination. The nine golf courses in the Tahoe, Carson Valley, Carson City area banded together to form a strong branding partnership dubbed“The Divine Nine.”For $395 you can buy a “Ticket to Paradise” and play all nine courses. While there, Carson City’s restaurants provide some of the best dining in the state. The Divine Dining in Carson City sets it apart from everyone else.
Each community in Nevada is working hard to come up with something that sets them apart from everyone else and makes them worth a special trip. If you love classic cars, the old west, patriotism, stargazing, romance, golf, or great food, there’s a town in Nevada that can “deliver on the promise” – the basis for a successful brand. Just “pick your passion” and you’ll likely find a town that fits the experience you are looking for.
When Dorothy and Toto landed in Oz, they experienced something dramatically different from life back in Kansas. They met interesting characters and had adventures unlike anything they could have had closer to home. What sets your community apart from the rest? What is that one thing that makes you worth a special trip? Find your niche and promote it like crazy, so that your community can be part of the new age of tourism.
See how Squamish, BC is catching the attention of investors see more
Located midway between the City of North Vancouver and Whistler Resort in Western British Columbia is a town that, not very long ago, was as red-neck as it could be. Once a home to logging and mining companies, this town of 20,000 residents is now the youngest city in Canada and is on the cutting edge of “recreational technologies.”
Just ten years ago, most of the waterfront was used for logging operations, but now this land is being marketed to investment firms and businesses for the creation of an incredible mixed-use village.
To market it, the city produced this video, which is one of the best we’ve ever seen. For the first time in North American history, jobs are going where the talent is – or wants to be. Squamish is one of those places and this video shows that, making it obvious that this is a great investment opportunity.
An example of taking the experience from great to unforgettable see more
When you can “evoke emotion” you’ll never be forgotten. And it increases the value of the experience. As long as it’s safe!
Mounted to the face of a sheer cliff 3,900 feet from the valley floor (1,180 meters), and nearly 900 feet long (266 meters), is a glass walkway that has a little extra zing, making an already terrifying experience one you’ll never forget. And, in the process, it creates a social media frenzy. This one-minute video has been seen by nearly ten million viewers. Now that’s an amazing marketing program that didn’t cost a dime!
Hang on to your chair and watch this one in full-screen mode. Then make your reservations for an experience you will NEVER forget.