Today is the last day of National Tourism Week. Better late than never, I am throwing in my two cents on the topic:
Luxury sport utility vehicles loaded with three thousand dollar mountain bikes pulled into Phil’s Trailhead outside of Bend, Oregon as we geared up for our ride one early May Friday morning. As I looked around, I couldn’t help but wonder what all this mountain bike tourism would do for my own town, Sandpoint, Idaho.
Managed properly, tourism is a very eco-friendly industry on which to hang your economic development hat. I benefit directly from it, and I’d be hard pressed to find anyone in this community who wouldn’t be affected if tourism went away altogether.
Managed properly. That means having a plan, and clarifying the brand. The brand is the product and the overall experience. It is not a logo and a tagline. The brand is how we are perceived by our visitors. We can try to put makeup on it (logo and tagline) but people tend to be resistant to the influence of marketing language. Our visitors are going to think what they want once they come and experience it.
So let’s develop the product, the infrastructure, the experience. Let’s give our visitors exactly what they want.
What type of destination are we? Everyone will have different opinions on what a particular destination is (art, outdoor recreation, mountain biking, skiing, semi-retirement ….) because we are many things to many people. No single tagline will be able to capture that. Our job as a tourist destination is to make it easy for a visitor to come and experience their personal experience.
Back to my mountain biking example: Look at Moab, Fruita, Durango, Bend. I am not aware of a logo, a tagline, or a commercial for any of these towns. Who knows? Maybe they have one, but it doesn’t have any influence over my travel decision. If you don’t mountain bike, you may not have heard of them. And that’s ok. Anyone who does, has. And we all spend our working lives plotting our next trip to these destinations. Why? Simply because they have exactly what we want: great trails with beautiful scenery, a few good restaurants and bars, a good bike shop(s) to help us with local info and supplies, and other shopping and entertainment. I will spend my money in all those places. (Contrary to what many think, mountain bikers have cash to spend, thus my observation earlier at the trailhead)
Build trails, and people will come. Map them, get the word out, invite the media, collaborate with the bike shops and the local businesses. People will come. Get sponsorship money, build more trails and related amenities. More people come. Hotels will see their bicycle occupancy increase, and they will do more to accommodate this audience. More businesses will move to the area to cater to the audience. Even more people will come.
The experience will continue to improve. Visitors will go home and post their pictures on their social media networks. We’ll be sure and make it easy for them to post them on our social network pages. More people will come.
Now that is great branding and it brings tears to my eyes. Apply this technique to the other categories listed above and repeat. Help manage the logo population.