6 simple ideas to enhance a community’s tourism business: Part 1
Keep these tips in mind to increase tourism in your community.
Although these tourism suggestions and reflections may not be new, they are worth revisiting!
- Establish an Identity
Sponsor community brainstorming sessions and/or surveys to explore the identity of your community. Gather as many responses as possible before analyzing the information. Then select, with community assistance, the top unique and/or authentic attraction(s). Build a tourism plan around those ideas. Include a mission, vision, goals and implementation timeline.
Brainstorming questions might include: How does your community appear to a visitor? Who are you as a tourism destination? What makes your community different from any other community? What about your community is unique, authentic or meaningful? Why? Is there a history worth exploring? Are there people whose stories should be told? How about unusual landscapes, vegetation, or crop production? What is special about the architecture of the downtown or residential areas? Is there an unusual business or organization that started or exists in the area? What don’t you have? What is missing?
- Make Connections
Connect with business and non-profit entities within your community. Talk with local entrepreneurs, such as campgrounds owners, business and industry leaders, farmers, school personnel and others who might support or benefit from tourism activities. Develop a short walking or driving tour, with interesting stops, and post it online. Schedule regular health and fitness activities where both residents and visitors are invited to participate, such as Slow Roll Detroit. Dialogue with farmers or gardeners who might like to participate in a farmers market, conduct farm tours or host a ‘pick and cook’ experience.
Connect with entities outside your community. Check for tourism resources that may be available at regional and state travel bureaus or organizations. Visit nearby tourist destinations and discover what they are doing. Talk with people in those communities. Contact other successful tourist communities around the country. There is so much that can be learned by connecting with a variety of organizations, communities, municipalities and businesses.
- Create a Cohesive Web Presence
Research how your community is currently represented online. Put yourself in the shoes of a first time visitor. Is it easy to find places to stay or activities to do? Are there too many sites or not enough sites from which to choose?
People who are planning a trip do not want to sort through a lot of words before finding the information they need. A website should be efficient, easy to understand and provide quick information about where to stay, where to eat and what to do. Utilize search engine analytics to better position a community’s primary websites. Update all sites regularly (daily or weekly) ensuring business hours and other pertinent information is always accurate. Consider filming a short promotion video to post on youtube.
Are there entrepreneurs in your community who are participating in peer-to-peer travel websites such as VRBO, AirBNB, Vayable, Uber and others? Could the number of visitors to your community be increased by promoting shared economy ventures? The Michigan State University Extension Tourism Work Team have provided some peer-to-peer programs, such as Fostering Entrepreneurship via the Shared Economy.
Three additional simple and cost effective concepts to enhance the tourism business in communities are continued in Part 2 of this article.