First Impressions Tourism program FAQs

Growing interest in First Impressions Tourism (FIT) program spawns a list of FAQs.

Michigan State University Extension has seen a growing interest and demand for the First Impressions Tourism (FIT) assessment program since its inception in 2016. Since offering the comprehensive community tourism development program, 14 communities have gone through the FIT program, which has spawned continuous interest from state agencies, county officials and dozens of other Michigan communities. As a result, MSU Extension Tourism Educator, Andy Northrop, has developed a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to help communities understand the FIT program better.

One of the FAQs Tourism educators like Andy receives are almost always related to the Community Leadership Team (CLT). The FIT program does require communities to self-identify and construct their own CLT before engaging in the program. Cohesive CLTs formed in advance, help communities increase their chances of success after participating in FIT because there are leaders in place to move ideas and projects forward. While forming a CLT is generally grasped easily, a FAQ that applicants frequently struggle with are:

  1. Who should be on our CLT before applying for FIT?
    1. We suggest when building your CLT, you strive to include a diverse array of representatives from your public and private sectors. This may include civic club members, educators, elected officials, local business leaders and entrepreneurs, village and city managers, chambers of commerce members, downtown development authority members and members of convention and visitor bureaus.
    2. In addition, MSU Extension strongly encourages each community to identify organizations and individuals that represent underserved, unmet populations and youth in your community and include them on your CLT.
  2. Is there a limit to the number of people that can be on our CLT?
    1. No, there is not a limit. However, the most successful CLTs to date have had between five and seven members.

Other more common FIT FAQs include the size of visiting assessment teams, where first-time visitors visit, whether MSU Extension ranks communities based on their results and if the FIT program will turn your town into a major tourist destination.

All of the answers to these questions and more can be found by visiting the MSU Extension FIT website.

First Impressions Tourism (FIT) assessment program is a comprehensive community assessment conducted by unannounced visitors in a host community positioned to leave development based on their unique results. FIT involves developing community leadership, assessing the host community, sharing the results in a community forum, and providing suggestions to drive community action. Overall, FIT helps communities learn about their strengths and weaknesses through the eyes of first-time visitors evaluating their community in an asset-based manner on multiple tourism-related community metrics. The overriding goal of the program is to support community economic development by facilitating the growth of local and regional tourism economies.

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