But Destination Marketing Might

It’s no secret that many communities have seen a dramatic restructuring of their economies, often attributed to the loss of manufacturing jobs. Through technology, changes in the competitive landscape, and shifting priorities, the business and employment landscape has changed. The changes are felt everywhere, from local restaurants to hotels to specialty stores, in where and when people spend their time and money. The feeling is these changes have crippled Main Streets across the U.S.

While manufacturing in the U.S. is strong in sectors and not going away, we’ve become extremely efficient at doing more with less. That means fewer workers in total are earning their livelihoods in manufacturing, a course that is not going to reverse itself. But if we’re honest, manufacturing wasn’t the lifeblood of  Main Street, it was retail. Malls of all kinds and strip centers were the real undoing of Main Street as a destination. Increased manufacturing in these communities would certainly be welcome, but by itself will have little impact on Main Street. Many communities that were built on industries ranging from logging to mining to textiles have also experienced economic downturns. Those industries won’t save Main Street either.

That doesn’t mean that everyone’s favorite throughway is doomed. To the contrary, it’s a fantastic opportunity for these communities to work with their Convention and Visitor’s Bureaus to create and build their own unique identities. They have to identify and support the businesses that represent their core. Then they have to deliver that message to a larger audience outside of the community. That’s what destination marketing can do.

Why Build It? It’s Already There!

Consider the example of Warren County, Ohio. If you don’t live in southwest Ohio, you probably wouldn’t have any familiarity with Warren County. Just outside of Cincinnati (which is located in Hamilton and Butler Counties) Warren County doesn’t contain a major metropolis. In fact, people in northeast Ohio likely even confuse it with the nearby city of Warren. But they did have a major attraction—one of the most famous amusement parks in America. And when they looked more closely, they had a lot more to offer. In fact, they literally had playgrounds worth of amusements for residents and visitors to enjoy. From water parks to major tennis tournaments, baseball fields to golf courses, bike paths to antiquing there was something for everyone. That’s why the Warren County Convention and Vistors Bureau (WCCVB) slogan, “Ohio’s Largest Playground,” fit and became their claim to nationwide fame.

The $$ Stop Here

While the direct way that businesses such as manufacturing and logging impact the economy, impact from visitors can be more difficult to see at first. But worldwide, Travel & Tourism makes up 10% of the global GDP. What the WCCVB realized was, that while getting visitors to their attractions was great for those businesses, getting those visitors to spend the night or weekend greatly enhanced their contributions to other business. In fact, on average, overnight travelers spend three times more than daytime visitors. Through concentrated efforts to promote the wealth of things to do in “Ohio’s Largest Playground” and the need for an overnight stay to enjoy them all, WCCVB recently surpassed $1 billion in tourism dollars for first time in their history.

Similar examples can be found in Park City, Utah following the collapse of the mining industry and rise of ski tourism and festivals, and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho as well. The subsequent dollars that follow the travelers to these destinations in many cases have become a major source of income.

5 Steps to Put More Feet on Main Street

  1. Rally the troops. Get the community involved. You can’t do this alone. You’ll need as much consensus as you can get to make this work. If all of the parties aren’t included or don’t feel that they’ve been heard, the experience will be inconsistent and your results might fall flat.
  2. Look around. Everywhere has something that makes it unique or different. Be proud. Highlight your best features and support it with your other claims to fame. Look for recent or upcoming investments and incorporate them into your plan. It might be an annual event you can use as a springboard, or unique geographic feature. It doesn’t have to be Woodstock or the Grand Canyon to be interesting and worth the trip.
  3. Grab your niche. When you identify your greatness, research your competition to see what their message is and how they tell their story. Look for gaps and opportunities that they’ve missed. Then create a statement that both clearly defines your greatness and differentiates you from the competition.
  4. Tell the world.  All the great work to this point is for one reason – to draw more visitors to your destination. But they won’t come unless you invite them. So invite them. Be creative. Meet them where they are with your message and help them plan their visit. Create content that is useful and tells the true story of what their experience will be at your destination. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about them.
  5. Smile. Welcome your visitors with a smile. Tell the community at large what you’re doing and why. Create programs to help them take advantage of your work. Prepare them for the success of destination marketing and the new reality on Main Street.

Learn more about Ohio’s Largest Playground.

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