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Rural Summit 2012 – Tourism

CAMEO’s 2012 Rural Summit started out with introductions and expressing challenges that different areas have with tourism. Where proper nouns exist – just replace with the name of your town. I live in a very urban area and many of these challenges apply.

  • People don’t think of Fresno as a tourism stop.
  • San Luis Obispo isn’t known.
  • We need a reset button, we’re old and saggy.
  • We have a claim to fame, we’re known for the redwoods, but now what else is there?
  • A challenge of inland corridors is that business owners who don’t think they have to do with tourism don’t help, i.e. gas station owners who gets asked where to eat say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘Applebees.’
  • Micro can shape the way we talk about tourism.
  • Firebaugh has a river. The challenge is city council, if they don’t see money coming into their pockets, they say the city doesn’t need it. San Juaquin Conservation wanted to help conserve river, but city council said no because the effort was going to encroach on land use.
  • We need more positive marketing, as we’re so close to national parks.
  • Travel to the area is a problem.
  • Collaboration between large geographical areas is difficult.
  • There’s a lack of cold storage facilities.

Once we laid out the challenges, we had two dynamic speakers offer up creative solutions.

I. Joanne Steele (bio) of (a great blog) spoke about how everything is changing. You better change and take advantage of the opportunities created by change or wither on the vine.

Most rural communities that are greying are talking about good old days. They were overwhelmingly resource-based (mining, logging, etc.) and that is going away or has gone away. Today, we see lots of small towns waiting for things to happen. They are stuck in ‘old thinking’, i.e. ‘we don’t have anything to offer visitors’-type of thinking.

A new way of thinking blooms from the rise of the internet and authentic travel – do things that matter. Rural tourism means lots of niche markets (see all the cool types of tourism that people are interested in.)

Types of marketing

  • Field of Dreams Marketing – if you build it they will come
  • Long Tail – lots of limited niche markets
  • Inbound Marketing (SEO) – using the words our customers are using to ask for the things they want online and being in the place the customer is searching, we engage, we sell
  • If we leave a piece out, we go to ‘Internet Spray and Pray’

For example: Turkey, Texas

In the good ole days, streets were bustling because family farms would shop there. Now they’ve lost their reason for existence. They have a state park nearby with camping and buffalo, a historic gas station, a theater called the Gem Theater, and they are the home town of Western Swing. The big problem was that no restaurants were open when people would come to town. No one talked about serving the people who would visit.

Principles for moving Turkey, Texas’ inertia
*Capture the opportunity that already exists and turn it into a tourism revenue stream. Make sure your niche can make someone money. For example, if you have a great night sky, but no one’s open after five = problem.
*Make a catalog and assessment tool for rural culture assets – 8 elements of rural tourism – everything will fit into one of the categories. Benefit of cataloging assets is that it brings the community together. Start with rural culture elements, look what you have in your own backyard.
*Encourage your towns and business to serve the market that they already have. Casinos/big luxury resorts are sucking local areas dry – instead of pie in the sky, look for what’s already there.

Marcy Penner of Kansas Sampler Foundation is a great resource. Check out the ‘Eight Wonders of Kansas Rural Cultures’ and the ‘Explore Kansas’ tool.

What to teach your clients

  • Teach the importance of marketing to the identified niche
    • Know who customer is
    • Be where your customer is searching
    • Stop thinking of Internet as magic place, it’s a tool
  • Back of the Envelope Breakeven Analysis
  • Provide a comprehensive internet marketing training.
  • Every business needs a website – every biz has a web presence whether they know it or not, e.g. yelp.
    • Nurture relationships on line with customer AND search engines (keywords and content)
    • Translating your intimate knowledge of your
    • Manage own reputation online

II. Dianne Strachan (bio) – Exploring Stewardship Tourism

Leadership and innovation

  • Innovation key to business success – because ‘change or die’ – even if on right track, get run over if just sit there
  • Q: What is the path for innovation? Where do you go for creativity? A: alone time, listen to other leaders who are innovative, reading, watching the competition, stealing ideas, seeing what other people are doing and apply, bounce off others
  • What are the tools to be creative? Ask the question of your staff/clients
  • Go into passion and purpose
  • How do we help clients be innovative rather than market

What is stewardship tourism

  • Is innovative in itself – emerging on its own as something people want to do
  • Targets someone who wants to do: they want connection, authentically with locals, high value activity, when doing something get something back; they want to learn, they want opportunities to care

The evolving California tourist

  • 46 million travelers buy from specific companies because they donate
  • 58.5 million would use travel company that would protect environment
  • The stewardship traveler (know values, what’s important and needs) and wants personal restoration, has $250K annual income

Tips for leadership journey

  • Identify regional champions partners
  • Create short-term criteria, inventory and develop assets
  • Educate, communicate, co-inspire
  • Co-develop and implement marketing plan
  • Track results, evaluate
  • Celebrate, acknowledge