Entertainment, authenticity and preservation are just a few of the elements in successful tourism development, but the bottom line of success is really revenue - sustainable revenue!
Unachieved prosperity and unrealized economic development are the bane of too many communities throughout the United States which have either isolated themselves from their neighbors or their events and festivals are just too similar to that of their neighbors with both communities competing for the same tourism dollars.
There are two prevailing obstacles precluding maximum tourism revenue.
- Perpetuating an underlying attitude of petty egocentrism pitting communities against each other trying to compete for the same customers rather than sharing them - a position sometimes found in larger cities and now seen in small towns.
- Failing to provide depth in stories and a richness of experiences falling short of attracting the more lucrative national and international tourists.
Some communities still relegate themselves to fighting for the less dependable and substantially less profitable sightseeing dollars. Instead of working with each other to market their combined tourism resources and cross-selling points of interest in neighboring communities, they try to keep the tourist trade all to themselves. They seem to be oblivious to the fact that, while cross-selling might not give them a bigger piece of the pie, the pie itself will be much bigger and more satisfying.
Yes, some communities might have more to offer than their neighbors at first, but as communities begin to network with each other, they will discover more ways to complement each other rather than compete with each other and play the self-defeating game of one-upmanship that so often comes with festivals.
Cross-selling also allows communities to develop a broad-based tourism profile which will attract more overall tourism revenue and recirculate more of that same revenue within the network of cooperating communities as local residents have more spendable income for their day-to-day living.
Cross-selling does not mean that communities have to lose their individuality but, rather, cross-selling should enhance it within the broader scope of neighbor helping neighbor which has always been a founding tenet of our culture. There is, indeed, strength and prosperity in working together for the common good.
Every community has something to offer neighboring tourists but what will it take to attract international tourists?
Every community has much to offer in terms of its people. Yet few individual communities have identified enough unique tourism attractions to lure lucrative group tours and international tourists to spend the night. Many communities have overlooked the value of digging deep enough to identify what it will take for that unique tourism draw.
Or should it be called excavating deep enough as a small group of Chinese farmers did when stumbling upon the Terracotta Army or the "Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses" a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. A small, unassuming lucky little town turned into a mecca for tourists with one scoop of the spade.
(This author visited the excavation site of the Terracotta Warriors in 1988, fourteen years after the initial discovery in 1974. It was pleasing to see Progressional Signage used as the site was already fascinating and educational even with only a fraction of the excavation completed.)
The answer, of course, is to have enough tourism depth and breadth that will allow each community to stand on its own. The deeper the depth and broader the breadth, the greater will be the number of tourists they can attract from a greater distance.
While tourism profiles begin with attractive main streets and polished buildings, group tours and international tourists expect more than just a pretty face. As with a beautiful person, tourism profiles must have character and depth – something behind and beyond that pretty face! In other words, a full package!
Building that depth - that full package - requires thoughtful research at the local level and a full community commitment to create and support this lucrative industry.
Unlike the Chinese farmers who stumbled on a proverbial gold mine in X’ian, and unlike the Chinese government fortunate to be the beneficiary of such, communities should not count on a terracotta army to appear out of nowhere. Each community must do its due diligence and establish its own unique profile with research and proper development as a community.
A successful tourism profile is not created by just a few needing the support of many. Everyone should participate in the development because the profile will be affected by everyone in the community. It takes a village to create the strongest profile but it takes only one to break it. Make it a community endeavor because the community is all part of the profile.
UPCOMING SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS:
North Dakota Travel Industry Conference April 15 - 17, 2013:
· Workshop: Growing Tourism through Business Development - What you don’t know you don’t know (but your guests do.)
· Keynote: Heritage Tourism Development – The Story, The Assets & The Logistics
Called "The Patron Saint of Small Towns" by Iowa Commerce Magazine
John Poimiroo, Deputy Secretary of (CA) Tourism said:
"I was so impressed by your emphasis on sustaining heritage tourism as an economic development tool."