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A Regional Destination Marketing Organization?

January 27, 2012 - Ernest Hohmeyer
I may say a proverbial bad word here: do we need a new effort to market the region? I had hoped it could work through the existing framework and it still can - but perhaps in a different way. It is not so much that there is no interest; it’s that the world of marketing has changed – and so has the region.

We may need to stop thinking we are competing with each other for existing customers and as a region to leverage our might to attract new ones.

And a new might it is. The Tri-lakes have come of age. There is a new momentum and a new opportunity to work together. We are no longer the orphan child but a capital of commerce and tourism activity in the Adirondack Park.

The New World of Marketing

We may need to shed some of that adolescence infrastructure and come to the table to create adult ones built on cooperation, networking and leveraging resources. While there are new events or projects in each of our communities, it may take years before we realize these economic impacts.

We may be enthusiastic when the Village of Saranac Lake renews it’s acquaintance with the local chamber and considers helping with a new web site. There may be renewed optimism when Tupper Lake hires a new events coordinator with a hopeful partnership with the Adirondack Club & Resort project.

These efforts should rightfully be congratulated.

However, creating a new web site or hiring someone, while critical first steps, may not translate into the all the success it can be.

Today you not need only staff and traditional resources; you need expertise, networking and linkages. Perhaps more than 1 community can do.

How will you actually market this effort and the daily deluge of maintaining your community on top of the Google search engines, Facebook posts and blogs? And now from what I heard from this week’s regional marketing meeting, your web site may need to be reformatted to be read on large formats like your laptop to micro-screens of web phones. Let’s not also forget that traditional media is also important from visitor’s guides to publications.

To be effective in today's marketing world, we need to think like diary farmers: everyday we need to milk the social media world and how you do that is becoming complicated and time consuming.

Is there a way that we as a region can milk this to our new advantage as a destination region?

Regional Approaches

This is why communities throughout the world that view tourism as important are regionalizing.

And we are talking about big communities.

The Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg area made headlines by creating a unified and coordinated approach to marketing. This is an area that has very different amenities and distinct communities. Like us they have multiple municipal boundaries and even – get this – 2 international airports. They also had an immense population to convince bound by numerous layers of community tourism and business development organizations.

Their combined population is over 700,000.

They recognized their competition was not each other but Orlando and just about every beach community in the nation –and in the world.

A Destination Marketing Effort

In many of these tourism regions they have created “DMO’s” or destination marketing organizations. Their sole purpose is to market the region – period.

In today’s rapidly changing world of social media marketing this is a daunting task requiring dedicated resources, up-to-date technology platforms, technical expertise – and of course money to market all of this to a discerning visitor.

Today, the visitor looking at a mountain-lake region can go anywhere in the world.

Despite our new community energy, our region is small. Our population is around 15,000 and currently lacks some amenities today’s visitors are looking for.

Even if we take the magical step of putting aside our historical competition with each other, we are ants in the tourism destination world when you look at our real competitors in Vail Colorado, Canada and even adventure tours in Peru. They are all vying for that tourism customer even coming right at us as you open your home computer or web phone.

Volunteer Efforts – Big Tasks

So many of our events aimed at attracting more people to our area are filled with volunteers on a shoe-string budget where even a $500 dollar cut can spell life or death.

To promote these events we have to deal with multiple organizations that mean well and try hard to help but are under-resourced, under-manned and have no real marketing budget.

To survive themselves they wear many hats. Some attempt to be a tourism organization, a business organization, and perform government liaison work. Their web sites and their efforts tend to be everything and the tourism feel sometimes gets lost. I am not talking about only the look here but the necessary placements, key words and key items that a visitor is looking for - and that they can find quickly - before they move on to another site.

Engaged myself professionally in the non-profit world, I understand how difficult it can be to justify your organization and sometimes how difficult it can be to hold on to your mission. This is especially true when diverse funding partners from local government to big business hold the financial keys.

If a local government comes in, will your tourism web site need to include the minutes of their board meetings? Will it be restricted to members of just that community? If you have multiple members with different agendas can you create a true tourism web site?

Time for Prime Time?

With our new power as a region, perhaps it is time to step into the big leagues of tourism marketing. Should we field our own destination marketing organization? A regional organization that only does tourism marketing? Where all funding partners and members agree this is what they do?

Can we create a powerhouse marketing engine that can leverage and coordinate our many fine but underfunded community events?

Besides a promotional engine, can this destination marketing organization pull us together?

Regional Destination Events?

For example, at the regional marketing meeting this week, we heard about struggles of the numerous boat races throughout the region to market themselves and receive adequate support.

Is there a way to create a “regional paddlers event group” as part of this destination marketing organization? Is there a way these various boat races can help each other – share mailing lists, expertise? Better yet, where appropriate can some of these smaller events be coordinated to create a regional destination paddling event?

Can we do the same for the arts and other events?

Do we need to create a new destination marketing organization? Perhaps we do not have to. Perhaps we should start with talking with ROOST, Franklin County Tourism and the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council.

A Regional Meeting

Is it possible to create a regional meeting of our municipal leaders with these marketing partners? A brainstorming agenda:

1. Is there even an interest in working together to market the region?

2. Are there new opportunities for our small businesses and events to work together?

3. What is the upside and down-side of a regional destination marketing approach?

4. Moving forward, should we actively pursue a regional approach?

Our regional marketing group, an informal group of marketing stakeholder’ that have been made up of representatives of ROOST, Franklin County, the Village of Saranac Lake, the local chamber and businesses from all over the region would like to try.

We are inviting our local government representatives throughout the region, ARISE, ORDA, the various local chambers and our tourism based businesses throughout the Tri-lakes to brainstorm with us the possibilities of greater regional approach.

This regional marketing brainstorming meeting is scheduled for Wednesday February 29th – a leap year to leap forward – at 4:00PM at the Saranac Lake Free Library.

Through hard work, our region is strong. There may be an opportunity to make it even greater.


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