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Is Tomorrow’s Visitor Here Today?

June 25, 2012 - Ernest Hohmeyer
Will we already see the new trends in visitors this summer?

At the Tomorrow’s Tourism Conference, several ideas emerged as we considered who the visitor is, are they changing and—if they are—are we prepared as a community and a business?

Tomorrow’s Tourism symposium was fortunate to have a wide range of international, national, state and local perspectives.

Here are a few interesting points to consider:

Markly Wilson, Director, International Marketing I Love NY suggested concentrating on 4 themes for tomorrow’s visitor: 1. Green travel is becoming more important. 2. In promoting the area, pick themes and not just amenities or attractions. 3. Travelers are looking for diverse experiences, suggesting collaborative marketing from a whole spectrum of businesses—not just tourism, but also retail, services, attractions and even non-profit or state owned venues. Diverse, one-stop “packages,” not just a list of activities but coordinated undertakings. 4. Do not forget Canada. It continues to be the one of the most important markets we have.

“Packages,” Mr. Wilson remarked, “are one of the highest hit features of the I Love NY campaign.”

Today’s Visitor Package?

But it is not the same old packages you are used to.

Based on what I heard at the Conference, it got me thinking that we need these packages to look like the community is one big attraction, not just a list of activities. For example, the community looks like a “Fall Harvest Festival” from downtown retail to services to traditional tourism amenities where our events are synchronized with “soft itineraries.”

In other words, we act like one big site map of many businesses participating in different but coordinated ways. Each of us has an important but different role to play, sort of like a Pendragon performance.

Most important is that we all understand each other’s role, can talk about what each has to offer and are all reading from the same script. The “3 G” Vacation

Due to “time poverty,” they will grow in importance. Mr. Markly suggested that, as folks get overloaded with information, they will be looking for “soft itineraries” of different things to do. In other words, they do not want to be confused or search different sites for information.

Another reason for the importance of comprehensive packages is the new travel trend called the “3 G” vacations. Here 3 generations are traveling together, meaning that they are looking for experiences for the kids, Mom and grandpa. Wow, talk about diversity.

To offer these diverse experiences, collaborative marketing will become more important. To offer the “complete experience,” small businesses will need to work together.

Marketing these packages by theme or specialty may be key.

Last minute travel will continue to grow, Mr. Wilson suggested.

Many Shades of Green

Fredrik M. Realbuto, Director of The US GreenLeaf Program for Audubon International talked about not forgetting that there were 2 green markets:

• “Necessity” travel or business, where increasingly corporations are mandating “green” venues. • Leisure travel where it was important not to just be “green” but to transfer that message to the guest. Help them become more of an environmental advocate so that they in turn can help others.

He offered an interesting tidbit of information that we don’t seem to be taking advantage of: The Adirondack region has the highest rating of “GreenLeaf” lodging establishments in the country.

Strategies & Tools

Darcy Norfolk, President of Adworkshop, talked about the growing importance of technology to today’s and tomorrow’s traveler. It is not just about your product or service but in telling a good story and positioning yourself as a trusted expert. Utilizing blogs to deliver first-hand accounts is one approach.

Ms. Norfolk detailed the importance to establish marketing goals, use and analyze analytics and from there establish a strategy. Social media is only one tool. Talking to your customer to understand how you should market was extremely important.

Packaging could be helped through the establishment of “community concierges” made up of interested businesses and community officials who could educate and “train” what the community has to offer as “ambassadors.”

Having a 3rd party talk about your business and not just you was another valuable strategy.

Value & Connections

Peter Roland, Professor Paul Smith's College, Hospitality & Resort Management reminded the group that we needed to offer “real” experiences that promoted good “value.” Today’s and tomorrow’s visitors are becoming more educated and technology savvy. Take advantage of social media “curated sites” such as Oyster as 3rd party references.

Kim Rielly, Communications Director of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism discussed the importance of communities having diverse amenities and establishing close connections between all venues. Identifying community strengths and promoting “what you do already” was important.

Bernadette Logozar, Cornell Cooperative Extension Franklin County provided statistics on the importance of tourism to the region as well as a key industry for New York State. She talked about the importance of agri-tourism and offering “business 101” courses to keep up with all the changes in the industry.

Tomorrow’s Tourism Symposium was intended to be an educational opportunity to learn from the experts. A Community Challenge

It took an unusual twist in the end. The panelists were so impressed by the enthusiasm in the room that they offered a challenge: If the community was interested in being better prepared for tomorrow’s visitor by developing themed packages, they would assist the group beyond the Conference.

With that incentive, participating businesses, community venues and attractions agreed to meet the following week to see if it was feasible to develop a community-wide package.

They did so last week by meeting at the beautiful new Carousel.

The goal is to create a themed package beyond just a listing of participating organizations. A coordinated “soft itinerary” based on a theme that is promoted by collaborative partners that offers a diverse experience. Coordinated events at restaurants, retail shops, lodging properties, community facilities and bringing in a host of other resources you may not at first imagine such as health and wellness, the arts and community organizations are part of the “package.”

A Coordinated Community Package?

But here is where the vision gets large. This is not just a list of activities but where we work together as “concierges” of each other’s business to create a visitor itinerary. Visitors can choose from a menu of activities based on a theme.

The idea is to add value, truly link to each other and create a “community package” template that can be replicated anytime of the year.

What’s novel here is this is not just “an event” once a year but a collaborative marketing referral “system” that once it is set up can be used anytime. It will have detailed information of what each business can offer and be coordinated as an itinerary of activities. Each participating business will have the same “road map” or package and will be able to help market it.

If we can pull this off, I Love NY, the region and local tourism organizations will help to shape and promote it.

Could we be in the forefront of the new “collaborative marketing”?

Anyone interested in learning more can e-mail me at MounainCommunityVisions@live.com

 
 

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