February 2011 – Connect with your ideal visitor

Travel Man at the London Eye, overlooking the Thames and Parliament (courtesy craigemorsels at Flickr CC)Can you answer this question?

“Describe your ideal visitor. It can be more than one sort of person (a certain type of family and also a particular type of business traveler) but describe them, in detail, down to their car, clothes, eating preferences and travel habits.”

Can you picture this visitor (sometimes called a persona, a composite) in your mind’s eye? Do you feel that you know them, can anticipate the sort of places they’d like to see and the things they’d like to do, and how they might want to connect with you?

Most importantly, does your destination marketing focus on this person, or does it attempt to be all things to anyone who’ll walk through the door?

Las Vegas tried to be Sin City and a great place for families; it didn’t work out. They went back to semi-racy ads and “What happens here, stays here.” They returned to appealing to the customer that they knew so well.

For more on personas and marketing, see the book Waiting for Your Cat to Bark and check out this Brian Massey web persona post.

Update – Hubspot has a free persona-builder you can try.

Pssst…we think our Tourism Currents female customer persona often wears a cheerful yellow sweater, sensible shoes, has a bubbly laugh, and tells amazing stories about her town.


Small towns capitalize on big city visitors

One of Becky’s Small Biz Survival blog readers shared some terrific perspective about city people getting out to visit small towns.

What do they really look for? Well, it’s not all that surprising.

Here are some thoughts from Walt Williams in Mount Vernon, Ohio:

“I have noted marked increase in traffic on the weekends from the city (Columbus, OH) to our small farm community. People without question are searching, even if it is for just a few hours, a feeling of a laid back way of life. Several of the farms in our area are taking advantage of the weekend influx with farm stands or in some cases farm stores, selling everything from home-grown and home-baked items to bulk foods.

I feel our area is missing the boat by not capitalizing on the traffic. City folk or anyone that has any amount of disposable income, the first thing people will buy is food. Our area has more than its share of pizza shops and fast food, but not one single home style or farm style restaurant.

If we could get the visitors to stop and eat, then that may be beneficial to the local businesses, i.e. antique shop, shoe store, old time hardware and several other small independently owned businesses.”

How does your town connect with people who are looking to escape and relax? Do you have independent, local restaurants that are not part of better-known chains….something visitors can’t find anywhere else, like Cookie’s Soul Food Kitchen in tiny Ames, Texas?

Act like a visitor – try to find them using general restaurant search terms online (and on a smartphone, as though you were driving through town, scrolling through on a mobile browser.) Make sure they’ve claimed their local Google Places listing, and if some locals would leave reviews, that would be even better.

Celebrate the unique!

Visitor Niche: Birding and Birders

It’s too easy to focus on blogger outreach to travel-related online publishers, and forget that the social Web has some incredibly active niche communities that might be interested in your destination.

Too often they are dismissed as “not bringing enough eyeballs,” but this sort of thinking doesn’t work in an Internet world. Better to capture the attention and chatter of 50 people who are crazy about some specific aspect of your town, than doing “spray and pray” outreach towards 500 who could care less.

One community that is very active online are birders, and their demographics are often good for integrating with your cultural, historic and outdoor tourism outreach efforts as well. Ever thought about a small birder blogger fam tour, or hosting a few enthusiasts at your annual bird-related festival, or simply bringing in local birders for breakfast and coffee to compare Life Lists and see what outreach suggestions they can offer?

If you have significant bird activity in nearby nature reserves, here are some interesting sites and people that you should know about:

**  The American Birding Association’s (ABA) blog

**  John Dendroica’s A DC Birding Blog (not just the Washington, DC area, either)

**  The Bird Chaser and @BirdChaser on Twitter

**  The Birding Dude

**  The American Birding Association’s (ABA) Facebook Group

**  The Great Backyard Bird Count (next one is Feb 18-21, 2011 – the McAllen, Texas CVB has a GBBC blog post)

Whether you have birds year-round or migratory events, there’s a whole world of people out there who may want to know about them, and visit your region to see them.


Open Comments Night Highlights

Thanks to everyone who joined us for our fun online chat during the January 11 Tourism Open Comments night.

Highlighted discussions included:

**  Does a drop-off in visitor numbers to your website simply mean that many are getting their info via Facebook and other social media channels? Perhaps – play Facebook for what it’s worth, but always ensure that your own online house remains enticing.

**  If you’re going to do video, do it right. At a minimum, keep it short and snappy and have good audio above almost all else. One commenter said that she’s gotten so tired of being sent to bad videos that she rarely watches them anymore. Her main complaint? Audio – “Half the time I can’t hear or understand the video….I can’t tell you how many times the person has been speaking too quickly or too softly for me to understand anything.”

From Becky on video:  “You’re going to have to experiment to learn. Do you want to do that experimenting as part of your main image? Or can you find a way to do that as a bit of a side project?”

**  From a traveler who joined the chat:  “Wish more people in tourism GOT social media and its importance. I tried to find people on Twitter, etc. while in Europe this last month and they were far and few between. Would have been nice to have someone in Spain and London to chat with and give me more insight while there.”

**  Hotels and the disabled traveler – a comment from motivational speaker Glenda Watson Hyatt – “There’s a difference between ‘accessible’ and ‘ADA Certified’ when it comes to hotels.”  Idea – have an experienced disabled traveler and blogger like Glenda do a “real person” evaluation of your hotel property, perhaps in exchange for a room, or pay at their consulting rate.

Thanks to everyone who joined us for Open Comments, and we’ll announce another one soon!


Beyond Our Online Course

For those who are interested in more customized training or personalized consulting, we’ve launched a Services page.

Click the link for more on our speaking, training and individualized client work.


Upcoming Conferences

We love connecting online, but even better is bringing it offline….

**  Of course, we will both be at SXSWi (South by Southwest Interactive) in Austin, Texas in March. It has become one of the biggest tech conferences in the world.

**  Agritourism is getting big. The Tri-State Agri-tourism Conference covering Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri is March 22-23, 2011 in Pittsburg, Kansas and Becky is speaking.

Agritourism is the general name for a wide swath of farm and agriculture related tourism businesses. Imagine vineyards, guest ranches, hay mazes, bike trails, you-pick farms, and much more. The conference is for agri-tourism businesses, those with potential businesses, DMOs (Destination Marketing Organizations) and Chambers of Commerce, or really, anyone else interested in growing more ag-related tourism! A reception with food and beverages from tri-state area producers and a tour of several area agritourism businesses will also be featured.

**  Want to connect with travel bloggers? TBEX 2011 in Vancouver is almost sold out….

**  Thinking about economic development and building community in your small town or rural area?  The second 140 Conference Small Town is confirmed for Hutchinson, Kansas on September 20, 2011, at the gorgeous Fox Theatre.

**  Once again, both of us will organize and lead the Tourism track at BlogWorld and New Media Expo this fall. Want to do some blogger outreach and connect with thousands of online publishers, plus talk tourism? We say, go where the geeks are.

**  The second SoMeT (Symposium on Social Media in Tourism) is November 9-11, 2011 and if you want to host the event, RFPs are due by February 18, 2011. Go here to download the SoMeT RFP (a PDF) – that’s a mouthful! Update 2013: that link is broken, but here’s what the 2013 SoMeT hosting RFP looks like (also a PDF.)


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