The good, the bad and the ugly of regional tourism - and why
Sometimes an awful lot of money is wasted in regional tourism.
Here are some examples of the kinds of waste we see, and a couple of ideas on the benefits of critically considering choices and seeking out more options:
1. TV ad for a remote Outback town
On our recent visit to the Outback we saw a TV ad promoting a *very* remote outback town on the Outback's TV channel Imparja. The ad showed drone footage of the village and promoted its one attraction, a museum. The feeling afterwards was not, 'I'm inspired to go', but rather, 'That looks like every small town in Australia', i.e. not somewhere special to go a *very* long way to see. (Apparently that TV ad could have been worse: check out the 10 worst city tourism videos.)
While the strategy of broadcasting the ad on an outback channel would make sense to capture travellers while they are in-region, the ad was playing outside of the tourist season.
A better use of such a big budget would be to advertise the journey out that way rather than the destination.
In such a remote location, local councils could make better use of their marketing budget by giving a large share to their regional tourism organisation to promote the region or joining in collaborative campaigns, rather than advertising just one town or one attraction - i.e. to work in a unified way to market the region.
Alternatively, travellers will often visit a destination for a major event, so marketing an event can be a draw that attracts people out to the outback for the first time. This marketing has the benefit of destination brand exposure and awareness-building.
2. Attracting and supporting new events
We've seen councils that are continually busy with trying to attract new events to town while missing out on getting the maximum value out of their existing events in ROI and value for the community.
If there is a gap in the event calendar, attracting and supporting a new event can be worthwhile. But it is worth considering if those resources can be used for
- destination marketing around an event (such as itineraries and promoting reasons to stay in town longer, or spend more money in town)
- destination development:
Events can be a catalyst for new development. For example, a town we have worked with has heavily funded a cycling event for many years. Now that they have a reputation for cycling because of that investment, how can they leverage that for developing year-round experiences, or support collaboration in the community so that local businesses can gain maximum benefit from the event or understand how to?
(Tourism & Events QLD has a great tip sheet on how businesses can leverage tourism events)
3. There's no excuse for a terrible website
We've been so surprised to learn that quite a few councils and destinations still have websites with 1990s styling and usability. (I went to take a screenshot of one I know of for this blog post and the site wouldn't load either!)
Websites need to be both visually appealing and easy to use. A list of things to do with no images does not draw people to your destination!
Graphic design follows clear and simple rules - Robin Williams has brilliantly-written books that clearly show how to take layout from ridiculously amateur to pleasing, such as the Non-Designer's Design Book (This should be required reading for anyone who uses a computer).
Make your website a c.r.a.p. website, not crappy (read the last paragraph:)
If you need help with your website, we have a brilliant graphic designer who uses the simple-to-learn Squarespace. Our clients make changes to their website text and images without having to pay a webmaster! See our website package
I promised good, bad and ugly - so here is the good: 8 tips for a brilliant DMO website
4. Council Mergers and Parochialism
Parochialism is having such a negative impact on regional tourism. C'mon, communities, get over it! Promote your best-known town and once folks have decided to come, then spread them out into the rest of the region. Don't be afraid to piggy back off your big brother - it's cheaper and less resource-intensive.
5. Not getting input from outside
The value of an expert consultant can be to provide an outsider's view. Sometimes regions and events get caught up in the four walls of their little world. Consider inviting in an outsider to have a look at what you're doing and ask questions. Every now and then get someone to review what you're doing.
Recently we conducted a community-wide consultation of stakeholders of a particular event. We were taken to each meeting by one of the committee members who was so surprised at the numerous opportunities that became apparent just by setting up meetings with everyone and talking to them (including freely available grant money and labour for the event!).
Why not schedule this once every couple of years - and share with everyone your learnings and the actions you'll be taking as a result?
On the other hand, there are dodgy consultants who make a lot of money from councils who hire them without knowing better. How do you avoid these? Ask your regional or state tourism organisation if they have preferred suppliers for the task you need done: get the right consultant for the job.