The DMO Download

A weekly digest on economic development and cultural, heritage tourism news.

2024’s Total Solar Eclipse Draws Eyes and Travelers


Dive Into This Month's News

This month’s DMO Download takes you from the community-driven revitalization of Roscommon County, Michigan, to the anticipated celestial marvel of a total solar eclipse sweeping across the U.S. We’re also unpacking the ‘brain gain’ phenomenon breathing new life into rural destinations and deciphering the latest travel trends that are redefining our getaways. Join us as we delve into the stories that are setting new precedents in the world of travel and tourism. Check it out!

Initiative Launches To Strengthen Small-Town, Rural Tourism In Roscommon County, Michigan

Roscommon County, Michigan, is making significant strides in enhancing its rural tourism appeal, backed by a strategic partnership between the Roscommon County Economic Development Corporation and Michigan State University Extension. This initiative is set to invigorate the local tourism sector by leveraging the unique characteristics and insights of the community, setting a new benchmark for rural tourism development.

The project unfolds through a “Rural Tourism Assessment” program, which began by engaging community leaders in identifying and prioritizing the county’s key tourism assets. From the peaceful shores of Prudenville to the heritage-rich Village of Roscommon, the initiative aims to spotlight destinations that embody the county’s diverse appeal, ensuring that visitors’ first experiences are memorable and authentic.

  • Driven by Community Insights: At the heart of the initiative is a deep commitment to community input, ensuring that the tourism development strategy is reflective of Roscommon County’s true essence and values.
  • Emphasizing First Impressions: A key focus is on understanding the viewpoints of first-time visitors, crucial for refining the county’s tourism offerings to meet diverse visitor expectations.
  • Economic and Cultural Boost: Tourism plays a vital role in Roscommon’s economy, with significant contributions in 2021. This initiative is expected to not only enhance the visitor experience but also stimulate economic growth and cultural enrichment.

As Roscommon County boldly embarks on this journey, it exemplifies how rural areas can harness their unique attributes and community spirit to create a thriving tourism sector. This initiative promises to bring new energy and opportunities to the county, showcasing the power of collaboration and strategic planning in unlocking the full potential of rural tourism.

2024's Total Solar Eclipse Draws Eyes And Travelers

This April, the United States is set to witness a remarkable celestial event—a total solar eclipse slicing diagonally across the nation, from Texas to Maine. This rare occurrence has not only captivated the imagination of stargazers but has also sparked a surge in tourism, with destinations along the eclipse’s path bracing for an influx of visitors eager to witness day turn into twilight.

This article highlights how eclipse enthusiasts, or ‘umbraphiles’, are preparing to converge on key locations, making this event a unique travel phenomenon. With estimates suggesting up to 4 million travelers might venture into the totality zones, communities are gearing up to welcome this wave of celestial tourists. From observatories in New Mexico and Texas to the iconic vistas of Niagara Falls, the eclipse promises to offer a mesmerizing experience, captivating visitors with the rare beauty of nature’s grand spectacle.

In response, the travel and tourism sectors are offering innovative experiences tailored for the eclipse, from special flights that follow the path of totality to eclipse-themed cruises. Cities like Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Niagara Falls, along with others in the path like those in Pennsylvania, are preparing for an influx of visitors, highlighting the significant economic and social impact this celestial event is poised to have.

As communities across the nation prepare to play host to this extraordinary event, the eclipse is shaping up to be more than just a moment of astronomical wonder. It’s becoming a catalyst for local economies, a boon for tourism, and a unique opportunity for towns and cities to showcase their hospitality and charm. This convergence of celestial spectacle and community celebration is a powerful reminder of the special moments that can bring people together, sparking curiosity and wonder in the world around us.

‘Brain Gain’ In Rural America And Who Is Behind It

In the tapestry of rural American life, a new narrative is emerging, challenging the long-held belief of inevitable decline. This narrative is one of ‘brain gain,’ a term coined by University of Minnesota researcher Ben Winchester, signifying the influx of individuals, primarily those above the age of 35, into rural communities. Contrary to the ‘brain drain’ phenomenon associated with the exodus of youth seeking opportunities elsewhere, this trend underscores a growing attraction to the values, lifestyle, and opportunities that rural America offers.

Individuals like Ryan Haley, who returned to Montezuma County, Colorado, after pursuing education and career opportunities in urban settings, exemplify this shift. For Haley and many others, the decision to return or move to rural areas is driven by a desire for a close-knit community, a preferable environment to raise children, and a slower pace of life that allows for deeper connections and a more balanced lifestyle. The movement of these individuals back to rural locales is not just a return to roots but a strategic choice, influenced by the appreciation of rural life’s unique benefits. This includes a strong sense of community, where support in times of need is abundant, and the chance to engage in meaningful work that contributes directly to the community’s well-being.

As rural communities witness this ‘brain gain,’ the challenge lies in sustaining this momentum. Key to this is ensuring adequate housing and infrastructure to accommodate newcomers, fostering a welcoming environment that encourages long-term settlement and community integration, and preparing for a generational turnover in leadership positions.

This phenomenon of ‘brain gain’ highlights the resilience and adaptability of rural areas, reflecting a broader revaluation of what it means to live a fulfilled life. As more people recognize the benefits of rural living, from the sense of community to the connection with nature, these areas are poised to transform, becoming vibrant hubs of activity, culture, and economic growth that enrich the entire fabric of rural America.

From Bleisure To Solomoons: Your Guide To The New Travel Trends

Travel today isn’t just about where you go; it’s about how you blend your journey’s purpose, who accompanies you, and what you seek to experience. The evolving lexicon of travel reflects a shift towards more personalized and meaningful journeys, extending beyond the traditional vacation.

  • Bleisure: The line between business trips and leisure breaks is blurring, giving rise to ‘bleisure’ travel. This trend sees professionals extending work trips to enjoy local attractions, from surf lessons to culinary explorations, merging productivity with pleasure.
  • Buddymoon: Redefining honeymoons, buddymoons invite friends and family to join the post-wedding getaway, emphasizing shared experiences and the extension of celebration from the wedding aisle to travel adventures.
  • Coolcation: With climate change altering travel preferences, coolcations offer a refreshing escape to colder climes, trading sunburns for cozy moments in less sweltering destinations.
  • Destination Dupes: In an era of overtourism, savvy travelers seek destination dupes—lesser-known locales that echo the appeal of hotspots without the crowds, offering a more authentic and serene experience.
  • Eduvacation: The quest for knowledge takes a scenic route with eduvacations, where travelers immerse themselves in learning new skills or delving into cultural studies, all while soaking in the leisure of a holiday setting.
  • Friendcation: Echoing group getaways sans the nuptial pretext, friendcations celebrate camaraderie and shared interests, from nature trails to urban explorations, without the pressure of ceremonial events.
  • Set-Jetting: Fueled by screen-inspired wanderlust, set-jetting involves curating trips around iconic film and TV show locations, offering fans a walk through their favorite scenes in real life.
  • Solomoon: A twist on the honeymoon, solomoons cater to individuals celebrating new marital status in solitude or with a chosen few, focusing on personal reflection or adventure.
  • Voluntourism: Combining travel with altruism, voluntourism invites travelers to contribute to local communities, from environmental conservation efforts to cultural preservation, adding a layer of purpose to their journeys.

Each term encapsulates a broader trend towards making travel more than just a getaway. It’s about creating experiences that resonate on a personal level, whether through adventure, relaxation, learning, or giving back, reflecting a richer tapestry of what it means to explore the world today. For a deeper dive into these trends, check out this article.

Enhancing Destination Appeal With Strategic Marketing

In the realm of destination marketing, having a structured and well-documented strategy is not as common as one might think. Recognizing this gap, a tourism-specific funnel model has been developed to guide Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) in crafting strategies that resonate with actual consumer behaviors. By mapping out the visitor’s journey, this model provides insights into the appropriate tools and tactics at each stage, ensuring that potential visitors are not just engaged but are inspired to become patrons of the destination. This approach simplifies the complex task of marketing strategy development, offering a clear pathway to transform interest into action. It encourages DMOs to delve deeper into the nuances of the visitor experience, tailoring their strategies to meet the evolving expectations of travelers. By doing so, DMOs can create more impactful, memorable campaigns that not only capture the essence of their destinations but also spark a genuine desire in potential visitors to explore and experience these places firsthand.


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