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A weekly digest for those who market and manage destinations.

North Dakota Cuts Tourism Funding After Theme Park Scrutiny


The Latest in Heritage Tourism

It’s May, which means summer is just around the corner. Are you ready for the busy season? Ready or not, we have stories that will help you make informed decisions in the coming months. Learn about North Dakota’s tourism funding cut, how international travel demand could affect domestic tourism, getting stakeholder buy-in for your destination’s brand, and more.

North Dakota Cuts Tourism Funding After Theme Park Scrutiny

Funding for tourism projects in North Dakota has been significantly reduced after a proposed buffalo-themed park drew criticism from various groups. The funding cuts, which were approved by the state legislature, will affect a range of projects aimed at boosting tourism in the state. This article notes that the proposed buffalo park, which had been touted as a major tourist attraction, was criticized by conservationists, Native American groups, and others who expressed concerns about the impact of the park on wildlife and the environment.

The funding cuts for tourism projects in North Dakota may have implications for DMOs in the state. DMOs rely on funding to promote their respective destinations and attract visitors, so any reduction in funding can impact their ability to effectively market and promote their areas. The reduced funding may limit the ability of DMOs in North Dakota to promote their destinations and compete with other states in the region. Additionally, the controversy surrounding the proposed buffalo-themed park and the funding cuts may lead to negative perceptions of North Dakota as a tourism destination, which could further impact the efforts of DMOs in the state. However, DMOs may also have opportunities to collaborate with other organizations and stakeholders to develop alternative tourism projects and initiatives that align with the values and concerns of their communities.

American Travelers Are Going Abroad

This Skift article reports that American travelers spent a record $17.4 billion on international travel in February of 2023, indicating a strong demand for international travel among US tourists. This news has interesting implications for US destinations, as it suggests that many Americans are eager to explore new international destinations, but US destinations may be able to an increase in visitor numbers as a result of this trend, particularly if they are able to effectively market their destinations to American travelers.

In addition, the increase in spending on international travel may also impact domestic tourism in the US, as some Americans may choose to spend their travel budgets on international destinations rather than domestic ones. US destinations may need to adjust their marketing strategies and offerings in order to remain competitive and attract visitors. Overall, the news of increased spending on international travel presents both opportunities and challenges for US destinations, and will require careful planning and management in order to take full advantage of the opportunities it presents.

This Small Kentucky Town Became a Movie-making Mecca

For Pulaski County in Kentucky, tourism is a big business. With beautiful outdoor amenities and towns that sport the quintessential small-town charm, it’s a great destination for summertime getaways and weekend trips. But now this rural county, especially the county seat, Somerset, isn’t just attracting tourists. It’s attracting Hollywood.

Veteran TV movie producer Danny Roth is in conversation with Somerset tourism and local officials about using the location as the set for six of his films. The first was “Christmas at the Amish Bakery,” which wrapped up filming toward the beginning of April and most recently, crews have been filming “Sparks,” a romantic comedy set in the world of car culture. It finished up last week, and the third movie will start filming in May — believed to be called “Night Lily,” another rom-com. The company didn’t sign a contract to film these six productions, likely to be aired on Lifetime or affiliated channels, with the local entities — it was just a verbal agreement, and grows out of the interest Roth had in the area when he saw what Pulaski County had to offer.

“We knew they were thinking about a couple (of projects), and then when it worked out so well and they had so many people that were volunteering to help, they said, ‘Hey, we’re going to stay even longer and make more,’” Michelle Allen, executive director of the Somerset-Pulaski County Convention & Visitors Bureau said.

Allen noted how the arrival of everyone involved with the production has made a substantial economic impact on the area — not unlike any other aspect of Pulaski County tourism that brings in visitors. “The crew is staying here, they’re using locals for a lot of things that are being paid, they’re staying either in hotels or in cabins, they’re eating with us, they’re getting fuel. That’s the main purpose of trying to get movies to be produced and made in your community, is that they leave something behind for that community,” she added.

Somerset isn’t the first small town to use this opportunity to share about its region to more people through film. Many other small towns have been the location for both major and indie films, thanks to support from local governments and residents. While this is a unique and fun way to market your region, this one requires significant stakeholder support. Ensuring you have positive relationships with your community can not only help your usual marketing efforts, but also help you seize unique opportunities. Having a strong community brand can also help build this support and make your region more appealing to outside visitors.

Get Stakeholder and Community Buy-in to Build Your Brand

Stakeholder and community buy-in is vital when building your destination’s brand. A successful brand requires the support and involvement of local stakeholders, including residents, business owners, and community leaders. Without it, your destination’s branding and marketing efforts will never reach their full potential. So, how can you get the buy-in you need to build your brand?

Here are some takeaways for rural destinations:

  • Involve local stakeholders in the brand development process: Rural destinations should engage with local stakeholders from the beginning of the brand development process to ensure that their perspectives and ideas are incorporated into the brand.
  • Communicate the benefits of a destination brand: Rural destinations should communicate the potential benefits of a destination brand, such as increased tourism, economic growth, and community pride, to gain support from local stakeholders.
  • Address concerns and objections: Rural destinations should be prepared to address concerns and objections from local stakeholders, such as the potential impact of tourism on the environment, traffic, and quality of life. Engaging in open and transparent communication can help to address these concerns and build trust with stakeholders.
  • Leverage local ambassadors: Rural destinations should leverage local ambassadors, such as community leaders, business owners, and residents, to promote the destination brand and help to build buy-in among the broader community.

For rural destinations, engaging with local stakeholders and addressing their concerns and objections can help to build support for the brand and ensure its success in attracting visitors and supporting local economic development.

  • Paige Schamberg

    Content Production Manager at Bull Moose Marketing. A lover of literature and a sunshine enthusiast who probably drinks too much tea. Connect with me on LinkedIn @paigeschamberg

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