The DMO Download

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

Rural Counties in Northern Great Lakes Grow at Above-Average Pace


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This week, learn about the “real” travel influencers of today, why rural counties in the Great Lakes are growing, how destinations can support LGBTQIA+ travelers, and more. Take a look.

Snapchat Says Friends and Family Are the ‘Real’ Travel Influencers

Close friends and family members are considered the “real” travel influencers for today’s travelers. Despite the growing relevance of personalized digital ads, people still rely heavily on travel recommendations from their loved ones. Snapchat, positioning itself as a “best friends network,” combines the influences of social media and personal connections to offer trustworthy recommendations and engage users in high-tech experiences related to travel decisions.

Snapchat has a mature audience, including older Gen Zers and millennials, who actively seek meaningful interactions with their real-life communities on the platform. They prioritize deep connections, sharing personal travel experiences, and seeking tips from their friends and family rather than relying on influencer-led content. Research indicates that 91% of Snapchatters trust recommendations from friends and family as a source of information about brands and services.

Snapchatters are avid travelers, with a significant percentage having traveled in the past six months and planning future trips. They also enjoy researching travel, using features like the Snap Map to explore destinations and see what their friends are doing. This presents a valuable opportunity for travel brands to inspire and engage Snapchatters by providing them with new experiences and destinations.

Snapchat’s design as a camera-first platform and its augmented reality (AR) features play a significant role in inspiring travel decisions. AR allows Snapchatters to virtually experience specific hotels, attractions, or places, bridging the gap between an idea and a booked itinerary. Over 250 million Snapchatters engage with AR features daily, and studies show that consumers are more likely to purchase a travel product or service after experiencing it in AR.

Additionally, travel brands can leverage traditional advertising techniques on Snapchat to reach the engaged Snapchat community during the discovery phase. Full-screen display and video ads, as well as Dynamic Travel Ads, can be used to deliver targeted messaging to users. Dynamic Travel Ads, in particular, have been effective in driving positive incremental lift for travel brands. It is recommended for travel brands to plan their advertising messaging across a three-month booking window, as Snapchatters tend to book trips within that timeframe.

Overall, Snapchat presents opportunities for travel brands to leverage the influence of close-knit communities and combine it with modern technology to inspire travel decision-makers, provide immersive experiences, and drive bookings and reservations.

Rural Counties in Northern Great Lakes Grow at Above-Average Pace

Rural counties in the Northern Great Lakes region, particularly in Michigan and Wisconsin, experienced faster population growth compared to the rest of rural America. This growth may be attributed to several factors, including the region’s appealing natural amenities and changes in work patterns resulting from the pandemic.

This article from the Daily Yonder highlights the allure of rural areas in the Northern Great Lakes region, such as Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which offers a wide range of outdoor activities like biking, hiking, skiing, and water-related sports. The presence of these natural amenities, along with a better quality of life characterized by fresh air, less traffic, and a peaceful environment away from urban areas, attracts individuals seeking a more fulfilling lifestyle.

Marquette County in Michigan is specifically mentioned as an example of a rural area experiencing population growth. The county’s increase in population can be attributed not only to factors like access to high-speed internet and affordable housing but also to the unique appeal and character of the area. Visitors and residents alike find something special about Marquette County that resonates with them on a deeper level.

Furthermore, the passage highlights the significance of the Great Lakes region’s recreation economies in attracting newcomers. Counties with economies dependent on recreation-related industries, referred to as recreation-dependent counties, drew over 17,000 new residents between 2021 and 2022 in the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. These areas provide opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts and offer a distinct lifestyle centered around recreational activities.

Interestingly, the population growth in the region’s rural recreation counties was higher in areas that were not adjacent to metropolitan centers. This trend contrasts with the national level, where rural counties farther away from urban areas tend to experience slower growth or even population decline. The author suggests that even the remote recreation towns in Michigan have developed urban conveniences, such as trails, coffee shops, and brew pubs, which make them attractive to individuals who value these amenities but no longer require proximity to a major city.

Overall, this trend of population growth in rural counties of the Northern Great Lakes region signifies the increasing appeal of areas with natural amenities, better quality of life, and recreational opportunities. It indicates a shift in preferences as people seek alternatives to metropolitan areas and prioritize factors like access to nature and desirable amenities.

How You Can Support the LGBTQIA+ Community During Pride Month (And Beyond)

This article emphasizes the importance of lasting support for the LGBTQIA+ travel community beyond short-lived Pride events or marketing campaigns. It highlights the ongoing challenges of homophobia and transphobia faced by LGBTQIA+ travelers in many destinations. There are also some tangible steps for travel businesses, including attending and sponsoring Pride events, promoting LGBTQIA+ content, donating to LGBTQIA+ causes, consulting with diversity and inclusion experts, partnering with LGBTQIA+ businesses, marking businesses as safe spaces, and avoiding exploitation for profit. It emphasizes the need for year-round support and continuous commitment to create a more inclusive travel industry and safer society for all.

To dive a little deeper into this topic, here are some applications regarding support for the LGBTQIA+ travel community for DMOs to consider:

  1. Lasting commitment: Supporting the LGBTQIA+ community goes beyond participating in Pride events or running short-term marketing campaigns. DMOs should strive for genuine, lasting changes in their policies, practices, and destination experiences to create a positive and inclusive environment for LGBTQIA+ travelers throughout the year.
  2. Recognize challenges: Homophobia and transphobia still exist in many destinations, and LGBTQIA+ travelers may face restricted rights, safety threats, discrimination, or discomfort in certain in-destination experiences. DMOs need to acknowledge these challenges and work towards addressing them to ensure a welcoming environment for all travelers.
  3. Promote LGBTQIA+ content: Utilize social media channels to promote LGBTQIA+ content and creators. Share relevant articles, videos, and other content produced by LGBTQIA+ creators, giving them credit and exposure. Use social media platforms to raise awareness about Pride events, LGBTQIA+ causes, and resources supporting the community.
  4. Seek diversity and inclusion expertise: Consult with diversity and inclusion experts, particularly those with experience working with LGBTQIA+ communities. They can help evaluate policies and practices, provide training to employees, and ensure a safe and inclusive environment for all.
  5. Partner with LGBTQIA+ businesses and suppliers: Foster long-term commitment by hiring LGBTQIA+ employees and intentionally sourcing LGBTQIA+ businesses and suppliers. This can include LGBTQIA+ tour leaders, LGBTQIA+-owned or operated hotels, and LGBTQIA+-run restaurants or relevant businesses. Supporting LGBTQIA+ businesses contributes to sustainable economic support for the community.
  6. Avoid exploitation: Avoid exploiting the LGBTQIA+ community for profit. Genuine support should extend beyond rainbow marketing during Pride Month. Ensure your business’s actions align with a sincere commitment to improving the lives of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Following these tips can not only help make your community a friendlier place for LGBTQIA+ travelers, but also a more welcoming community overall.

A Guide to Funding for DMOs

Whether you’re a DMO or an economic development authority, funding is a necessity when it comes to the continued success of your destination. Grants allow for your destination’s cultural, historic and natural resources to authentically represent the stories of the past and present through economic development and community growth. It may seem like a tedious process, but when executed properly, it will provide your destination with a strong foundation to build from.

So where do you start when it comes to getting funding for your efforts? It’s essential to start with a successful marketing strategy that offers the data and necessary steps to convince funders that you have a clear, actionable plan for success.

Once your marketing strategy is established, it is critical to invest in a solid proposal to make sure all questions are answered and there are no gray areas for the investor. Funders want to know that their money is being put to good use and that your data and research back up what you will be hoping to accomplish. It is also important to inform them of how much will go to the funder in the form of tax revenue.

After submitting your grant, you may not hear back immediately or even receive the full amount of money you are asking for. It is essential that you prepare for these circumstances. If you receive a grant totaling a portion of how much you were asking for, it is important that you accept this amount and work with it. This lets the funder know that you are serious about your plans regardless of the number of funds you have. After all, the most important part of this whole process is how it will impact your destination.

To learn more about funding for DMOs, check out our guide and on-demand webinar to help you on your funding journey.


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