The DMO Download
A weekly digest for those who market and manage destinations.
The U.S. Established a Secretary-level Position for Tourism
by Paige Schamberg, Diana Mirzayeva
Heritage Tourism News to Kick Off the New Year
Happy new year! After our holiday hiatus, we’re back with more news and insights into all things heritage tourism and economic development. This week, we discuss how preservation can combat climate change, Ohio’s UNESCO World Heritage nomination, the U.S.’s new tourism secretary position and so much more. Dive in and check out the latest news below.
How Preservationists Are Taking On Climate Change Along the Gulf Coast
The Gulf Coast is well-known for its strong tropical storms and evidence suggests that the intensity of these storms will only increase in the future. Already these storms have severely damaged many historically significant buildings in Gulf Coast communities. According to this article, a research group at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Center for Cultural Sustainability is working to help congregations who worship in historic buildings make their structures more resilient ahead of time.
Led by program director William Dupont, who previously served as chief architect for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the UTSA team created a toolkit to help these buildings recover and rebound from severe gulf coast storms. The toolkit includes a resilience roadmap that provides basic information about how communities can enhance the resilience of particular building types.
“We ended up going for historic houses of worship because I felt that they are trusted in their communities. They have an existing public function. People have them as reference points in their minds even if they don’t worship in that particular place. They tend to provide services to their communities, and they engage in disaster relief,” Dupont said.
The goal is to make this toolkit accessible for more and more historic places of worship throughout the country. If your region is in a similar situation as Gulf Coast communities, it may be beneficial to keep an eye out for these types of resources to better your historic buildings and the overall community.
Ohio Could Get Its First UNESCO World Heritage Site As Early As Next Year
The National Park Service nominated Ohio’s Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks for a spot on the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage list. Located 40 miles east of Columbus, this collection of 40 large earthen monuments was created by southern Ohio’s native Hopewell people as far back as 100 B.C.E. and was used as sacred worship sites. The perfectly formed embankments align with the rising and setting of the moon’s 18.6-year cycle within a margin of error as accurate as Stonehenge.
A final decision will be made this summer by the World Heritage Committee. If the Earthworks sites make the list, tourism officials will have to prepare for a large increase in visitors in the coming years. Even without the UNESCO designation, experts say the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks needs to become more accessible for visitors and educators around the world. The sophisticated architecture offers important insight into an advanced culture that no longer exists.
“Scale, precision and volume of materials used makes the earthworks unique on a world scale,” said Chris Alford, superintendent of Hopewell Culture National Historical Park. “American Indian builders of these sites had knowledge of lunar and solar alignments and incorporated this information into the construction of the earthworks. There are very few cultures in history that had this knowledge and showed it in monumental structures.”
According to UNESCO guidelines, eligible sites must meet at least one of 10 criteria for inclusion and Hopewell Earthworks meets at least two of these criteria. According to Jennifer Aultman, director of historic sites and museums for the History Connection, the sites “represent a masterpiece of human creative genius” and they “bear exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition.” While it remains to be seen if the sites will make the list, the increased publicity continues to draw attention to Ohio’s valuable history and heritage.
The U.S. Establishes a Secretary-level Position for Tourism
The United States announced that there will be a senior-level position for tourism, as well as a metrics-based approach to travel and tourism in the country. As the Skift article reports, “this is a seminal moment for the U.S. travel industry, as a bill that has been passed by both chambers of Congress is about to be signed into law by President Biden, and for the first time in U.S. history it creates a top government level position — a new Assistant Secretary of Travel and Tourism at the U.S. Department of Commerce — for the travel and tourism industry, and finally a seat the policy table the industry has been asking for decades.”
The position will be presidentially-appointed, and Senate-confirmed and will lead travel policy decisions. Some initial goals for the position will be to decrease visa wait times, modernize security screening procedures and leverage technology to allow for more seamless travel. You can find a list of more initiatives in the full Omnibus Travel and Tourism Act here.
Now that the United States joins all G20 countries with senior-level tourism positions, DMOs and CVBs will begin seeing new and exciting changes within the industry. This is an interesting developing story that we’ll be keeping our eyes on in the months to come.
What Does Cryptocurrency Mean for Rural Communities?
Attracted to small communities by the relaxed zoning regulations, cheap energy and struggling economies, cryptocurrency mining companies see rural regions as prime locations for setting up shop. These companies promise high-paying jobs and low utility costs, but some are questioning whether they will follow through on their promises, according to this article. Located about 56 miles northeast of Chattanooga, Tennessee, a small town called Athens is currently negotiating with a cryptocurrency company that is moving into the area.
“There’s a handful of jobs that come from these (companies), but the biggest benefit that we really derive from it is probably from the sale of energy,” said Athens’s city manager C. Seth Sumner. “They’re high users, and where we have extra capacity, it largely helps us to keep our low rates lower for longer because we now have a user who would be making up a financial difference for the utility.”
While some companies are moving into buildings used by high-energy users, such as old steel mills, smaller operations are starting in shipping containers. As long as crypto companies have access to reliable internet and energy sources, they can operate. This makes regulating them extremely difficult and many areas are offering tax breaks to attract more crypto companies. Most companies only need around 10 employees to operate smoothly and there are many hidden costs associated with them, so, paired with the tax breaks, are they really helping rural economies grow? This is the big question according to Jason Bailey, the executive director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, who adds that “there could be substantial costs when you look at the noise pollution and the impact on the electricity grid, and the kind of strain and additional costs.”
As many rural communities look for ways to boost their economies after the pandemic and cryptocurrency continues to gain popularity, it’s important that these communities stay informed about the benefits and drawbacks of cryptocurrency mining. Learn more about the industry’s potential effects on rural communities here.
A New Brand Identity Led to New Opportunities for This DMO
Visit Crawford, the tourism authority for Crawford County, Pennsylvania, wanted to develop a new brand identity to holistically promote its unique amenities. During this time, Visit Crawford gained new leadership which illuminated areas some improvement areas for the destination, especially its brand identity. Visit Crawford was struggling to embrace what made their destination stand out from other DMOs in the region.
To help achieve this goal, Bull Moose Marketing initiated a collaborative process to understand Visit Crawford’s brand identity and leverage it for maximum success. This process included stakeholder workshops, target audience research and engaging in marketing efforts targeted toward both residents and prospective visitors. With these efforts, a new marketing strategy was established that included the destination’s natural amenities, cultural touchstones and unique history to establish its community identity.
This campaign resulted in many positive outcomes for Visit Crawford such as a cohesive brand strategy, the formation of a County Brand Committee, a unified brand voice, creation of branding materials and community and business participation. This is a great example of how your brand identity can directly impact the success of your destination. Establishing your brand’s identity is essential to creating a seamless framework for any of your destination’s future endeavors. Read the full story by checking out this case study.