The DMO Download
A weekly digest for those who market and manage destinations.
This Community Debates the Merits of Heritage Tourism
by Paige Schamberg
These Stories Are Fascinating
From South Dakota to Taiwan, this week’s DMO Download covers a lot of ground. Learn about one culture’s fight to preserve its heritage, a new tourism marketing campaign promoting destination awareness, why some destinations are paying their visitors and more. Check it out!
A South Carolina Community Weighs the Merits of Heritage Tourism
Along the southeast corridor of South Carolina, Gullah Geechee communities are using tourism to preserve their hold on ancestral lands. Pristine beaches and beautiful views have attracted developers who build expensive resorts and golf courses while local and state governments take the land through eminent domain to build infrastructure. The increased interest has raised property taxes and caused many Gullah Geechee to move to new regions. Now, these communities are turning to heritage tourism to save their home.
The Gullah Geechee National Heritage Corridor spans 12,000 miles and is home to descendants of West and Central Africans slaves brought to cultivate rice, cotton and indigo. Because of their remote locations away from white influence since the 1860s, they’ve maintained a distinctive culture, art, cuisine, music and language that retained much of its African influence. There are an estimated one million Gullah Geechee people throughout Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida.
To help preserve the land and control their culture’s narrative, the Gullah Geechee Visitors Center is promoting cultural and heritage tourism to maintain land ownership and independence. The results have been very successful so far, but some residents still remain unsure about the benefit of increasing awareness about their community and culture. To help educate the local communities, tourism leaders are continuing to promote the benefits of heritage tourism.
Not everyone is in the same situation as the Gullah Geechee, but many DMOs and heritage areas can relate to the lack of stakeholder buy-in. These tourism leaders are exemplifying the importance of educating their communities to further tourism and economic development. No matter your destination’s situation, education is the first step toward success.
‘Hello,’ North Dakota Launched an Awareness Campaign
To help boost awareness, North Dakota launched a new campaign called “Hello.” The campaign was developed in response to a 2022 national awareness and perception study by travel marketing firm Development Counsellors International that found travelers across the U.S. were generally unfamiliar with North Dakota despite attracting 23.7 million visitors in 2019.
“Tourism marketing is critical to improving the awareness of our state,” North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum said at the campaign launch. “Increasing awareness of all North Dakota has to offer attracts visitors and elevates our state as a potential new home for workers, businesses and families.”
Despite a smaller tourism marketing budget compared to some other states, North Dakota is already seeing some ROI through digital advertising. The state is also pushing print advertising by distributing 275,000 travel brochures and 40,000 hunting and fishing guides by mail and at locations like visitor centers and rest areas.
“Many states have eliminated these, but we feel it is important, especially for our rural destinations. Research continues to show high trust levels with printed materials. So we pair the production of a really high-quality piece with distribution methods,” Sara Otte Coleman, the tourism and marketing director for the North Dakota Department of Commerce.
This is a good example of how including both digital and print in your marketing strategy can diversify your efforts and increase awareness. While digital is still all the rage, there’s an important element to print advertising, so don’t be afraid to hold on your traditional marketing platforms if you’re seeing a positive ROI.
Paying Tourists To Visit Your Destination?
We don’t often cover international tourism news, but this story caught our attention. In an effort to boost its tourism numbers, Taiwan announced that it will be paying tourists to visit the island in an initiative to draw 10 million visitors in 2023. The country will hand out NT $5,000 (or about $166) to 500,000 individual tourists along with up to NT $20,000 (or about $667) to 90,000 tour groups upon arrival, although it’s not yet clear how prospective visitors can apply.
Taiwan isn’t the first destination to use this approach. Malta introduced a scheme to pay tourists to stay in hotels in 2021 and, last year, a region in Italy’s northeastern corner chose to cover traveler’s train fare in an effort to promote sustainable travel.
While this may not be the most affordable approach for many DMOs and heritage areas, it is still an interesting trend to note. You don’t have to pay every visitor $150 to come to stay at your destination, but offering incentives is almost always an effective method for boosting visitor numbers. Giveaways, discounts, free merchandise and even special events are great ways to bring in new visitors and reengage past ones.
If Your Website Isn’t Optimized, It Could Be Scaring Away Visitors
For destinations, an easy-to-navigate and informative website is vital in getting your website visitors to trust you. And people who trust you are more likely to book at your destination. As a DMO, take time to evaluate your website and the pain points you want to alleviate for potential visitors. Then, ask yourself these questions:
- Does my website convey accurate and updated information?
- Is my website easy to navigate for potential visitors?
- How do I earn my visitors’ trust through my website?
- What are some must-haves that my destination website needs?
Answering these questions paves the way for a strategy that will build trust with your visitors. This webinar will answer your website questions while highlighting principles and functionality that make destination websites perform and stand out. Also, you’ll receive free materials offering tactics that DMOs can implement into a savvy website strategy.