The DMO Download

A weekly digest for those who market and manage destinations.

USDA To Expand Recreational Opportunities in Rural Areas


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From wellness travel trends to tracking VFR travelers to boosting recreation in rural areas, there’s a lot to unpack in this week’s download. Check it out!

Wellness Travel Trends For 2023

Wellness travel has increased significantly since the pandemic, with the global shutdown in 2020 bringing mental health to the forefront of national concern. As the world gradually opened up to travelers, more Americans than ever before are clamoring to travel for their own mental and physical well-being. This travel trend exploded on social media, exposing new kinds of destinations and activities that people are craving. As we jump into a third-post pandemic year, let’s take a look at what’s trending within the wellness travel industry this year:

  • Wild swimming: Gone are the popular days of chlorine-filled swimming pools. Today, visitors are looking for more natural locations to take a dive including rivers, lakes and cold oceans.
  • Social self-care: The pandemic opened up a variety of at-home options for self-care like DIY spa treatments and creating zen workspaces. The lack of social interaction, however, has left people craving these experiences with others.
  • Prioritized fitness: Maintaining fitness has seen a huge wave of interest and many Americans are making it a priority even during their travels. Hotels and accommodations that feature quality workout spaces and gyms are going to be high on visitors’ lists when making travel plans.

These aren’t the only trends that are emerging this year, so it’s important to keep an eye out for updates and shifts in this travel market. If your destination has self-care amenities, 2023 could be a great year to include them in your strategy. These aren’t the only wellness travel trends that could emerge this year, so keep an eye on this market for updates.

Tourism Agencies Use Mobile Data to Track Travelers Crashing With Friends and Relatives

Some destinations are using geolocation mobile data to track the activity of travelers who are staying with family and friends. This data remains anonymous but allows DMOs to get an idea of how long these visitors are staying and where they’re going to help plan for future marketing strategies. VFR (visiting friends and relatives) travelers are notoriously hard to track because they don’t stay in paid accommodations, making them a largely overlooked tourism segment. Despite being overlooked, it’s a relatively resilient and downturn-proof traveler segment.

Because this group is difficult to reach through traditional marketing channels, some destinations are making efforts to turn residents into destination ambassadors. One destination, Explore St. Louis, is connecting with residents through community events and teaching them about notable attractions, empowering them to be guides in their own region.

This is an excellent option for more rural destinations that have a larger percentage of VFR travelers in their area. Finding ways to equip your residents with knowledge and confidence to share the amenities and attractions the region has to offer could be a great way to get VFR travelers to engage with your destination. Communicating your destination’s brand can also help ensure that these visitors are getting the full, authentic experience your destination can offer and help your residents get more connected to your community.

USDA To Expand Recreation Economies and Help People Thrive Across Rural America

The USDA announced that will create an annual plan to help recreation economies flourish in rural communities. This plan, developed by Rural Development, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service, will outline ways these agencies can help further their outreach to these regions, especially around areas such as national forests and grasslands. They will also:

  • Provide technical and planning assistance to help local, state and Tribal leaders develop regional economic development plans that advance recreation economies.
  • Provide funding under Rural Development and National Institute of Food and Agriculture programs to help US Forest Service gateway communities expand resilient recreation infrastructure and business development projects that create jobs.
  • Develop and maintain strategic partnerships, and more.

“We know that when we invest in rural and tribal communities and people, we create an economic ripple effect that benefits everyone,” a Rural Development spokesperson said in a written statement to States Newsroom.

The new agency is a national recognition of the economic importance of outdoor recreation for rural areas and makes it more accessible for regions all across the United States. This will be an important plan to follow as it may offer new ways for rural communities to secure funding, influence legislation and support tourism to these areas.

What Does the Metaverse Mean for Rural Destinations?

With the word “meta” popping up in headlines in every industry, the Metaverse is staking its claim on the world. Especially in travel, there are real, tangible opportunities to jump on this trend and take steps toward a new chapter in marketing history. While large DMOs and tourism businesses are making the most noticeable waves in Metaverse tourism, rural DMOs and CVBs don’t need to feel left behind. There are lots of opportunities for them to capitalize on this trend and get their feet in the digital door.

The Metaverse gives DMOs and CVBs in rural communities the chance to market to new audiences, offer better wayfinding, develop deeper experiences for visitors and expand their digital presence. While larger, urban DMOs and tourism agencies might have big budgets for such investments, there are also funding opportunities for smaller destinations to stay in the game.

However you decide to get on the trend, there are lots of positive results that will reward creative thinking and hard work. And the most beautiful part is that, since the Metaverse is a new trend and largely unexplored, the opportunities are endless for hardworking DMOs to pave the way for future efforts. Read more about this trend and useful tactics to implement into your marketing strategy here.

  • 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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