The DMO Download

A weekly digest for those who market and manage destinations.

Utilizing Local Cuisine to Showcase a Unique Regional Identity


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This week is packed with fascinating ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Learn about how one restauranteur is popularizing Midwestern food and culture, dive into some lessons from Sedona’s tourism challenges, what Meta’s Threads could mean for DMOs, and more.

Utilizing Local Cuisine to Showcase a Unique Regional Identity

Bernie’s, a restaurant located in East Grand Forks, Minnesota, is known for serving delicious Midwestern comfort food with a locally-influenced Scandinavian touch. Owned by restauranteur Molly Yeh, the menu features regional staples prepared from scratch, using locally abundant ingredients from the productive Red River Valley, such as wheat, sugar beets, potatoes, local beef, and midwestern walleye fish.

The restaurant has garnered a loyal local following and attracts visitors from across the country, particularly fans of Yeh’s Food Network show “Girl Meets Farm.” The article also highlights Bernie’s cozy and joyful atmosphere, with pastel colors and playful decor, contributing to its appeal.

Yeh’s culinary journey started as a food blogger and freelance writer in New York City, but it took a major turn when she moved to North Dakota, where her husband is a fifth-generation sugar beet farmer. Living on the farm inspired her to embrace her new Midwestern home, its Scandinavian influences, and its ingredients. She shares her experiences, farm life, and new recipes on her blog “my name is yeh!” and has gained a substantial internet following, leading to her hosting the Food Network show “Girl Meets Farm.”

Rural destinations can learn several valuable lessons from Yeh and her restaurant:

  1. Embrace local and regional cuisine: Bernie’s success is founded on serving locally-influenced Scandinavian cuisine, utilizing ingredients that are locally abundant. Rural destinations should focus on showcasing their unique regional cuisine and locally sourced products to create authentic and memorable dining experiences for visitors.
  2. Promote farm-to-table experiences: Yeh’s connection to farm life inspired her cooking and recipes. Rural destinations can capitalize on their agricultural heritage and offer farm-to-table experiences, where visitors can learn about food production, interact with farmers, and enjoy fresh and seasonal dishes made from local produce.
  3. Highlight local stories and traditions: Bernie’s offers regional specialties and knoephla soup, a dumpling soup with carrots and dill, which is prepared differently in each family recipe. Rural destinations can celebrate local culinary traditions and unique recipes, emphasizing the stories behind these dishes to create a more immersive and culturally enriching experience for visitors.
  4. Leverage local talent and personalities: Yeh’s rise to fame through her food blog and Food Network show demonstrates that rural destinations can showcase local talent and personalities to gain attention and recognition. Collaborating with local chefs, cooks, and food bloggers can help promote the destination’s culinary offerings and create a sense of authenticity.

Yeh is an excellent example of a rural ambassador, offering a glimpse into farm life and showcasing the abundance of farm-grown ingredients in her cooking. It also emphasizes that a creative career in the food industry doesn’t necessarily require being in a major city, as the internet and social media provide opportunities to share unique stories and passions with a broad audience. By learning from Yeh’s approach to food, community engagement, and storytelling, rural destinations can elevate their culinary offerings, enhance the overall visitor experience, and showcase their unique regional identity.

Sedona’s Tourism Strategies Hold Wisdom for All Destinations

Sedona, Arizona has experienced a decline in visitor numbers due to recent discord between the city and the Sedona Chamber of Commerce. To help revitalize tourism and restore Sedona to its former glory, this article from Sedona.Biz proposes several actionable steps for multiple stakeholders, including the city council, local businesses, media, and the Chamber of Commerce. Not only are these strategies for Sedona’s resurgence, but all destinations – especially rural ones – can learn from these strategies and use them to promote their own regions.

The strategies include:

  1. Adopting an integrated and targeted advertising approach: Leveraging digital platforms, social media, and collaborating with influential travel bloggers and social media influencers to showcase Sedona’s unique charm and promote the city as a desirable destination.
  2. Enhancing the overall tourism experience: Local businesses can collaborate to create appealing package deals, offer discounts, and special promotions to entice visitors to stay longer and spend more in Sedona.
  3. Investing in infrastructure improvements: The city council should invest in infrastructure improvements, such as road expansions, parking facilities, and public transportation options to alleviate traffic congestion and enhance accessibility.
  4. Rebuilding a harmonious partnership with the Chamber of Commerce: The Chamber should actively collaborate with local businesses to develop comprehensive marketing campaigns and participate in travel trade shows and familiarization tours for travel agents and journalists.
  5. Highlighting distinctive aspects of Sedona: Promoting Sedona’s breathtaking landscapes, hiking trails, spiritual retreats, arts scene, festivals, and wellness offerings to captivate potential visitors and differentiate the city from other destinations.
  6. Implementing effective traffic management strategies: Providing real-time traffic updates, optimizing traffic flow, promoting alternative transportation options, and addressing community concerns to combat the perception of traffic congestion.
  7. Learning from successful destinations: Studying strategies implemented by other successful tourist destinations can provide valuable insights to increase visitor numbers.

By implementing these strategic initiatives collectively, Sedona can attract a steady stream of visitors, revitalize its tourism industry, and offer unforgettable experiences to its visitors while contributing to the city’s economy.

Could Meta’s Threads Be an Alternative to Twitter?

DMOs are turning to Meta’s Threads as a Twitter alternative to grow their audiences and explore new marketing opportunities. Threads is a direct competitor to Twitter and is owned by Meta, which also owns Facebook and Instagram. DMOs like Destination Toronto, Visit Orlando, Visit Utah, Myrtle Beach, and Fort Myers have already signed up for Threads and have seen rapid growth in their followers, as users can log in with their Instagram accounts and automatically follow the same people they follow on Instagram.

While some DMOs have been posting actively on Threads, others have not fully developed a strategy for marketing on the platform. As Threads currently doesn’t offer advertising options, destinations are experimenting with different approaches and reusing content from other social media platforms like Twitter. There is a sense of uncertainty about how Threads will evolve and whether it will be more like Twitter or Instagram in terms of content and engagement.

Meta has not made Threads available in most European countries yet but plans to do so in the near future. Overall, destination marketers are exploring Threads as a potential channel to reach and engage with their target audience, but their strategies will likely depend on how the platform evolves and its effectiveness in driving audience engagement and growth.

This new platform is definitely worth knowing about and exploring to see if it’s a right fit for your marketing needs. As Twitter’s popularity wanes, it’s important for destination marketers to get familiar with rising social media platforms in order to stay ahead of the trends.

Digital Analytics Aren’t Boring, They’re a Powerful Marketing Tool

When it comes to using analytics, it’s normal for DMOs and CVBs to focus on membership growth and hotel bed tax numbers because that’s the data that stakeholders and board members want to see. But what about data that encompasses the entire visitor journey? This is just as important as that “bottom-of-the-funnel” data because it gives you a more holistic view of your marketing efforts. And when you see the big picture, it makes your future marketing tactics more effective and reassures your stakeholders that you’re headed in the right direction.

By treating your destination website as an e-Commerce platform, DMOS and CVBs can use this data to make data-driven decisions that convert users into visitors. This doesn’t mean literally selling. Instead, you want to inspire feelings of excitement about visiting your destination, giving your website users the wanderlust that will convince them to book a trip. This blog offers tactical tips that DMOs can take to “seal the deal” with their website users. Check out how these steps and insights can help inspire you to create future programs and build a sustainable calendar of experiences to keep your visitors coming back again and again.

  • 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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