The DMO Download

A weekly digest for those who market and manage destinations.

Western Towns Risk Being ‘Loved to Death’

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The News You Need This Week

There are lots of interesting stories in heritage tourism this week, so check out our lineup. Read about American Byways, Instagram’s impact on the travel industry, over-tourism in the western U.S. and more. Take a look!

Weird and Wondrous American Byways

The United States’ federally-recognized routes, known as “America’s Byways,” offer travelers the opportunity to experience diverse landscapes, cultures, and landmarks. These routes, such as Route 66, Amish Country, Volcanic Legacy, and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad, not only promote local pride and preserve natural and historical resources but also have a positive economic impact.

This article from the Daily Yonder highlights four popular road trips and shares insights from their organizers.

  • The Butler County Donut Trail in Ohio, which features thirteen local mom-and-pop donut shops, has attracted over 35,000 visitors and generated more than $7 million in spending at local businesses.
  • The Florida Keys Scenic Highway, designated as an All-American Road, showcases the region’s turquoise waters and wildlife, while banning new billboards and emphasizing clean-up efforts.
  • The Extraterrestrial Highway in Nevada capitalizes on the area’s association with UFO sightings and attracts visitors to unique attractions like the Alien Research Center and the Little A’Le’Inn.
  • The Trail of the Ancients, a 480-mile route spanning Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah, offers an immersive archaeological experience, featuring sites like Mesa Verde National Park and Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

Developing themed trails that celebrate local attributes, such as food, history, or natural wonders, can be a powerful draw for visitors in rural destinations. Engaging the local community and businesses, creating unique experiences, and providing support services like trail guides or concierge services can enhance the visitor experience. Preserving and promoting the natural and cultural resources of the region is essential because it contributes to the trail’s appeal and sustainability. Additionally, collaborating with neighboring towns or regions can create broader itineraries and attract visitors from larger cities or highways.

Road trips and byways have proven to be successful in attracting tourists, stimulating local economies, and promoting rural destinations. By leveraging their unique attributes and creating memorable experiences, rural areas can capitalize on this trend and showcase their distinctive charm to travelers from around the world.

Instagram’s Impact on the Tourism Industry

Instagram has revolutionized various aspects of the tourism industry, including tourism trends, influencer marketing, destination campaigns, virtual travel, and travel planning. With over a billion active users, this visually-driven platform has transformed the way that people think about, experience, and share travel and travel experiences.

As the industry continues into an ever more technological future, here are some important aspects of Instagram for rural tourism destinations to consider:

  1. Destination Discovery and Planning: Instagram has empowered travelers with user-generated content, hashtags, and geolocation tags, enabling them to discover new destinations and curate their itineraries. Rural tourism destinations can create visually appealing content, use relevant hashtags, and encourage visitors to tag their location, making it easier for potential travelers to find and plan their trips. By highlighting attractions, accommodations, and local experiences, these destinations can engage with Instagram users and offer tailored travel suggestions.
  2. Influencer Marketing: Instagram has given rise to a new breed of influencers who play a significant role in destination marketing. Rural tourism destinations can collaborate with travel influencers who align with their brand values and target audience. Influencers can showcase the unique offerings of rural areas, such as local cuisine, traditional crafts, outdoor activities, and scenic landscapes. This influencer-driven approach can effectively raise awareness, attract visitors, and promote sustainable tourism in rural areas.
  3. Authentic User Reviews: Instagram has shifted the power to users, allowing travelers to access real-time, authentic reviews and recommendations from fellow explorers. Rural tourism destinations can encourage visitors to share their experiences on Instagram and engage with their posts. By fostering a sense of trust within the travel community, these destinations can attract more tourists and build a positive reputation.
  4. Tourism Promotion and Collaboration: Instagram provides a powerful tool for tourism boards and travel companies to promote destinations and collaborate with influencers and content creators. Rural tourism destinations can leverage this platform to showcase their cultural heritage, natural wonders, and immersive experiences. Through strategic partnerships, sponsored campaigns, and curated content, these destinations can reach a global audience and boost tourism revenue.
  5. Instagrammable Destinations: The rise of Instagram has led to the emergence of “Instagrammable” destinations known for their aesthetic appeal and photo opportunities. Rural tourism destinations can leverage their unique landscapes, charming villages, picturesque views, and cultural elements to become Instagrammable destinations. By creating visually appealing spots and encouraging visitors to share their experiences on Instagram, these destinations can increase their popularity and attract more tourists.

Rural tourism destinations can embrace Instagram’s visual nature and leverage it as a powerful tool to showcase their unique offerings, engage with travelers, and boost tourism in their areas.

Western Towns Risk Being ‘Loved to Death’

The “amenity trap” phenomenon is being experienced by rural destinations in the western United States, where desirable natural areas attract tourists and new residents, leading to housing shortages, infrastructure strain, and other challenges. The report emphasizes the need for tailored solutions to address these issues. Here’s what rural destinations can learn:

  • Housing Challenges: Rural destinations often face housing availability and affordability issues as demand outstrips supply, and vacation homeowners and short-term rentals contribute to the problem. Rural destinations can consider implementing measures such as caps on short-term rentals or programs that incentivize property owners to rent to local workers to alleviate housing challenges.
  • Infrastructure Strain: Rural destinations may experience overstretched public services and infrastructure due to the influx of visitors. To mitigate this, the article suggests exploring options such as implementing tourism-related taxes to shift some of the infrastructure costs onto tourists. This can help ease the burden on permanent residents.
  • Diversification and Resilience: Over-reliance on tourism as the primary industry can leave rural destinations vulnerable to natural disasters and economic downturns. The article highlights the importance of diversifying revenue sources and investing windfall profits into small business incubators or loan programs. By diversifying their economic base, rural destinations can build resilience and reduce dependency on a single industry.
  • Tailored Solutions: The report emphasizes the need for tailored solutions that address the unique challenges faced by rural destinations. It suggests increasing density and prioritizing affordable housing, planning for natural disasters, and exploring fiscal policies that take into account the specific vulnerabilities of these areas.

Overall, rural destinations can learn the importance of proactive planning, sustainable growth strategies, and collaborative efforts involving local communities, governments, and stakeholders to navigate the challenges associated with tourism and recreation-driven economies.

Make Yourself Competitive in Tourism Funding

Many DMOs are responsible for building, maintaining or promoting assets that highlight the very character of their communities. Knowing how to use a marketing strategy to prove sustainability and credibility is essential when vying for funding. Proving to investors that you have a reliable plan to attract end-users, help local businesses and create jobs gives legitimacy to your hard work. Implementing marketing strategy for your project, community or organization can help demonstrate your destination’s credibility and potential for success. This webinar from Bull Moose Marketing covers:

  • Synchronizing your strategies with realistic funding goals
  • Determining your funding goals and creating actionable plans to reach them
  • What funding institutions are looking for when offering grants
  • What you need in your toolkit to successfully apply for funds
  • Advice on how to stand out in your funding application

For DMOs, winning grants and securing funding can make all the difference in your organization’s efforts in your community. This is why having a solid marketing plan can show funding institutions — and the world — that your vision is worth investing in to make the world a better place.

  • 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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