The DMO Download

A weekly digest for those who market and manage destinations.

What Redefining “Rural” Means for Communities


Stories That Help You Tell Your Story

Tourism season is beginning to warm up (figuratively and literally) in many destinations. As you start to prepare for the busy season ahead, take a moment to look at the latest news and stories that will help you do your job better. This week, we’re discussing the new definition of “rural,” how travelers are struggling to balance affordability and so much more. Check it out.

What Redefining “Rural” Means for America

According to this article from The Daily Yonder, the U.S.’s definition of “rural” can be misleading and affect how we perceive the economic conditions of rural areas. A large reclassification by the U.S. government will move some of the most economically successful “rural” counties to be classified as metropolitan areas based on the 2020 Census data, creating a falsely bleak impression of rural America.

This reclassification will leave behind rural counties that are least likely to prosper or grow in the future, according to demographers Daniel T. Lichter and Kenneth M. Johnson who dubbed this phenomenon as “the paradox of rural population decline.” Researchers suggest that the widening gap in rural-urban mortality might be due to the transfer of growing, more affluent and healthy counties from nonmetropolitan to metropolitan areas, leaving behind declining, poorer and less healthy nonmetropolitan counties.

The article also points out that the definition of rural varies depending on which definition is used. Federal agencies use over a dozen definitions of rural, making it difficult to analyze how urban and rural differences might be affecting social and economic conditions.

The reclassification of counties from nonmetropolitan to metropolitan areas may have significant implications for rural economies. The counties that remain nonmetropolitan may struggle to attract businesses and investment, while the counties that are reclassified as metropolitan areas may see increased economic growth and prosperity. This could widen the economic gap between rural and urban areas, making it more challenging for rural areas to compete with urban areas for resources and investment. This is vital knowledge for DMOs and heritage regions who are competing for more funding and making economic improvements within their areas.

Sustainable Travel Collides With Inflation Concerns

Recent trends reveal that travelers’ desire for more sustainable and eco-friendly travel experiences is colliding with concerns about inflation and rising travel costs. DMOs and heritage areas, there are a few key takeaways from this article:

  1. Prioritize sustainability: While travelers may be concerned about the cost of sustainable travel, it is clear that there is a growing desire for more eco-friendly options. DMOs and heritage areas should consider ways to promote and support sustainable travel, such as by highlighting local conservation efforts, promoting low-carbon transportation options, and working with local businesses to reduce waste and energy consumption.
  2. Communicate value: As travel costs continue to rise, DMOs and heritage areas should focus on communicating the value of sustainable travel experiences to potential visitors. This may involve emphasizing the long-term benefits of conservation efforts, highlighting the unique cultural and natural resources that make the destination special, and showcasing the local businesses and communities that benefit from sustainable tourism.
  3. Be adaptable: With inflation and rising travel costs affecting the industry, DMOs and heritage areas need to be adaptable and responsive to changing market conditions. This may involve exploring new partnerships and revenue streams, developing more flexible and affordable travel packages, and being open to new ways of promoting and marketing the destination to potential visitors.

It’s vital to keep these trends in mind as you plan ahead for future marketing campaigns and strategies. Creating a reliable plan ahead of time will give your organization the capacity to ensure that visitors have more opportunities to combine sustainability and affordability when visiting your destination. Learn more about marketing to sustainable visitors here.

Hawaii’s Tourism Agency Faces a Shutdown

The Hawaii Tourism Authority faces a potential shutdown due to a dispute over funding, which would have significant implications for the state’s tourism industry. If the tourism marketing agency were to shut down, it would leave Hawaii without a centralized organization responsible for promoting the state’s tourism offerings and attracting visitors.
Despite a recent pivot to sustainable messaging, the state has struggled – and continues to struggle – with overtourism and communities have recently stepped forward and announced that they want a say in how their region is being portrayed to the world.

“What I’m cognizant of now is that communities are intently watching the visitor industry,” commented Hawaii Tourism Authority CEO De Fries.

DMOs play a critical role in destination marketing, and their success is often tied to the economic well-being of the destinations they represent. The potential shutdown of Hawaii’s tourism agency serves as a reminder that DMOs are vulnerable to political and economic shifts that can impact their funding and overall effectiveness.

Destination marketers should pay attention to this story as it underscores the need for DMOs to have a strong and stable funding structure that can withstand political pressures. It also highlights the important role that DMOs play in promoting and sustaining tourism in destinations and the potential consequences that can arise when they are not adequately supported.

Marketing to Value-based Tourists in 2023

Trends continue to show that DMOs need to promote tourism that is environmentally and socially responsible, and that supports the cultural and natural assets of a destination. Not only is this what tourists are now looking for in their travel planning, but it also creates an environment for more eco-friendly practices, benefits local communities and is proven to help destinations achieve long-term goals.

Here are several key strategies that DMOs can use to promote sustainable and value-based tourism:

  1. Focusing on the unique cultural and natural assets of a destination
  2. Encouraging responsible travel practices among visitors
  3. Developing partnerships with local communities and businesses to support sustainable tourism initiatives
  4. Using technology and data analytics to better understand visitor behavior and preferences, and tailor marketing strategies accordingly.
  5. Recognizing sustainable and value-based tourism, including increased visitor satisfaction and loyalty, and positive economic impacts it has on local communities.

This year, DMOs and heritage areas are likely to continue facing the challenge of balancing tourism growth with sustainable practices and a value-based approach to tourism can help achieve this balance by focusing on the cultural and natural assets of a destination and promoting responsible travel practices. The use of technology and data analytics may also become increasingly important for DMOs and heritage areas in 2023, as they seek to better understand visitor behavior and preferences and tailor their marketing strategies accordingly.

Overall, the concepts of sustainability and responsible tourism are likely to remain relevant in the tourism industry in 2023 and beyond, and DMOs and heritage areas may need to adapt their strategies accordingly to remain competitive and attract responsible travelers.

  • 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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