The DMO Download

A weekly digest for those who market and manage destinations.

“Yellowstone” Is Popularizing Rural Living


Yee Haw! We Love This Week's Stories

From Dollywood’s solution to labor shortages to how “Yellowstone” is popularizing rural life and getting stakeholder buy-in for your community’s brand to how one town is reacting to losing its college, this DMO Download is packed with fresh takes, riveting stories and loads of useful takeaways. Read all about it!

Dolly Parton’s Solution to the Travel Industry’s Labor Crisis

It’s no secret that the travel and tourism industry is struggling to keep workers. Recent numbers show that there are 2 million job openings in the industry today, while the number of workers continues to decrease. Today’s employees want to feel valued and perform jobs that have meaning, which means that tourism and travel employers need to start thinking outside the box to make sure their workers are treated properly. While increasing annual salaries can feel impossible with fewer visitors coming through the door, there are other ways to make your employees feel valued and lead to more worker retention.

One surprising example of what “right” looks like can be found in Dolly Parton. She and parent company Herschend Family Entertainment announced that Dollywood would pay the full tuition — as well as any additional fees and books — for its 11,000 seasonal, part- and full-time employees who choose to pursue higher education. And all of this was promised without the expectation that their education choices would be in hospitality. Whatever their employees decided, they would still cover the fees.

DMOs and heritage areas have a huge opportunity to step in and work with stakeholders to develop strategies that will help them keep their workers. The tourism and travel industry can’t operate without skilled and dedicated staff, so it’s time to show them just how important they are. Consider what options and opportunities are available to your small businesses and hospitality organizations, then help them develop plans for success.

Large DMOs Are Redirecting Visitors To Less Popular Destinations

From national parks to renowned landmarks and cities, massive numbers of visitors leave a heavy burden on local amenities and resources, even the local environment. Combined with labor shortages, this can leave destinations with extreme burnout. To help mitigate this struggle, one DMO, Crater Lake, told Travel Oregon about the problems they were having, so the DMO tested a geotargeting campaign. The campaign used ads to present nearby sights as appealing alternatives to the overcrowded destination. Crater Lake’s visitor count in 2022 hit the lowest point in a decade, The Oregonian reported earlier this month. Travel Oregon says geotargeting may have been one factor contributing to reduced crowd size.

“Destination stewards are balancing tourism dependence with the need to forge a better way forward by targeting higher-spend visitors and dispersing tourism demand within and across destinations,” Cathy Walsh, senior research analyst at Phocuswright said. “Many tourism organizations are already leveraging technology to understand how travelers behave and to influence tourism demand within their region or destination.”

This is an important strategy to note especially for heritage areas who often cover large regions. If your area has an overcrowded area, it might be beneficial to consider this method to alleviate these areas and also showcase your lesser-known amenities. This will help build trust with your stakeholders, too, by showing them that you have their best interests in mind.

What Happens When a College Town Loses Its College?

When West Virginia University relocated to a larger town an hour north, it left a massive hole in its town of origination, Montgomery, WV. Arguing low enrollment and high costs, WVU packed up, left its home of 120 years and migrated to Beckley, WV. Five years later, Montgomery still feels the loss deeply. Since the migration, the small ex-college town lost its grocery store, a car dealership, the professors and their families and thousands of students who rented rooms throughout the region.

“In West Virginia, we’re robbing from the poor towns and putting wealth into richer towns,” Montgomery Mayor Greg Ingram said.

The town is attempting to rebuild its economy through tourism, but rebuilding an economy is a monumental task that requires lots of investment. The region also faces some environmental concerns that could hinder this transition.

Montgomery’s difficult circumstances may become the harsh reality of many other rural towns as higher education continues to struggle, especially smaller colleges and universities. Since 2016, more than 90 public or private nonprofit colleges have closed or been marked for closure, according to Higher Ed Dive’s tracker. If your region is facing this possible future, there’s no time to waste. It’s vital to work with your local college, community leaders and stakeholders to start preparing a plan for a smooth transition.

Yellowstone Dutton Ranch: Popularizing Rural Living

One of the most watched traditional TV shows, “Yellowstone” is a dramatic, captivating story of a family’s cattle ranch in present-day, rural Montana. Fending off developers, climate change activists, tribal nations, politicians and anyone else who wants to take his land away, protagonist John Dutton is the gruff, territorial landowner that many rural regions may be familiar with (although most likely without the same affinity for violence). While the show is a fascinating, emotive saga of the Dutton family, it also gives a unique perspective on the challenges that some rural communities face, especially in the West.

Taylor Sheridan, the show’s co-creator, writer and director, loves telling stories set in the remote regions of the U.S. as is evident by the plots of his other popular shows, “Tulsa King” and “Mayor of Kingstown.” Sheridan himself grew up in “the country.” He was born in North Carolina, but grew up on his mother’s ranch in Cranfills Gap, Texas, which is a town with only 300 residents.

Despite an alleged “right-wing” view of the world, the show has a massive following. Not everyone has a multi-million dollar ranch with thousands of acres, but the scenes of small towns, dirt roads and expanses of trees and fields convey a setting that many rural residents can deeply relate with and is very appealing to those in metropolitan areas. In fact, the show even caused the value of single-family homes in Bozeman to jump by $250,000.

It’s refreshing to see remote stories being told in mainstream media, but also highlights important concerns that should be addressed. The show receives very little social media attention despite having 10.3 million viewers, likely due to its conservative perspective on major topics such as climate change and capitalism. But, the show also provides fascinating insight into tribal issues such as missing and murdered indigenous women, Native art and culture and the challenges of reservation life. “Yellowstone” is not for everyone, but should definitely be noted for putting rural life in the spotlight.

Getting Stakeholder and Community Buy-in to Build Your Brand

It can be overwhelming to think about getting all of your stakeholders in agreement, but it’s vital for delivering on your destination’s brand promise. There are some strategies DMOs and heritage areas can use to get everyone on the same page. Here are some ways you can earn their buy-in:

  • Listen to your stakeholders’ needs and really consider their opinions when making decisions.
  • Educate your stakeholders with the knowledge they need to succeed.
  • Communicate your progress clearly throughout the life of the branding project.
  • Demonstrate the value of stakeholder support in your projects and consistently be available for them.
  • Outline the stakeholders’ investment and involvement in the project and final product.

Following these tips will encourage your stakeholders to invest in your community’s branding as well as the overall efforts of your organization. It will also serve as the foundation for trust between you and your community and encourage the healthy sharing of ideas and content. This kind of environment fosters a powerful and supportive strategy and energy to develop your brand.

To learn more about county and community branding, check out this webinar and this resource.

  • 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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