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Successful Marketing Can be a Funding Stream for Heritage Tourism


You already have big ideas and attractions in place, but you need money to make the magic happen. If you want to fund heritage tourism in your region, where do you start? Here are a few tips:

  1. Start with a marketing plan that lays out all the strategies, and costs of your heritage tourism marketing project.    
  2. Give your plan life with what it will look like in months and years. Have projections ready on how heritage tourism marketing will impact your area, region, and state. Essentially, set goals.
  3. Prepare a plan that shows the big picture and the nitty-gritty that proves there will be a return on investments in heritage tourism marketing.     

Maybe you are the idea generator planning a housing development, hotel, restaurant, or entertainment venue that you know will bring in people from miles away. Your plan anticipates tourists will visit or even move to the community you are promoting because it’s new and exciting and in a great location. 

You are prepared to meet with investors, stakeholders and government entities. But are you really prepared? Consider a few really great examples of heritage tourism.

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Jamestown, New York, builds a $50 million National Comedy Center

In a great example of a marketing strategy that went gangbusters, consider the $50 million National Comedy Center in Jamestown, New York, that got its start in 2015. The goal, according to news releases, was 114,000 visitors a year.

Located in Jamestown, New York, home to about 30,000 residents and the Lucille Ball Comedy Museum, the goals were ambitious. 

In August 2018, the center opened and Conde Naste Traveler noted it was “The Unlikely Attraction That’s Putting Western New York Back On The Map.”  

The center built a buzz about what was coming, and more state grants rolled in along with funds from local partners, foundations, and comedians.  

In 2019, Chautauqua County had its best lodging numbers for the first three quarters of the year, according to a report on the site. It was a success on many levels and has been recognized with numerous awards.  

It all started with a plan, a pitch and a $1.5 million grant from New York’s tourism promotions.      

Western Pennsylvania Earns Funding with Strategic Heritage Marketing

When we at Bull Moose Progressive Marketing work on heritage tourism marketing for our clients, we like to prove a concept in advance. It’s not just a great idea. It’s an idea with return on investment for years to come. 

In a marketing strategy, you need to prove you deserve funding and that a project has long-term sustainability. In this and other projects, we complete projections on what the return on investment would be. In heritage tourism efforts, we also rally support from legacy families and industries in the original marketing plan.     

John R. Phillips, II, President and CEO, of the Oil Region Alliance, agrees that having strong advance marketing paves the way to funding success, especially during COVID-19. He pointed out that many heritage tourism marketing folks had to change tactics when museums, historic houses and other indoor venues were closed to the public, but the Oil Region Alliance was ready. 

People have definitely discovered and rediscovered the outdoors,” he said.  

The Oil Region has abundant trails, lakes, and outdoor recreation opportunities and they all became extremely popular in 2020, according to Oil Region Alliance Communications and Tourism Manager Emily Altomare.

“There was a 200 to 400 percent increase in the use of outdoor parks in 2020,” she said.

But it’s not just walking and hiking that appeal to people in heritage tourism.

“Our walking tours have interpretive panels available all the time,” she said.

The informational panels provide opportunities to learn something significant about the history of trails and just about everything.

“Visitors can be transported into a different time. That’s what’s fun about heritage tourism. It takes you back in time,” she said.

Upfront marketing strategies helped the Oil Region Alliance in many ways. A strategic plan was part of the process.

The historic walking tours in Franklin, Titusville, and Oil City discussed the historical preservation and architecture of houses and buildings and what took place in them. Many were significant homes or owned by people who helped build the community and the oil and gas industry. 

Stand Out: Be Unique, Be Credible, Be Trustworthy

A personal touch is required to improve funding opportunities. John Phillips said it takes salesmanship, marketing, and confidence to acquire funding from state and national sources along with donations and support from local stakeholders and legacy families, and industries

There’s a lot of competition for grants, and establishing a reputation and earning trust from the grantors has improved access to funding for heritage tourism marketing in the region. 

Josh Sherretts
Josh Sherretts is co-owner and VP of Business Development at Bull Moose Marketing. He has spent over a decade assisting museums, non-profit organizations, and others with fundraising, strategic planning, and marketing. His skill set includes managing capital campaigns, marketing strategies, and team building to achieve both fiscal and reputational growth. Josh is a regular speaker at conferences, presenting digital marketing strategies and technology tools in both the nonprofit and tourism sectors. He is an occasional contributor to NPR and has authored two books on local history. He spends his free time with his wife, Kim, and daughter, Rosemarie.

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