By Dr. Peter Tarlow
As noted in part one of this two part series, the tourism industry lives in a dynamic environment. Tourism is dependent on economic conditions, on climate, on political conditions and on local issues such a health and security. In all of these cases, the tourism professional is often in a reactive rather than proactive position. This need to react may lead to certain levels of frustration and even inaction. Although it is rare that a tourism professional can change major economic or political trends, there is however much more that s/he can do to shape his or her part of the industry. Tourism Tidbits offers the following suggestions
– Determine your present tourism emphasis and then analyze its weaknesses. Do you emphasize good service, beautiful scenery, fun activities, or "edutourism?" Go after those customers that will be willing to pay the most for your product. Never forget that tourism is based on having something unique, so emphasize what makes your hotel, restaurant, or attraction a special experience.
– Put your best foot forward but tell the truth. All too often the public fails to believe tourism officials because they have covered over problems or failed to tell the truth. You do not have to emphasize the problem, but neither should you hide it. Make sure that information that you provide is accurate and current.
– Sit on as many boards as possible. You cannot influence policy if you are not present when decisions are made. The better the tourism professionals are known in town, the more influence they have. Use local influence to network with people on state, province or national levels.
– Analyze what are the services your community lacks and which services or products are local and abundant to your communiity. If you are a restaurant, develop among the selections you offer for each course, special selections that can become your establishment's signature meal. In a like manner, resorts, hotels, and attractions can become known for something special. A dude ranch may want to emphasize its extra attention by stating that no one leaves its premises without learning how to ride. There is no tourism business that cannot produce an "in-house" product.
– Always develop your product with new niche groups in mind. For example, can you combine a dude ranch with an educational experience or help children who have suffered a trauma? Can you connect urban and rural tourism in a unique way? Can you make a farm experience an adventure into healthy living?
– Develop a "profit symbol!" Your business plan should add higher value to your tourism product, and at the same time, add higher profits to your bottom line. For example, many tourism businesses have a logo or mascot. Market this logo as a souvenir. If you have a hotel in the mountains, develop a pet animal or plant and then create souvenirs around that theme. By turning your logo into a product, you tourism business becomes a "memory -generator " rather than merely a "place of memories."
– Be in the know. Access several media outlets and read as much as you can from different political points of view. Often media outlets tell only one side of a political story. Tourism professionals need to know all sides and then use this information to shape not only their marketing but also the type of product development that will be effective for the next decade.
– Develop a flexible business design that is open to rapid change! With almost daily changes in technology and major sociological shifts occurring on a regular basis, business designs that used to be good for ten years may now only be good for five years or less. Compare your current niche marketing with possible future niches; analyze sociological trends such as income levels, family make-up, foreign visitations, and think about the possibility of repeat customers. Work into your business design room for rapid changes in technology. For example, the development of affordable software that can integrate your phone, pager, fax, e-mail etc can have a major impact not only on your personnel and office needs but also on your marketing plans. Travel businesses catering to business travelers should take into account, and provide for, such new possibilities as on-the-road video teleconferencing and portable offices.
– Develop marketing relationships. When selling to the short-distance (day traveler or local market) take the time to speak to the advertising departments of your local media outlets. Ask where these specialist in your community see trends going, what colors do they believe will be in vogue over the next five years, to whom and how are other advertisers tailoring their message. No one knows the local market as well as your local media-advertising experts.
– Be aware of demographic trends. Demographic trends are much less stable than many people believe. They can be impact by economics or health issues. Pandemics may be short lived but have a long marketing after-life.
– Create a community-wide marketing discussion group at your chamber of commerce or CVB or tourism board. Few hotels, restaurants, or attractions are strong enough to 'capture' a market. By trading ideas, concepts, and principles, you can create tourism synergy that means that everyone receives a share of an ever-growing tourism pie. From the visitor's perspective your business is just one component of his or her vacation. By making the parts work together, the entire tourism/travel community benefits.