Destination Marketing and Community Partnerships

Destination marketing has evolved to become more than heads in beds with a stronger focus on engaging the community at large. Modern destination marketers are charged with marketing their community to visitors and residents, they are the keeper of the community brand, are integral to economic development. They go beyond tactical marketing and rely on strong community partnerships to achieve success.  Learning from others in the industry, here are five ways that you can tap into community partnerships 

an aerial view of a neighborhood with greenery around, the bottom of the image displays the title of the blog: Destination Marketing & Community Partnerships

1. The Power of Collaboration

In episode 330 of Destination on the Left featuring Mayor Carlos Duffey and Ike English, they discuss the significance of collaboration between local government and businesses in destination marketing. When they saw a need to improve connectivity in the community and identified the creation of outdoor trails as the solution, they included people from their community who would benefit from the trails on the development committee. It helped them create a tourism product that would serve the residents, visitors and the local businesses.

“That committee did a great job in formulating the right recipe to attract people to the trail.”

Mayor Carlos Duffey of Jackson, Georgia

2. Empowering Local Communities

Travelers are looking to discover hidden gems during their vacations, and venture off the beaten path. This gives the local community an opportunity to shine whether that’s through contributing “insider” local content, as a destination brand ambassador or for businesses as part of a trail. The possibilities are endless when it comes to how the community can get involved in tourism promotion.

When the community is involved, it helps destinations highlight their unique charm and authenticity.

At their essence, Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) are hubs of collaboration. Businesses and attractions within a region need to be aware of all the ways they can collaborate with their local tourism office to help them promote their business as part of the community.

3. Engaging the Local Community

In episode 307 with Sarah Howe, she discusses the importance of engaging the local community in her resort’s marketing efforts. Sarah shares her experience of involving residents in the creation of marketing content, thereby fostering a sense of ownership and pride in the destination. This approach not only helps in developing authentic marketing materials, but also strengthens community relations and supports sustainable tourism practices. 

Sarah points to her participation in the Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance, as a way to find and align with community partners. She explains, “None of us are successful if, as a group, we’re starting to fail. … It’s really great for all of us to have successful businesses, both for our employment pool as well as our visitors.”

4. Building Trust and Relationships

On episode 231, Don Welsh explains the importance of building trust and relationships within the community. While this conversation took place on the heels of the pandemic, it’s a great conversation to come back to because of the pivots made during that time. He highlights the significance of understanding the needs and aspirations of local residents, businesses, and organizations when crafting destination marketing strategies. By actively listening to community stakeholders and involving them in decision-making processes, destination marketers can build strong relationships and ensure the long-term success of their marketing initiatives.

5. Community Connections

The power of community comes to light when working on large-scale projects such as capital campaigns. Our team worked on two such projects associated with Letchworth State Park, the Grand Canyon of the East, in New York State. These collaborations provide financial resources as well as demonstrate the community’s commitment and investment in stewardship and growth of a treasured asset.

In the first campaign, the Letchworth Capital Committee reached their full goal and built the Humphrey Nature Center at the Park. Community elements included a user-generated content story contest around the park as well as fundraising during the highly-attended annual arts and crafts show.

In the second campaign, the Autism Nature Trail (ANT) at Letchworth State Park project had been in the planning stages for three years. This project needed to build name recognition and excitement within the community to reach its goals. Community involvement in this project ranged from minimal – such as the first 2300 followers on the Trail’s new Facebook page – to more invested – such as the 225 participants who raised over $22K in the virtual silent auction.

Destination marketing cannot be successful without meaningful community partnerships. By fostering strong connections with local stakeholders and the public, we can create authentic experiences, drive economic growth, and ensure long-term sustainability. We are stronger together!

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