1. The best promotion you can get is the personal recommendation of someone who has been to your town or attraction.
2. And yet… locals will live here for years, and never set foot in some of the most amazing attractions and events you have to offer. But once they do, they are some of the best evangelists.
This, “I’ve lived here for years, and I’ve never been there,” attitude is surprisingly common.
- In New York, I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge with a Chaz, who lives there, but had never been.
- At home, I had never seen the archaeology find of the century in the Freedom, Oklahoma, Museum, until they called me for some consulting.
We just don’t go see what we have close by.
What if you could get more of your locals to actually experience your treasures? Then they would be much more likely to talk them up to their friends and family.
How could you actually do this?
- Promote your event directly to locals by word of mouth, personal contact, phone calls, emails, etc. Make sure you dedicate a specific portion of your promotion efforts and budget to bring in locals.
- How about your nearby neighbors? Bring in the people from one town over, or all the surrounding towns. They’ll have less of that famous “we don’t have anything” local bias.
- Create a special tour for locals. Make it like a blogger invasion, but for your locals and neighbors.
- Host regional events. Partner with groups, like the Rotary or church groups, who are bringing folks from surrounding counties. Do more than give them a brochure; help them set up an event at a cool local attraction.
I know this is tough. Lots of towns have trouble getting locals involved in anything. So let’s open it up. The best stuff is always in the comments. What are your ideas and stories?
This article is part of Tourism Tuesday, a series of posts for tourism businesses and associations in small towns and rural areas. If you have questions you’d like us to address in this series, leave a comment or send us an email at email@example.com. This is a community project!
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This is just pervasive, isn’t it. No matter where in the country you live, locals are unaware of what incredible opportunities are available to them.
A few years ago, we worked with the town of Goliad, TX. In Goliad is the Presidio La Bahia. The Presidio was one of the crucial locations during Texas’ battle for independence from Mexico. The massacre that happened there gave rise to the famous “black bean episode”.
Anyway, the museum director told us that fully 95% of the kids in Goliad’s high school had never visited the Presidio. Not for a history class, not on their own, nothing!
There are a few Texas towns that have launched successful “Be a Tourist in Your Own Backyard” campaigns and/or other local awareness programs. But just like hospitality training, it’s something that has to be an ongoing effort.
I’ll be following your comments on this post to see what other good ideas are out there. Thanks for bringing this back to the forefront!
Becky McCray says
OOO! I’ve been to the Presidio! Back when I lived in Luling, TX.
Anyway, your example of “Be a Tourist in Your Own Backyard” reminded me of the Kansas Explorers Club. That’s a project from the Kansas Sampler Foundation. You can hear Marci Penner explain it in the second video on this page.
Innkeeper Seely says
We are in Narragansett, RI, a small beach town, and sometimes it rains. At breakfast a guest from RI told out of state guests that there was “nothing to do but to go bowling” on rainy days. I could have smacked him but gave 10 ideas off the top of my head for things to do instead of going to the beach. His response? “I’ve never done any of those things.”
Every year there is a statewide promotion for being a tourist in your own back yard. It becomes more popular every year.
Becky McCray says
Innkeeper, that is exactly the situation we want to fix!
How can we use the increased interest in all things local to our advantage?