When your tourism board “just doesn’t get it”

Leslie McLellan

Small towns can convert from “old style” tourism marketing to “new style” zero budget marketing successfully. Leslie McLellan with Tourism Currents has done it. Photo by Becky McCray.

I spent half an hour on the phone with a young man who is volunteering to help his community reach more visitors. It’s a town of around 1,000 people, with many of the same challenges other towns of all sizes face.

  • The old guard folks just don’t get it yet, and he wants to find a way to help them do more.
  • The existing website is static, and hard to update.
  • He mentioned their wonderful walking trail. The trail map is on paper only, and you can pick up a copy, but only when the office where they keep it is open.
  • To learn more about using social media for tourism in a small town, he wants to take our Tourism Currents course. He doesn’t think they’ll pay his way, so he’s thinking of paying for the course out of his pocket, and use the results to convince the old guard that it’s worth it.

How many towns fall into this same pattern?

If you are stuck in that pattern, here are two ways to get things moving:

  1. Start building a group of like-minded supporters. These can be people inside and outside the organization.
  2. If you run into resistance in changing the old site, start a new blog on a separate site. Or build an outpost on Facebook, Twitter or Flickr.

We also talked about measuring his results, so he can show the folks that new visitors are coming from his new efforts online. In Lesson One of our courses we talk about lots of ways to monitor how much buzz you are generating.

If you are wanting to measure new bookings, like my friend on the phone, then  you can try some of these tracking tactics:

  • Create a special discount code
  • Use a separate website for registrations
  • Create a special event or secret reward

Then spread the word through all your new marketing tactics, but don’t mention them in the old, traditional places. Don’t put them in your paper newsletter or on your old website. Then you should have some results to show around.

If you’re facing the same challenges, find ways to show rather than tell.

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About Becky McCray

Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband own a retail liquor store in Alva, Oklahoma, and a small cattle ranch nearby. Becky is an international speaker on small business.

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  1. says

    Hooray for the vision this young man has! The “new style” marketing tactics can launch any community into the global arena when done strategically. It will be great fun for him to gather “like-minded” community folks together and start down a new path, not to mention that while it will cost them their time, it won’t cost them dollars. Love hearing about small communities that are realizing what social media marketing can do for them!!

    • says

      Leslie, I like that you always see it as fun. It’s not just work, but there is satisfaction in building something new, especially when people say it can’t be done.