When I saw this news article, the light went on over my head! This is such a great fit for small towns to boost their tourism.
Norfolk County, Ontario, is hosting the culinary industry at the Terroir Rural Retreat. It will be the day after the major Terroir Symposium held in big city Toronto, almost 2 hours away.
Small towns everywhere could use this idea. Big event in the big city, followed by a rural retreat in your area. The terroir events are all about local growing conditions for wine and food crops, so the rural retreat makes perfect sense for that event.
My real-world example
Years ago, I created a rural retreat after a big conference. I knew I’d want some time to think and do some focused work before heading back to my everyday routine. So I scheduled a retreat for a handful of friends in a small town church that my friend Jon Swanson just happened to be part of. We spent two full days, each with our own classroom to work in, and came together for meals. (We made sandwiches in the break room. It really was fun!) That extra space and time to think helped me make a breakthrough in understanding my mission.
The small town that hosted us didn’t need anything but a church, and you probably have one of those. We stayed overnight in the nearby big town that had motels. That small town ended up as our host because of my friendship with Jon, but I think your town could actually seek out opportunities.
How to get started in rural retreats
How could you create rural retreats in your rural place to follow up on bigger conferences? Let’s brainstorm some ideas.
First, look around. What do you have to offer? Norfolk County is a leader in agriculture in Ontario, growing a huge variety of local crops. That’s a good match for agriculture and food-themed events. What makes your area special or interesting?
Where would people meet or stay? Do you have an awesome restaurant? A camp or lodge that would be perfect for holding a retreat? Local farmers or agritourism operators who already make great event hosts? Talk to your local agritourism people to find out what they are already doing, and how this might fit with it. Heck, they may already be doing this.
Second, look outward. What events are going on in big cities near you? Which ones could be even better with an added rural retreat?
Third, start reaching out to event organizers, maybe starting with events you already attend. Ask if they’ve thought about adding a rural retreat. Show them what you have to offer their people. Listen to what they need and see how you can fit together.
Fourth, reach out to nearby big towns that host events. That starts with towns of 10,000 and up, usually. Try searching online for their Convention and Visitor Bureau (CVB) or Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) or just their tourism group, which probably has “visit” in its name, like Visit Oklahoma City. Let them know you host rural retreats and show them what you have to offer. Listen to what they need, as well. Encourage them to add rural retreats to their list of amenities and offerings they use to attract and work with events and conferences.
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