Even though Solimar began as a tourism marketing agency over 11 years ago, we quickly realized while supporting undiscovered destinations in Costa Rica, Jamaica, Panama, Mongolia, Romania, and West Virginia that destinations need more than just marketing to be successful. Most undiscovered destinations are also under-developed. That’s why we love working in these types of destinations. We know there is a huge market of travelers looking for opportunities to escape crowds of tourists and travel off the beaten path, and we love connecting them to these hidden gem destinations.
But to attract these types of travelers (or any travelers), a tourism product must exist.
What are you going to do when you get there? Where are you going to stay? Where will you eat? How will the local residents treat you as a visitor? Will they welcome you? What will the service be like at the front desk or in the restaurant? Will your guide be knowledgeable and entertaining? Is the equipment you are using safe? Is the destination clean or littered with trash? Is there enough to do for more than one day?
These are all elements that make up the visitor experience and create the tourism product. When a tourism destination is undeveloped, rarely is anyone in charge of helping bring the industry and residents together to address all of these issues and help create a holistic tourism experience. This leads to either a destination never realizing its full tourism potential or, worse, a tourism industry that develops unplanned with each sector only working toward their own good instead of the good of the whole destination.
So what is the role of a tourism development organization in tourism marketing? We work with a lot of destination marketing organizations (DMOs) that believe their only role is to market the destination. But these same organizations are also charged with opening new markets, spreading tourism beyond the “must see” sites, and helping visitors find undiscovered destinations that provide economic benefits to rural communities. You can’t do this without helping develop new tourism products and destinations.
Let’s look at an example right here in the U.S. Travel Oregon is not only doing a fantastic job marketing the incredible tourism offerings in Oregon, but they are also growing Oregon’s tourism industry by supporting the development of tourism destinations and products that can attract new markets. Travel Oregon’s consumer website is world class, but what impresses me even more is their industry website. It’s designed to communicate directly to their industry partners and residents about the importance of tourism and the many ways Travel Oregon can help them develop their tourism business or develop tourism in their communities. Through their Rural Tourism Studio, which offers training programs, matching grants, and marketing support, the program helps bring community members together to develop tourism on their own terms, in a way that ensures tourism will not destroy their unique sense of place.
Take a moment to watch this video from Travel Oregon that summarizes this approach to destination development. What I love most about this approach is that no one from Portland is telling this local community what or how to develop their destination. Instead, they facilitate a process to bring people together and provide tools, education, and grants to make it happen. Watching this video makes me want to visit Oakridge, an undiscovered destination that is developing a tourism experience that I know I will enjoy.
Wondering how to get started developing your tourism destination? We can help. Solimar’s tourism development services range from destination strategy, product development, workforce training, route/circuit development, investment promotion, and marketing. Contact us now to learn how we can help develop your undiscovered destinations!