Attractors vs. Attractions

By David Allred

Attractors vs. Attractions

There is a not-so-subtle difference between the words "attractor" and "attractions" but it is important for DMOs to use both in stakeholder discussions. Read this week's Insight to understand why. Read time: 3 minutes

During a recent onsite Marketing Action Planning FAM tour, the Stamp team was explaining the not-so-subtle difference between these words and why it is important as a DMO to use “attractors” as well as “attractions” in stakeholder discussions.

The average stakeholder thinks of “attractions” primarily as things that visitors come to see. During the MAP development process, DMO staff, boards and other tourism ecosystem stakeholders begin to more clearly see that there is a myriad of things that attract overnight visitors to a community—and that working on all these different angles simultaneously is how a community should pursue hotel occupancy growth

While an attraction and an attractor usually draw attention with the intent to visit, in the tourism world an attraction is typically thought of as the physical place— such as a park, a museum, the beach, a zip line experience, a statue, a bridge, a zoo, etc. While attractors include attractions, attractors are also many other things such as the geographic location in proximity to work or family, proximity to medical services, the shopping, the weather, the vibe, the popularity, the cleanliness, the walkability, the food scene, the photo opportunity, the safety, even the ease of access to get there and to get around. One or many of these attractors in combination can help draw visitors. But also keep in mind that attractors alone might not be enough to generate visits if everything around them is unsafe, hard to get to or a visitor ecosystem is not available (think restaurants, shopping, etc.)

Below are three examples of attractors not always considered but that can have a positive impact on a destination’s visitation and overnight occupancy rates:

Educational Attractors: Unique educational opportunities that are already taking place in your community can be classified as “attractors”, especially if they are currently drawing people from out of town or can be promoted in a way that will draw people from out of town. Encouraging providers of educational opportunities to plan events early and have them span over a two- to three-day time spans will encourage out-of-town participants to stay overnight between sessions. When these attractors make an effort to plan their programming to encourage overnight stays, DMOs can justify getting behind these attractors and helping to promote them to potential out-of-town participants.

Food Attractors: If your city or town has a collection of unique local restaurants or a group of restaurants in an area that share something in common, there can be power in numbers that can justify promoting these "food scenes" as an attractor within your community. One example is how the State of South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism created a BBQ Trail. On a smaller scale, you may have chefs that all came from one school, restaurants that all create custom libations or have a game night or live music, or are in walking proximity to the big attractor. Curating a restaurant week is another way to increase the appeal of food in a community and that creates an event that DMOs can package and promote. Consider restaurant weeks planned during your lowest occupancy months and promoted ahead of time to create interest in your destination outside of the normal peak season. And keep in mind, whether or not your destination’s restaurant week draws many out-of-town guests, simply communicating on a regular basis that your place has enough good restaurants to actually have a restaurant week will help contribute to your community being a place visitors will want to visit in the future. 

Business Attractors: Traditional “attractions” would likely not make the list of reasons for business travelers to stay overnight—the location of their business engagement is the attractor. But the timing of that engagement (day of the week and time of the day) can influence an overnight stay or even an extended bleisure trip. The DMO promoting all there is to see and do 7 days of the week and hotels packaging room rates with tickets to events for the family might help draw more business travel to a destination. But have you considered how the local businesses that have nothing to do with the traditional tourism ecosystem of a community can influence overnight stays in your destination? If they schedule an engagement to begin at 8:00 AM on the best opportunity nights of your destination’s week (typically Sunday night for Monday 8:00 AM meetings and Thursday night for Friday 8:00 AM meetings, those attending (whether it’s a conference, a sales presentation, a one-on-one business meeting, etc.) will more than likely consider staying in town the night prior versus running the risk of being late due to traveling during high-traffic times of the day in a place they are not overly familiar with. They will likely travel to that community the evening before, have dinner, potentially do some shopping, stay in a hotel, buy coffee, eat breakfast, etc., etc. All before they show up for the 8:00 AM meeting scheduled for the next day. For multi-day engagements, consider starting them at 8:00 AM on a Monday or ending them at noon on Friday. If you extend your favorable room rate into the weekends, you might encourage some participants to come early or stay after to enjoy the destination before or after the engagement.

By giving consideration to the larger set of “attractors” to your community vs. just traditional “attractions”, Destination Management Organizations can leverage a broader audience of community leaders who can be reminded to always keep in mind ways in which they can encourage more overnight stays—expanding the opportunities for DMOs to influence their community’s success in growing overall occupancy.