When travelers are thinking about their next vacation destination, shopping is one activity that’s at the top of their list! Studies by the U.S. Travel Association show that after visiting friends and family, shopping and then dining are the top activities of leisure travelers. Shopping has gone from being a complementary activity for tourists to a very relevant motivator, and is a key factor when choosing a destination. For most DMOs, niche markets – like retail tourism – have yet to be tapped and included in their tourism development and marketing efforts. A Marketing Action Plan (MAP) is a great exercise that can help identify these opportunities for your destination by digging in to key influencers of your destination’s success and creating a strategies to activate them.
For years, communities have employed all kinds of initiatives to promote their natural and man-made attractions. And as the tourism landscape becomes more and more competitive, DMOs are recognizing that promotion of these traditional attractions alone will not always guarantee tourism success for their destination. In addition to promoting the attractions themselves, DMOs need to offer appealing “sub-attractions” such as local retail.
Shopping Like a Local
Shopping is a potentially effective and profitable way to expand and deepen the visitor’s experience and extend their stay. Tourist retail has, of course, been around for a long time. These days, however, this type of retail must offer more than T-shirts and souvenirs. Travelers enjoy shopping and dining at unique and authentic places – experiencing things that they can’t do at home. They want to find interesting pieces of local art, jewelry & clothing that reflect the culture and vibe of the destination. AND, they also want to meet the talented people behind the products. On a recent trip to Italy, my wife and I couldn’t get enough of the local jewelry, leather and ceramics in Cortona. But we were equally unimpressed with the presence of a Foot Locker in Siena. The bottom line – small local shopping experiences are much more attractive for travelers than big global brands.
Curate Retail Tourism Strategies With Local Retailers
Educating your market’s local retailers, artisans and entrepreneurs about the shopping potential of visitors can help them make more informed marketing, operational and merchandising decisions. DMOs should partner with local retailers to help guide them on how to effectively appeal to the tourist market. Possible questions to ask can include:
- Are local retailers effectively reaching the visitor market?
- Do local businesses complement area attractions and the overall appeal of the community?
- Are there visitors looking for products that are not offered locally?
- Are there too many of the same business type in the market?
- Are there opportunities for retailers to work together to cross-sell to the tourist market more effectively?
- Are retailers doing all they can to make themselves memorable to travelers?
Many DMOs have a regular line of communication with stakeholders like attractions and accommodation providers. But helping to grow and nurture niche markets – like retail tourism – will enhance the visitor experience and help to create positive buzz among friends of travelers and contacts on social media. And more importantly, generate return visits. Case in point, the one place I highly recommended one of my co-workers visit during her upcoming trip to Italy? Cortona.