All over the country, small towns are looking to attract a share of the tourism dollars big cities are generating because growing rural tourism can contribute to the economic health of small communities. According to the National Travel and Tourism Office, U.S. tourism-related employment reached 7.6 million jobs in 2016. The most recent data indicates that for every 100 direct tourism jobs required, an additional 43 indirect tourism jobs are needed to support it. And rural tourism can also be the cornerstone for preserving traditions, artistic styles and various processes to be to passed on to future generations.
Identifying Your Assets
Knowing how to leverage your destination’s unique assets is an important step to increase tourism in your area. The Kansas Sampler Foundation helps small Kansas towns “discover themselves” so they can better promote tourism. The basis of their mission is simple: preserve, sustain and grow rural culture through education, networking and supporting rural communities. The foundation aims to quantify a community’s assets and then train the CVB, local volunteers, attraction employees, and the community as a whole on how to cross-promote various local gems to visitors. You can use their list of eight different asset areas as a guide to help identify the unique elements of your community, keeping in mind that some assets may fit into multiple categories: architecture, art, commerce, cuisine, customs, geography, history, and people.
“Discovering” Tifton, Georgia
Tifton is a rural city at the crossroads of central Georgia. Mostly known for agricultural research, the city also offers visitors unexpected history, culture and recreation opportunities. Stamp worked with the Tifton Tourism Committee to develop a new brand identity to support its current theme “Think Tifton” and to effectively communicate the unique flavor of Tifton, Georgia through various marketing channels. Stamp helped Tifton highlight their assets on the website through a list of the Top 15 Things to Do in Tifton and was able to help visually convey the personality of this small town in the digital and print marketing materials by using the right blend of authentic imagery created through a combination of custom photography by Stamp, images provided by Tifton and supplemented with stock photography.
- Architecture – Convey the story of your town in structures.
Tifton, Georgia examples: Tift Theatre for Performing Arts, Museum of Agriculture, historic homes, and southern plantations
- Art – Your local art resources – from people to places to events.
Tifton, Georgia examples: Tifton Museum of Art and Heritage, Tift Theatre for Performing Arts and The Gallery at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture
- Commerce – Assess businesses that your town is known for.
Tifton, Georgia examples: Farmers markets, boutiques, antique shopping, and unique stores for gifts, food and décor
- Cuisine – Tell the story of your town through its local cuisine.
Tifton, Georgia examples: Restaurants, bakeries, farmers markets, and u-pick farms
- Customs – Assess your town’s local events and unique things to do.
Tifton, Georgia examples: Annual ethnic festivals, golfing, Museum of Agriculture, and the agritourism trail
- Geography – Assess natural landmarks, scenic attractions and nature.
Tifton, Georgia examples: Paradise Public Fishing area, Fulwood Park, Coastal Plain Research Arboretum, and the Future Farmstead
- History – Outline the history of your town.
Tifton, Georgia examples: Veterans Memorial Park, historic homes, southern plantations, Tifton Museum of Art and Heritage, and the Tifton Terminal Railroad Museum
- People – Assess the influence of notable figures in your town.
Tifton, Georgia examples: Home to several sports stars, musicians, politicians, and ethnic festivals
By following this process of self-discovery, you should be able to identify your own town’s unique cultural elements, thereby better harnessing locals, media and advertising to help make your small town a bigger deal.
Pro Tip: Harness the power of locals – explore four ways to make locals key players in your marketing strategy.
The proof is in the pudding – Tifton Tourism Testimonial
“The Stamp team came to South Georgia several times to really get a feel for who we were. Our dynamic account service team worked many hours with us to get just the right look and make sure our content and messaging was perfect. And they were always working to figure out ways to maximize our budget, which was very important for a small organization like ours. We love the end result!”
– Tyron Spearman and Angela Elder, Tourism Coordinators for Tifton, GA