An Excuse to Come and Stay Longer – Themed Trails
Great opportunities lie ahead for destination management organizations (DMOs) – convention and visitors bureaus and chambers of commerce – willing to blaze trails for visitors to explore. Similar to Lewis and Clark’s Journey of Discovery that opened up the west leading the way for the creation of the Oregon Trail and western migration, trails encourage travel.
When I was growing up, my family loved the outdoors. We hiked whenever we could. Some trails were well-trodden paths amid tall pine trees and through meadows, and fortunately someone had come before us and marked the trail. What I enjoyed most was that along the way my dad would explain the life cycle of forests, the difference between raccoon and deer prints and the value of fallen trees. Mom would point out various species of birds and remind us that this was someone else’s home. We trekked on trails winding down hillsides to reveal a mountain lake or on those strewn with rocks and boulders in route to a clearing with a panoramic view. I savor those memories with my family and the learning experiences.
For a destination, trails string together a similar themed topic – art, architecture, gardens, wine, craft beer, moonshine, nature, history, NASCAR®, culture, food or shopping, among many others. The economic impact can be substantial.
A Texas Historical Commission’s study, reported, “More than 10.5 percent of all travel in Texas is heritage-related, and that number continues to rise. Heritage tourists contribute more than their share, spending $7.3 billion or about 12.5 percent of total visitor spending in Texas. Of that, nearly $2.3 billion can be attributed directly to the heritage-related portions of their trips. According to a survey of participating sites, the Texas Heritage Trails Program increases revenue 2 percent and visitation by 13.9 percent.”
The World Food Travel Association’s recent report cited, “Food and beverage are an increasingly significant motivator for travel, as 75% of leisure travelers have been motivated to visit a destination because of a culinary activity. As many as 86% of respondents claimed having a positive food and drink experience on a trip would make them more likely to return to that destination. Food and beverage are essential to the visitor experience.”
An economic impact study of beer tourism in Kent County, Michigan, was commissioned by its destination marketing organization Experience Grand Rapids. The agency’s passport program works in conjunction with its Beer City Ale Trail with (today) 95-plus breweries, distilleries and cideries. The report cited, “Beer tourism is a growing part of the economic mix in the Grand Rapids area. Currently this includes over 42,000 visitors primarily for the purpose of beer tourism with over 13,000 individuals traveling from outside of Michigan. Their direct spending makes up 0.5% of the Grand Rapids-Wyoming spending on accommodations and food services. If we assume double occupancy, this generated over 14,000 hotel nights at an average of $148 per night spent on the room. The total impact of these beer tourists is now over $12 million per year.”
One of the goals of any trail project is to remove the need for a consumer to plan, all while delivering an experience on a common theme within one nice package. When participating, visitors typically will discover the more well-known attractions along with things they might not encounter on their own. Bundled within are tidbits of information that further enrich the activity.
#1 Vineyards and wine growing have expanded beyond the well-known regions in New York and California. In the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina where offerings are numerous, how does a visitor know which winery to tour? A wine trail or series of trails can make the decision easier. It can incorporate a vineyard where the grapes are grown, a tour of a winery known for its particular varietals of grapes, a conversation with a wine label artist, a stop at a wine shop known for its local wine inventory and lunch or dinner options at any number of a restaurants that showcase cuisine paired with, you guessed it, local wine.
#2 Ferreting out the topics and the components of each takes time. However, each trail will further enhance a destination’s things to do list.
#3 The target market of each trail will vary depending on the theme. The format by which your visitors can access the trail – a brochure, turn-by-turn tablet or smartphone-ready itinerary or podcast – may also vary by user. Perhaps it’s a combination of all three. A multidimensional package should provide guests a rich, all-encompassing experience.
THE FINAL RESULT
Once the trail package is completed, the work is only half finished. As each trail is unveiled, it provides the excuse for a news release, blog post and ensuing media coverage as well as posts and tweets on social media. A ripple effect also occurs. Trails provides not only the convention and visitors bureau or chamber of commerce or downtown development agency time in the spotlight but also allows each of the featured components the opportunity to shine.
Wouldn’t you love to give visitors another reason to come, explore and more importantly, stay longer, touching parts of your community otherwise unknown?
Let Flying Compass help you chart your destination’s trail of discovery.
Happy trails to you!