Step Four: Market for Success
Heritage Tourism: The Four Steps
Make good use of human and financial resources. They are the keys that open the doors to sustainable cultural heritage tourism.
To draw new people and money into your community, develop a multi-year, many-tiered marketing plan. Your goal is to reach your target market and to seize opportunities to partner with local, regional, state, or national groups. Include these four components in your marketing plan:
- Public Relations
- Graphic Materials
Keep in mind that developing a new domestic market takes approximately three years and producing results from an international audience takes five years—even when you use every one of the techniques presented here.
Public relations is a cost-effective way to get your message out via the media. The third-party reporting often provides more credibility for your area and creates additional angles to “sell your story” with articles on people, events, buildings, food or new activities.
Prepare a press kit (a folder filled with useful background information) to introduce your area to journalists. Keep accurate, current records of media contacts—local and also of journalists in major markets (say, at magazines with a national readership) that are interested in your subject matter. Keep separate lists for electronic (radio, television and Internet) and print (newspaper and magazine) media since their interests will vary.
When something newsworthy happens, or is about to happen—a Christmas tour, for example, a visit by a group of Dutch dignitaries, the award of a grant, the publication of a brochure for a new cultural tour—announce it in a press release.
Arrange educational tours for travel writers and other members of the media to acquaint them with your area’s attractions. Arrange them for tour operators and travel agents, too.
You may not at first think of your own area when you think of marketing, since new visitors come from marketing to outside audiences. But building community awareness is both courteous and an essential investment.
- Organize an educational tour for local officials to help them understand and appreciate heritage tourism.
- Plan special events for the general public to build enthusiasm, and it might even produce more volunteers willing to help with the work. Put on a special slide show, for example, a free-to-the-public day at a museum, or a candlelight tour of historic homes.
- Reach out to children. For example, organize cultural or heritage programs in schools to tie in to the requirements to learn local history or art.
- Have a community open house. Have residents show their driver’s licenses for free admission to area attractions, museum or concerts.
Use public service announcements—short spots on radio and television that are free to nonprofit organizations—to publicize special events.
Make sure you document successes with photographs, and be sure to include digital images, slides and prints in your image library so you can find what you need. A reminder: journalists appreciate high resolution digital images, good black and white photos, and original slides (or at least first generation duplicates). Audiovisual presentations, slide shows, PowerPoint presentations or videotapes can give your story emotional and visual impact.
Set up a speaker’s bureau so you are ready to respond to requests for information about your cultural heritage tourism program with the names, addresses, and phone numbers of people who are willing to make public presentations.
What if you have a fire at the museum or your area is hit by an earthquake, a hurricane, or some other sort of natural disaster? How will you contact the media and your target audiences? Have a crisis management plan that specifies a key spokesperson and outlines a response to crises.
An effective—though costly method—of marketing to targeted audiences, advertising requires creation of a compelling message and supporting visuals, appropriate media placement, fulfilling inquiries, and measuring effectiveness.
When you advertise, match the medium to your message—and your budget. Remember, advertising of any kind is effective only if it is frequent enough. Consumers are so barraged with messages from the media that YOUR message registers only if you repeat it.
Ads in newspapers and magazines, print advertising, are generally less expensive than ads in electronic media like radio and television, so cultural heritage tourism groups with limited budgets often begin with print ads. Good ads depend on good materials—on a simple message, crisp photos, and effective copy. Good placement is essential as well, so buy space carefully.
Use ads on radio, television or the Internet, electronic advertising, when your message is visual and you need immediate communication with a target audience. Production costs add to the expense of this sort of advertising for radio and television. Another limitation is time: you must put your message across in no more than 60 seconds, and often as few as 15 seconds. A tip: radio ads can be especially effective for promoting holiday activities and other special events.
Through consumer advertising, you reach tourists directly whereas trade advertising reaches travel-industry professionals. Use both.
“Co-op” advertising is a good way to share costs. Multiple partners cooperate to produce advertorials or special sections dedicated to their area or destination. Magazines and newspapers provide special rates for advertising participants which are usually matched with editorial information.
Use co-op ads when you are targeting a new market or entering an expensive venue like a national magazine. For partners, consider a regional or national travel organization, your state tourism office, a department store, or a public/private partnership. Note: you’ll need a budget for the special or increased inquiries a successful cooperative venture produces.
Don’t think in terms of buying a random ad or two; do think in terms of mounting a coherent advertisting campaign. Plan to measure the results of the campaign. Did it produce inquiries? How many? How many of the inquiries turned into actual visitors? Find out how well this campaign worked so you can plan for the next one.
Every community or region should develop an image package that can be transferred to all graphic materials. A color scheme or unique design element that appears throughout all the graphic materials created by the area helps define the image of the region and establishes an identification for the visitor.
Choose a logo, or graphic symbol, to fix the identity of your cultural heritage tourism program. Use it widely and consistently so it becomes closely associated with your program.
Developing a website has become an essential component of any cultural heritage tourism marketing campaign. Keep in mind that the website is just one tool, and you will need to find ways to drive users to your website and ensure that your website is in good working order.
Print brochures. Their primary purpose is to introduce visitors to your area’s attractions, but you’ll use them in other ways as well: include them in press kits, for example, send them off to travel writers, display them at trade shows. Most essential is a general destination brochure that you display on racks at key locations: at your visitors’ center, for example, and at historic, cultural, and natural sites. Develop specialized brochures for special sites, special events, or special tours—for a walking tour through a historic neighborhood, for example, or a driving tour along a scenic byway.
Before you print a brochure, run through a mental checklist. Who is the audience? Where will you distribute it—at a state welcome center, or at a local visitors’ center, in hotel racks, at trade shows? Do you have a place to store extra materials? Do you have a website or 800 number, postage for mailing and follow-up materials, or some other way to respond to direct inquiries? To get the most for your money, don’t print before you think about these matters.
Remember that visitors need directions and other specific information on where to stay, where to shop, what to tour and where to eat. Keep a visitor services directory on hand at the visitors’ center. Done well, a directory solves problems for visitors AND promotes local businesses.
To attract large groups of visitors to your area, prepare a group services directory that describes special arrangements and discounts for organized tours. Make it easy for tour operators to market your destination. Besides supplying specific contacts and price information, the directories can suggest themed or multi-day itineraries.
Promote special tours—tours organized around a special theme or aimed at a special group—by printing special itineraries. These itineraries can suggest a day, half-day, or multi-day itinerary that includes tour options not available to drop-in visitors.
Put signs in the places where visitors will see them. Make them legible—big enough to read, informative, and interesting. International symbols help guide visitors to restrooms, information centers, museums, or cultural centers, gas stations, lodgings, and dining establishments. Signs with graphic symbols such as logos help designate sites and roadways which are part of a regional theme or identify a cultural heritage.
Sometimes the most effective sign is a map that highlights key attractions or major features of a single attraction. Design an accurate, attractive, easy-to-read map and you’ll find many uses for it, in printed pieces as well as along a trail or scenic byway.
Even when you have done your best to make all these graphic materials attractive and informative, you won’t always get them right the first time. So assess how well your materials are working. Do you need more pieces? Different types of materials to reach different audiences? Take time to find out.
When you take your area’s message to travel industry shows, you face expenses for exhibit design and erection, registration, travel, staffing, and entertainment. But exhibiting at trade shows delivers information straight to professionals who can send visitors your way. It also gives you useful contacts. To reduce expenses, find a partner.
To find out what shows are scheduled, check with your state’s travel office. Also, contact local and regional tourism organizations to learn what promotions they’re planning.
At consumer trade shows, you take your message directly to consumers. The benefit: you reach the people who actually travel, sometimes hundreds of thousands of them in the course of a large, multi-day show. The cost: promoting your area at these shows is expensive, since you need a vast supply of literature. After the show, gear up for a lot of written, phone and electronic inquiries.
Sales missions take you to a specific city or country to call on travel agents, tour operators, journalists, and other key people to share information on your cultural heritage tourism products. Airlines and regional, state, or national travel organizations make good partners for these missions. Typically, a sales mission includes not just meetings but also a special function that presents some aspect of America’s heritage, like an exhibit of indigenous crafts.
Contests that connect soft drinks, foods or other products with travel destinations give you another opportunity to reach new markets through direct mail, grocery stores, or fast-food establishments.
Whew! There’s a lot you can do to market for success. Jump in. Try things out. Learn as you go. Those tactics have helped many communities entice visitors, as they can help yours.
A word to the wise. Make sure the experience a glossy brochure leads visitors to expect is an experience your area can genuinely offer. That is, marketing only what you can realistically deliver. Marketing is effective only AFTER you are really ready for visitors. It’s the last step for a reason.