Step Two: Plan and Organize
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.
A community united can accomplish a lot; a community divided is not ready for cultural heritage tourism. So, begin to organize by building a local consensus that supports cultural heritage tourism.
- Gain the support of local business people—of bankers, people in the travel industry, owners of restaurants and stores, operators of hotels and motels, for example. You need their expertise and enthusiasm. In fact, bring in all the movers and shakers you can—prominent families involved in the community, religious leaders, and other individuals who have influence and credibility.
- Unite local government behind your efforts. From local government can come leadership, the establishment of arts and entertainment districts, preservation ordinances, design review boards, landmarks commissions and so forth.
- Seek the backing of service organizations with strong membership bases and good track records on community projects.
Once you have solid community support, it’s time to organize. There are nearly as many ways to organize as there are organizations. Also, as your cultural heritage tourism program grows, you’ll need to reorganize, maybe more than once.
As you organize locally, reach out to organizations and people elsewhere who can supply additional expertise and resources. Make recruiting and developing leaders a key part of organizational management. Whether your heritage tourism program has paid staff or depends on volunteers, you need to bring along leaders who can stimulate the growth of the program and expand its opportunities.
When you reach out to tap new resources, consider:
- Various state and national organizations, some public and some private, are good general sources of information about organizational development, tourism, preservation, the arts and other specialized topics. Many offer technical expertise in these areas and possible funding. Regional sources offer different kinds of assistance.
- Regions can be as large as several states or as small as several counties within a state.
After you have established an organization—or committee of an existing organization— you can create a cultural heritage tourism mission, define goals and lay out specific objectives. Be sure to set reasonable timelines. The tendency is to underestimate how long it takes to organize a cultural heritage tourism effort, develop and enhance tourist attractions, achieve financial viability and reach new markets. Be realistic about time—and funding.
The question of how to finance a cultural heritage tourism initiative has no easy answer, alas, and no single answer. Your goal is long-term, stable funding. Your chances of reaching it improve if you have built a strong local consensus, for then the problem of funding becomes one many people help solve.
Before you look for funding, draw up a financial plan. You need to know just how much money you’ll need for which projects, and when. Potential backers want to know exactly what they are supporting and how their contributions fit into your organization’s overall effort.
A good financial plan takes both hard and soft costs into account.
- Hard costs, such as the cost of restoring a historic building, are the most obvious and easiest to estimate.
- Just as important are the soft—but real—costs of staffing your organization, of interpreting and maintaining local sites, and of marketing.
Where can you look for funding? Here are some possibilities to explore: public funds, both grants and loans, available from federal, state and local governments; private establishments including corporations, foundations and nonprofit organizations, individuals for memberships, specific grants and endowments.
Hold fundraising drives, assess membership dues, or arrange house tours, art fairs or other special activities.
Your state may have funds for tourism, the arts, preservation, or economic development for which your organization could qualify.
Foundations and corporations fund activities in their area of interest. Listings can be found on the Internet or in your local library.