How Cultural Heritage Tourism Organizations Can Beat The Recession

The recent downturn in the economy has had a major impact on many sectors of the cultural and heritage tourism industry. The news over the past few years includes a number of losses -- heritage sites and museums closing, state programs eliminated, tourism agencies drastically reducing budgets, and cultural heritage tourism programs and organizations cutting back their operations.

Amid the bad news, however, there have been rays of hope -- attractions and marketing organizations standing up to the challenge and finding ways to survive -- if not thrive -- despite the economic downturn. Many of these cultural and heritage sites have found creative ways to stay true to their organization’s mission while reaching for new opportunities.

To share these lessons and respond to the challenge, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Heritage Tourism Program received an award from the National Endowment for the Arts to create a survival toolkit with three key components:

While the impact of the economic downturn has varied from state to state, the 11 survival strategies have already helped a broad range of attractions -- individual sites, community-wide efforts, and regional and statewide programs -- across the country. By pulling them together here, this toolkit provides urgently needed assistance to the key fields that make up the cultural and heritage tourism industry, including the arts, preservation, tourism, museums, humanities, and other related areas.

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Type of Attraction/Organization

Colorado Tourism Office Focuses on Local Market - In response to the economic downturn, the Colorado Tourism Office redirected heritage tourism marketing dollars to promote in-state travel as well as the “regional drive market,” or, people who live within driving distance of Colorado.

Coal Country Tours Share History and Help the Economy in Southern West Virginia - When the Battle of Blair Mountain erupted in 1921, more than 10,000 armed coal miners fought thousands of heavily armed mine guards, deputies, state police and company employees.

City Council Sees Lynchburg Museum System’s Success Up Close - Seeing is believing, and a tour of the Lynchburg Museum and historic home Point of Honor gave members of Lynchburg, Virginia’s City Council a chance to experience the museum as a community treasure.

Cherokee Nation Says Osiyo to Visitors - The unique culture and heritage of the Cherokee Nation is woven throughout a 14-county jurisdictional area in northeastern Oklahoma.

Cezanne Fast Forward - The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) hosted a late night closing party on the last weekend of the museum’s Cezanne exhibit in May 2010.

Building Up in a Down Economy - Despite the economic downturn, several states are making substantial investments in their state history museums.

Building Local Loyalty at the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center - The Kentucky Gateway Museum Center in Maysville, Kentucky started a “Museum Scouts” program for fourth-graders who were studying Kentucky history. The result has been a program that builds long-term loyalty to the museum.

Building a Heritage Tourism Image Library in Maine - Three Maine organizations partnered to fund the creation of a high-quality heritage tourism image library.

Boom to Bust and Back Again in Deadwood, South Dakota - Life was really good for the Adams Museum & House in the early 2000s. The introduction of gaming to Deadwood in 1989 had enabled the Adams Museum to expand their budget and hire a professional museum staff.

Beyond Lewis & Clark - The 2004-2006 bicentennial of the Lewis & Clark expedition provided an opportunity for exciting new programming in North Dakota, including guided multi-day canoe trips on the Missouri River.

Bartering Provides a Win-Win Partnership for Historic House Museum - Keeping 1,000 acres mowed, weeded and cultivated at The Hermitage, the historic home of President Andrew Jackson near Nashville, Tennessee, always generated big expenses.

Balboa Park Museums Find Synergy in Working Together - San Diego’s Balboa Park offers a broad spectrum of large and small museums, many of which are housed in Spanish Colonial Revival buildings built for the Panama-California Exposition in the mid 1930s.

Baker County Oregon Attracts Visitors through Flickr - Enticing travelers to choose a destination is easier when they can actually see the beautiful sunset on the water or the elegance of historic downtown buildings or the liveliness of a local festival.

Athens Celebrates Distinctive Destination Award - In 2009 Athens, Georgia was designated as one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations. To celebrate, the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation organized a series of Heritage Walks.

Atchafalaya National Heritage Area Reaches Ecotourists - The Atchafalaya National Heritage Area was established in 2006 to celebrate and preserve the heritage and culture of 14 parishes in south central Louisiana after having state heritage area designation for the previous eight years.

ArtBites Successfully Blends Museum Tours with Cooking Classes - In retrospect, 2007 was a tough year to launch a new business. However, despite the economic downturn that began the following year, Maite Gomez-Rejón managed to successfully launch her own company, ArtBites.

Alliance of National Heritage Areas Campaigns to Restore Funding - When the National Heritage Areas program was targeted for a 50 percent budget cut in President Obama’s FY11 budget, the Alliance of National Heritage Areas sprang into action.

All Roads Lead to Maine Fiberarts Tour Weekend - Maine Fiberarts, a statewide nonprofit arts organization, meets it mission of supporting the state’s fiber arts industry.

Air Zoo Gamble Pays Off in Michigan - The Air Zoo opened in 1979 as the Kalamazoo Aviation History Museum to showcase air and space flight through a collection of historic aircraft.

A Vote of Confidence for the North Berrien Historical Museum - In 1992, a dedicated group of volunteers from the North Berrien Historical Society created the North Berrien Historical Museum in Coloma, Michigan.

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