Regional Tourism Marketing, What We Can Learn From Weiser, ID

by Joanne Steele on September 7, 2009

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Welcome to Weiser,

Since 1953, Weiser, ID has been the home of the National Old-Time Fiddle Contest. It’s a huge event that consumes the whole town for 2 ½ weeks in June. Not Nashville, TN or Branson, MO – country western music centers – but little Weiser located miles from major metropolitan areas!

As I drove into town, I expected to see a tourism destination with dozens of motels and RV parks, and a kitchy downtown with lots of fiddle themed décor.

Instead, I discovered a rural agricultural community, with a downtown packed with locally owned locally frequented stores, restaurants filled with locals talking across the tables, and very few motels and rv parks for visitors.

This town is hanging on to its nationally acclaimed, once a year event against all odds, and not letting it change the town for the rest of the year.

“We love the fiddlers,” exclaimed a waitress where we had breakfast, “But we’re also kind of relieved to get our town back when its over.”

So, do they actively market to visitors. Yes and no.

Laurel Adams, Executive Director of the Weiser Chamber of Commerce, was clear about how much they loved having visitors, but does no tourism marketing outside of the immediate vicinity. All national marketing for the fiddle contest is handled by the fiddle association.

Here’s what we can learn from Weiser about regional tourism marketing.

Weiser Chamber has a very close collaborative relationship with the 5 chambers located close by.

These small towns are Weiser’s major market for events and visitor activities, and Weiser residents attend events and activities in the other 5 towns.

Laurel’s major tourism marketing consists of blast emails that go out to each of the 5 towns in the region. She receives email from the other 5 communities about their activities, and all send out the announcements to their own membership.

In effect, each town is reaching hundreds of potential visitors at no cost, with a simple email message.

The impact of this is enormous. Each business in every town nearby knows what is happening in the region. When a customer comes in to any shop or motel and asks a front-line worker  “what there is to do around here” there is a ready answer that includes activities for the entire region.

Small towns are natural networking machines, and this free, collaborative activity is more effective at getting information in the hands of potential customers then interruption advertising like radio ads, paid print ads and television.

Weiser and its neighbors have overcome a rural tendency to be competitive with nearby towns.

Thanks Weiser! You and your partner towns are great examples of the value of collaboration!

Any good examples of collaboration in your area? Let us know…

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