What is Regional Flavor and How Your Small Town Can Grow Your Own Regional Flavor Destination

by Joanne Steele on November 20, 2009



Regional Flavor combines the uniqueness of places, geography, heritage, farms & foods, recreation, arts & crafts, lodging, regional goods, culture and events into authentic experiences for local residents and visitors.

Dissecting this definition, we can see some real value for small towns in the concept.


In rural communities we often don’t have enough of any one thing to create a true tourism destination.

To make tourism work we need to COMBINE our resources to be successful. We need to COMBINE efforts with other towns, businesses, organizations and counties to be successful. Handmade in America has shown us what can be accomplished through regional collaboration.


I’ve mentioned in past posts that trying to create a tourism draw around “historic” “charming” “outdoor recreation” and other general dime-a-dozen terms is just a waste of time.

Nine out of ten small towns have a historic district, and outdoor recreation of some kind is two blocks from almost every rural community.

What works is UNIQUENESS

The great thing is that small towns that haven’t been homogenized by franchises have unique offerings. They may not have enough of them to create a tourism destination on their own, but in partnership with their neighboring towns or regions, they probably do.

Marci Penner at the Kansas Sampler Foundation helps small towns all over Kansas find their unique elements. Towns with populations as small as several hundred are cataloging them!


This is the organizing principle for creating a Regional Flavor Destination. This is what places like Disneyland spent billions to simulate. We offer them in our own backyards.

Together with our neighbors we can package AUTHENTIC EXPERIENCES around a Regional Flavor brand.

Still confused? Check out this press release about what’s happening in Virginia.

What’s the Regional Flavor theme for this new Virginia project?

Railroading. The Rail Heritage Region. If you click on the link and read to the end of the article, you’ll see the significant number of counties and small towns collaborating in this regional flavor project.


The Rail Heritage Region has branded itself as a place where rail fans can go and hobnob with other rail enthusiasts.

More than that, it defines what I as a visitor can expect to experience in their area as an avid cultural and heritage visitor (check out at the end of the article just how big this market segment is.)

Do you get the difference between saying you’re “historic” and saying that you are part of the Rail Heritage Region of Virginia. Powerful.

How is this UNIQUE?

Lots of areas have railroad history, but how many places encompassing this much territory, this many counties and towns have branded themselves as a Rail Heritage Region.

I expect that this area of Virginia has lots more to offer. But by coming together around this single Regional Flavor brand, they have focused their marketing. That focus will increase visitor traffic which will benefit all other visitor attractions and activities in the region.

How did this region in Virginia COMBINE their resources to create a destination?

In the article one statement caught my attention, “The designation formalizes the group’s ongoing cooperative relationships…”. With a history of working together, these organizations and governmental entities have formalized an ongoing relationship.

Good for them! That’s a truly laudable place from which to build your own Regional Flavor brand and destination. If your town or region doesn’t have that cooperative relationship in place, it just means you have a little more work to achieve your Regional Flavor goal.

Check back next week for more on how to create what Virginia has achieved.

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