Rural Tourism Towns, Too Much Visitor Information Is Overwhelming

by Joanne Steele on March 16, 2010

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Forest Capital Museum State Park

Forest Capital Museum State Park, Perry, FL

Today I was checking my Google Alerts for “small town tourism marketing” and noticed this:

Perry, Worth the Drive – Florida Driving Tours | | Florida
Located about an hour south of Tallahassee, Perry exemplifies smalltown living. VISIT FLORIDA® is the Official Florida Tourism Industry Marketing

I clicked through and discovered all sorts of interesting tourism information about Perry, Florida and two other small towns in the area.

Here’s the problem. By the time I finished the article, I was in information overload.

I had numerous choices of places to go, things to do, drives to take, places to eat, things to see and on and on. It was clearly “worth the drive” as the Google description says, but from where, and exactly why.

Our prospective customers are in visitor information overload.

Every click of their mouse is going to take them to more visitor information than they ever wanted!

Who is going to win the competition for visitors?

It is NOT “The small tourism town who provides the most visitor information wins!”

It WILL BE “The town that makes it simple who wins!”

This is the value of well-organized driving tours, packaging services, and themed visits.

Two associates and I gave a workshop this weekend on collaboration and packaging.

One participant who owns a very specialized guide service shared that she had just received a request from two couples to “plan us 4 days of activities.” They were coming for rest, exploration and fun, and didn’t want to have to make any decisions.

The state of Tennessee’s answer is themed driving tours. Their rationale is that most visitors start in urban centers, and that driving tours aren’t about the driving. They’re about going some place specific to see something special, starting where you are, and probably ending up back there again.

The state of Idaho nailed it with their Great Idaho Getaway (yes, I keep talking about this because it’s so innovative and the concept is so appropriate for small tourism towns). Idaho could have shown families doing a zillion things because in Idaho there are a zillion things for families to do. But they chose less than a dozen, making it simple and exciting to envision taking the family to Idaho.

Each of these, two states and a small business, are taking big risks as they carefully select what visitor information to include. It is easy to include everything. It is risky and challenging to identify a Perfect Customer and target specific activities for that Customer, leaving a ton of other things out in the process!

So, getting back to the small tourism town of Perry, Florida. What would I suggest?

1. Start the driving tour in Tallahassee. That is where there is a concentration of potential visitors. Starting in the middle of nowhere won’t necessarily bring people onto the route from other areas, and it will make the route more interesting to Tallahassee visitors and residents

2. You said it. You’re a forest destination with forest things to do and see. Create a theme to your driving tour. Look at how Tennessee has created their tours. You don’t have to include ALL forest stuff, but as with the Tennessee tours, integrate the related visitor information to keep people in town longer seeing and doing more WITHOUT HAVING TO THINK AND PLAN THEMSELVES.

3. Collaborate with other small tourism towns to get people back to Tallahassee. People love tour loops. Loops get them back to their homes, or for visitors, to their departure destination.

4. Don’t be worried about what you don’t include. Some things people will discover on their own. Others can be grouped together under another theme. With the Internet, creating these tours is easier. There are no printing and distribution costs and marketing involves getting your tours the attention they deserve through effective Internet marketing.

5. Be sure your title tags and meta-descriptions (the thing Google uses in search results) express what you are really doing. Perry’s is unfortunate. When a town describes itself as “worth the drive” it begs the question. Is it a zillion miles from anywhere or really NOT worth the drive?

Shifting our thinking about how our ability to access literally anything and how everything on the Internet will affect our marketing is hard.

Our first response is to tell all. Now it needs to be shifted to “ tell some” and “organize all” into digestible interest focused visitor information bites.

How is your small tourism town organizing online visitor information to make it easier for prospective customers?

1 Joanne Steele March 18, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Thank you Dillsboro! You’ve learned the important lesson that “getting back to simple” takes thought and careful planning. It only LOOKS simple to our customers.

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