For tourism to work in a small town, get over the idea that any other business is a competitor.
Tourism is about giving visitors lots of choices. A town with ONE lodging and ONE restaurant and ONE gift shop and ONE adventure business will always be small beans. Their share of the tourism pie will always be very small.
Who wants to go somewhere with few or no choices when the world is full of small towns with lots of choices!
Columbia Falls, Montana, US, discovered that when they got their 6th antique shop, they became an antiquer destination and their share of the antiquer pie grew exponentially.
When Dunsmuir, California, US, got their 4th high quality restaurant, more people than ever were eating in all the restaurants – Dunsmuir is a foodie destination!
When Ashland, Oregon, US, got THREE performing arts venues, its reputation as a theater town was cemented, and crowds increased.
It’s all about providing lots of choices to increase the number of visitors overall.
No small business is identical. Your business reflects your passion and personality. Maybe you like to sell clothing to the 20 somethings, or rafting trips to families, or vintage clothing rather than old furniture.
Check out the businesses that you’ve thought of as competitors – I bet you will be surprised at how different you are.
Grow interest in your town or region by marketing your similarities. You’re one of three fishing guides, or five antique stores, or 7 B&B’s.
Attract the types of visitors you particularly want to serve by marketing your differences.
How does this look in a real life marketing effort?
1. Have your advertising and listings appear together in places where it makes sense – in regional publications, regional marketing web sites and the web sites of other area businesses.
2. You might both be rafting companies, but one’s Perfect Customer is a 30 something interested in big water three day trips, and the other one’s is a woman bringing her young children on a day trip experience.
3. By appearing together, you establish your area as a “rafting destination”. Together you grow the river rafting pie – the numbers of people coming to your area for rafting.
4. By carefully crafting your marketing message to speak directly to your own Perfect Customer, you attract business to your company.
Tourism is the largest business sector in the whole world. There is room for you and every one of your supposed competitors in this big tent. Attract more visitors to your town and there will be plenty of business for everyone.