First Step to Rural Tourism Success: Check Your Innovation Mindset

by Joanne Steele on April 26, 2010

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I’ve been emailing back and forth with a real expert in rural issues, Kathi Jaworski, and would like to direct you to one of her recent blog posts, Five Mindsets for Tourism Business Innovation.

This exciting post is the basis for her presentation at this year’s Oregon Governer’s Conference on Tourism, and the images that accompany the post can be seen here (http://www.oregontourismconference.com/uploads/FiveMindsetsforTourismBusinessInnovation.pdf).

Here’s what is important about this post for a rural tourism destinations and businesses:

Real Innovation is more about mindset than about money.public hopscotch court

I love her point #2, “Feature Flaws.”  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people in delightful rural communities regretfully dismiss tourism “because they don’t have anything to offer visitors.” If by that they mean that they’re not Disneyland or a cruise, they’re right!

But so many of the things we in rural areas overlook because we have a “flaws” mindset are exactly the things that visitors looking for authentic experiences will love.

Like Tulelake, California’s espresso bar inside the feed and supply.

Like the lack of motels that led to the homestay programs in Scotland and Ireland that could be duplicated in any rural community anywhere in the world.

Using Kathi’s 5 innovation mindsets we can see our towns in a completely different light. And nothing will have changed except our vision!

What supposed flaws so you have in your town that could be considered features?

What asset to you have that might be too small to attract visitors by itself, but paired with another unlikely partner could become an attraction? (Such as:  In Kansas, US, a stop at a small town vintage soda shop paired with the hopscotch court on the sidewalk in front of the school.)

What concept could you shrink to create a viable tourism offering? (Such as:  A three or four stop agritourism loop around your town as a start to something bigger in the future.)

How could you flip an idea to create a whole new attraction? (Such as:  Lack of restaurants? How about enlisting all your local churches in a rotating monthly Saturday night church supper?

How could you push extremes? (Such as: Marketing your uncrowded country roads to cyclists, or winding forested roads to the regional Harley Davidson club.)

Put on your positive thinking attitude and a new innovative mindset and you’ll be surprised at how many good workable ideas you’ll come up with for your rural tourism business and your small town.

Have any great idea to share? Let us hear them.

1 Anne-Mette Hjalager June 7, 2010 at 8:16 am

On http://www.INNOTOUR. com we provide research based innovation tools for tourism enterprises. If you have got stuck, take a tour in INNOWHEEL, or investigate your own innovation ability in a test. We bring innovation cases from all over the world – look what others did, get inspiration.
Tourism enterprises are invited to register and contribute with their own innovation experience in terms of inventing new products and services.

2 kathijaworski April 28, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Thanks for the mention, Joanne! I love the examples that you have added to illustrate the five mindsets. I think I’ve been to that espresso place! What I really love about the examples you provide is how low cost they could be to implement.

This brings to mind another time-honored strategy for business innovation. As you’re considering new products or services, it can help to imagine that you have even more constraints on your idea than you actually have. For example, imagine people will only come to your community in the fall, or that your marketing budget is $250. Constraints and limits are spurs to creativity. Then, you can look at your initial ideas in light of your actual resources and conditions, and flesh them out.

3 Joanne Steele April 29, 2010 at 8:52 am

Great ideas! I keep coming back to Nicole Vaugeios’ “rural lens.” Because we rural residents rarely have the opportunity to throw cash at a problem, we naturally have a more innovative mindset. Now, if we can only rid ourselves of the “get a grant for that” mentality, we could REALLY get creative and innovative!

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