I’ve recently received questions from two readers that I will answer here in the same post.
The questions are:
1. Why have you largely stopped talking about rural tourism and instead talk about local small business?
2. Why are most of you posts about internet marketing?
I am passionate about sustaining vibrant, successful rural communities, whether you live in Nebraska, US or Scotland or India. Having spend more than a dozen years studying how to make that happen I have come to two conclusions:
1. With the decline of resource based jobs in rural areas and the majority of new job opportunities centered in urban areas, there are two things that can save small towns – tourism and the internet.
I have stopped referring specifically to rural tourism in every post because the basis for everything I write is that outside money is essential for most rural communities to continue to exist, and tourism is the main source of that outside money.
Whether it’s a day trip to a nearby farm or stop for a meal and gas, or a longer vacation in an outdoor recreation destination, those visitors bringing outside money to a small town are essential.
That money makes it possible for everyone from the tourism business to the hardware store owner to continue to prosper. Everyone in a small town is part of the rural tourism industry. And with authentic experiences and unique finds the most important attractors, everyone in town needs to be aware of the value and importance of rural tourism.
There was an article in Yahoo News this summer about results of the US Census that shows that population in rural areas has declined to only 16% of the US population.
AP writer, John Raby notes that “Far-flung rural counties boasting vacation and outdoor recreation also will continue as popular destination points for young couples, retirees and empty nesters.”
2. In the United States, and indeed in many countries trying to sustain their rural population, the internet is a vital, even essential tool.
Rural broadband access is as important now as rural electrification was at the turn of the 20th Century. Then, small towns that got it lived, and those that didn’t died.
Why? If outside money is needed to sustain and grow rural communities, and the major way people are getting the information they need to make travel and lifestyle decisions is the internet, being connected and tech savvy is essential for small towns.
It’s nice to be safe, picturesque, teeming with outdoor recreation with all the wonderful things that make rural living so great. But if nobody knows about it, you’re small town is on the skids.
The internet is the most important marketing tool of our time. And it is made for rural communities. It offers the cheapest most effective form of advertising ever devised. And with a few tools and just a little training, anyone can do it.
That’s why I am an evangelist for internet marketing.
“But,” you say, “We don’t want to become just a one industry town. We want to diversify our economy! We want to attract and nurture young entrepreneurs so our youth can stay home.”
I agree, and internet access makes that all possible. Read this article in the Rurban Fringe about young entrepreneurs building successful enterprises. They’re internet based.
Check out Fire What?, a new internet based business that has opened in my small town, run by four young entrepreneurs anxious to live closer to the outdoor recreation they love.
I personally see the future of rural communities tied up with tourism and the internet. If you don’t have outdoor recreation to market and you have all the other small town amenities urban dwellers are longing for, with the internet you have a chance to attract young tech savvy entrepreneurs.
If you are lucky enough to have nearby outdoor recreation or agritourism attractions, with the internet and a sound internet marketing strategy, you’re going to thrive.
Here are several past posts that you might be interested in: