Rural Tourism For Your Small Town. Yes You Can!

by Joanne Steele on August 30, 2012

It’s been ages since I’ve checked in to the Kansas Sampler Foundation here at As usual there is much that rural communities can learn from the latest doings at Kansas Sampler!

Kansas Sampler Foundation ERV blogExecutive Director, Marci Penner has been a very busy lady. Back in 2005, she published a truly amazing and comprehensive travel guide for the state of Kansas, and now she’s gathering data for the new updated version.

Marci, as always, is way ahead of most of us in rural tourism. She’s sharing her research travels online on her new blog, The Explorer Research Voyage. She has a Facebook page for the trip. She even developed partnerships to help pay for this tremendous undertaking, to visit every community in Kansas.

Her latest post on the town of Larned, KS is an interesting look at rural Kansas town. It is also provides an excellent framework for looking at your own rural community.

The major question every rural community has to answer when examining its rural tourism potential is “What do we have to offer visitors?”

And the main answer that often comes up first that stops the inquiry in its tracks in “Nothing!” Don’t let “nothing” stop you!

In pictures and stories, Marci takes you on a tour of Larned using the Rural Culture Elements framework that the Kansas Sampler Foundation is teaching in rural communities all over Kansas.

As you read Marci’s blog post think about your own small town. Use the Kansas Sampler Foundation’s Rural Culture Elements to guide your own thinking.

You probably will have two reactions to Marci’s post if you live in a small town.

1. Cool! This looks like a fun place to explore!

Using using Rural Culture Elements, Marci was able to discover and showcase something in each of the 8 RCE categories. These discoveries will certainly determine what about Larned she will include in her new Kansas guidebook. It can and should be the basis for Larned’s own marketing.

2. Wow! Our town has something just as good or better in each of these 8 Rural Culture Elements categories!

I’m going to say it again for the billionth time:  Rural tourism is about authentic experiences, and every small town is packed with opportunities for authentic experiences.

If people want Disneyland, they’ll go to Disneyland! If they want authentic experience, which people in huge numbers do, they’ll come to you… if they know about you.

So, here’s your “to do list” for creating a rural tourism industry for your small town:

Identify your own Rural Culture Elements

Market them to the people who are going to appreciate them. Remember, they’re probably fairly close by unless you’re a popular rural recreation destination.

Use internet marketing to reach your identified customers. It may not be easy, but it’s simple and doable.

Enjoy several past posts on doings with the Kansas Sampler Foundation and their work in Kansas:

What Rural Areas Everywhere Can Learn From Kansas

 Explorer Tourism is Tops in Rural Kansas

1 Loretta Zortman September 1, 2012 at 11:52 am

Alrighty-then! …I will tackle this activity for Mountain Home, Arkansas — and more specifically, Norfork Lake! Thanks for the help–and hope! Creative brainstorming for thinking outside-of-the-box is soooo appreciated, and your supportive blog posts really hit home. Thanks again! 🙂

2 Kathy Wallace September 1, 2012 at 6:43 am

JoAnne, this is great! I want to go to Larned, KS. And she does this for each town? Wow! Our new website from Bryce is a really good start for Dunsmuir – where did he get all those pictures?? And we can add to – but Karen’s layout for the 8 elements is good. Thanks for bring her to us, great job JoAnne, as always!

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