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Let Tourists Know Where the Locals Go

By KathodeRay Media

Autumn is a great season for tourists in the Northeast, but more and more communities are positioning themselves as 4-season destinations, albeit one season may draw more strongly than another. The general mayhem of air travel (and all too frequent flight cancellations) has made driving a more attractive option for many. This also encourages people to seek out destinations a bit closer to home, and this drive-market ranges between 2 and 3 hours each way.

With all that in mind, rural communities seeking to attract visitors target major centers within that radius, touting all the great things to see and do just a couple of hours away. So, what do these visitors do when they get there?

Most people tend to gravitate towards brands they know things they're familiar with, especially if they're in a new place. They’ll choose McDonalds instead of a local burger joint or go to Starbucks versus the local coffee café. Sadly, if visitors don’t explore beyond national brands, they miss out on the amazing offerings available from one-of-a-kind shops and eateries. Letting visitors ‘in’ on not-so-recognizable local gems brings them into the fold, and keeps them coming back.

For proof that visitors will ‘choose local’ if they are made aware, look no further than the rise in popularity of craft beverages. Microbreweries, small distilleries, cideries, and wineries have become an automatic draw for new visitors seeking the unique. Communities can take a page out of the craft-bev playbook by marketing (as a whole) the variety of businesses along local Main Streets as places to browse, discover, taste and enjoy.

Greene County has run ‘buy- local’ and ‘tourism’ marketing side by side for over a decade now. They have two different agencies in charge of the campaigns. (KathodeRay is the local agency, handling the buy local campaign.)

Having these two efforts running side-by-side is brilliant.

  • The Buy Local Campaign highlights new and thriving businesses creating awareness so locals can find them.
  • The Tourism Campaign brings in people to our communities, based on their interests.
  • The Buy Local Campaign also targets visitors within that optimum drive radius, so once they arrive, they’re ‘in’ on where to find the local gems.

These two efforts together not only attract tourists from outside the area, but empower them with the places the locals know they can buy really cool things. This gives the local small business owners a chance to shine and do what they love.

The success of these programs is evidenced by the fact that this county of just under 49,000 full-time residents has steadily increased its sales tax revenue every year since 2010. Indeed, taxable sales in Greene County exceeded $ 1 billion for the first time in 2021.

Greene County has hit the Trifecta of Economic Development in a Tourism-driven Market:

  1. More and more visitors are coming to the area all 4 seasons of the year;
  2. Visitors and Locals buy more and more from truly unique local businesses, and
  3. Small Business Owners see increasing revenue each year, feeling more and more fortunate to be located in Greene County.

If your town or region has a tourism campaign, that's exactly what you should be doing. You may also want to consider layering on a buy-local campaign onto or side-by-side with your tourism campaign. Have both your locals and tourists discover what's really cool in your area and that will help sustain local businesses year-round.

Read the Full October 2022 Newsletter