One trend we have been tracking is the movement of the workforce away from big cities to less dense communities. With the rise of remote working as a result of the pandemic, we are now seeing people with more freedom to choose where they live, work and play. Studies have proven that people are more likely to move to a place they have visited. Communities looking to attract new residents or improve talent attraction for their local businesses could steal a few strategies from the tourism marketing playbook.
It’s all about the experience. Tourism marketers have known that visitors are looking for experiences that they can’t have anywhere else. They want to know what the options are, how to best enjoy them and when they are available. The same goes for people looking to relocate. They are evaluating a potential new community based on what it has to offer and how closely those experiences align with their personal interests. In order to draw in new residents, you should take inventory of the assets that your community has. Next, you should package those offerings in a compelling way.
It didn’t take a pandemic for Southern Idaho to realize the importance of aligning tourism assets as economic development and talent attraction assets. Hear how this community built collaborations to support talent and business attraction in partnership with the tourism office by listening to Episode 117 of Destination on the Left.
Destination Brand and Storytelling
Understanding your community’s brand and telling an authentic story about your destination are important strategies. These strategies can help draw tourists to even the smallest destinations. The same brand and story that works for visitors will resonate with potential residents as well. People want to live somewhere with a strong sense of community. They want a place where they feel they belong, and somewhere they would be proud to call home. A consistent brand, including the tone and voice of that brand, can convey these feelings of connection.
Discover Cleveland saw this connection a few years ago when they launched a pilot campaign designed to encourage expatriates to return to Cleveland for a better lifestyle. In my podcast interview with David Gilbert, President and CEO of Greater Cleveland Sports Commission and Destination Cleveland, he shared the initiative his organization was launching. The initiative aims to harness the power of visitors to help generate economic development. David referred to the one million visitors that Cleveland sees each year as “first dates.” He noted they are the best opportunity for conversion into future students, business opportunities or residents. Hear the full interview in Episode 128 of Destination on the Left.
Local residents, business owners and frontline staff are the best salespeople for any community. These folks provide first-hand testimonials about what it’s like to live in your community. In fact, they often represent the fabric of that community. Tourism marketers know that visitors are looking to “live like the locals,” when experiencing a destination. There has been a trend for more authentic experiences and off-the-beaten-path attractions. These curiosities with a pull towards deeper exploration will serve a community well when trying to attract new residents, talent and future businesses. These are the elements that set a community apart when someone is looking for a new place to call home.
Judy McKinney Cherry, Executive Director of the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development, knows the importance of tourism to the fabric of her community. On episode 207 of Destination on the Left, she describes the industry as an important economic driver for every community. Additionally, she explains that building relationships with visitors can lead to deeper connections and growth opportunities.
Partnering with Economic Development Offices
The importance of tourism as an economic driver for communities became apparent in 2020 when most travel came to a halt. During these times, we noticed destination marketing organizations stepping up to the plate in new ways to support their communities. Many partnered with local economic development agencies to support local businesses through the challenging year. Others became the communications conduit for everything from where to get take-out to virtual experiences to re-opening guidelines and protocols. These organizations and new collaborations proved the power of what is possible when everyone works together. As our industry navigates the future, my hope is that the lessons learned and partnerships formed during the pandemic help build stronger communities for the future. This includes tapping into the power of tourism marketing for talent attraction.
One of my favorite examples of what is possible can be seen in the collaboration between the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection and the Ontario County Economic Development Office.