BVK Travel Insights: Tourism x Locals

August 30, 2022  |  Matt Stiker

Travel & Tourism

Anyone who attended the Destinations International Annual Conference in Toronto or U.S. Travel’s ESTO in Grand Rapids over the summer heard a lot of parallel themes.

Beyond the industry’s continued (and long overdue) focus on the issues of EDI and sustainability, the shift from Destination Marketing to Management (and then potentially to Destination Stewardship/Leadership) took center stage at both shows, and chief among the topics was the dramatically evolving relationship between the destination, the DMO and the local community.

It’s clear to all that the pandemic shone a spotlight on the essential economic role tourism plays in many communities, and forced a reckoning among many residents who realized that the quality of life they enjoy in their hometown – from restaurants to attractions to retail stores – is more reliant on visitors than they gave credit for. The “interdependent economy” was made clear by Adam Burke from Discover Los Angeles, who hammered home the point that “What’s good for residents is good for tourists – but the converse is not always true.”

Some still argue that DMO’s aren’t (yet) going nearly far enough to incorporate locals into their strategic plans, and that they still rely heavily on the voices endemic to the industry vs. residents who also feel a sense of destination ownership. However, it was clear there are numerous ways to look at the issue as many DMOs are making great strides (or starting to) in inviting local voices to the table.

In this month’s BVK Travel Insights, we break it down and go deep into 5 areas where DMOs are solving for greater inclusion, whether via focusing on resident sentiment, supporting greater infrastructure investment, or figuring out how to leverage a local food culture that appeals to visitors while also growing and nurturing the nearby food economy.

The brief deck is packed with useful nuggets and relevant insights including:

27% of respondents actively familiarize themselves with the local cultural values and traditions of their destination in advance of their trips. However, 34% of respondents said they don’t know how or where to find activities or tours that ensure they are giving back to the local community.

West Virginia’s $2 Billion Roads to Prosperity program is improving the state’s transportation infrastructure and supports the Mountain Rides Program, a collaboration between the Department of Transportation and Department of Tourism to designate and promote the Mountain State’s most scenic country roads.

Discover Puerto Rico partnered with locals to release a “Live Boricua” campaign centered on the local way of living.

Dollywood theme park’s parent company, Herschend Enterprises, plans to cover 100% of tuition costs and books for its 11,000 employees through its “Grow U” initiative.

Eugene Cascades and Coast is featuring and promoting ‘100 Mile Restaurants’, a program supporting local farmers, vendors, and producers by primarily sourcing ingredients within 161 kms.

That’s just a smattering of the insights, which will hopefully prompt good discussion within your organization, and/or with your agency partners. As you can see, we think the impact of locals in destination branding and marketing has global implications. Which is why we’re having discussions like this constantly with clients of ours as diverse as the state of Wyoming, the cities of St. Pete & Clearwater, and the community of Aspen.

And if you’d like to have a no obligation conversation with us about any or all of the above, by all means feel free to shoot me an email at [email protected].

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is Senior VP, Travel at BVK

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