Project Name:  Heritage Destination Development – Stratford 

Background

Stratford has completed two years of its destination development project.  The first year was co-facilitated by Destination Think! and RTO4 to create a tourism strategy road map with the goal of getting stakeholders invested in telling one destination story, and delivering more remarkable, memorable, shareable visitor experiences that lead to positive word-of-mouth advocacy and increased tourism revenue.  Findings from the process identified two major themes to focus on: strengthening Stratford’s unique position as a ‘Cultural Resort Town’ and servicing the next generation through the digital sophistication of operators and other tourism organizations.

The second year focused on strengthening the destination network and implementing the two themes and road map agreed upon in the first year.  Highlights from the year include the creation of the Stratford Destination Animation Fund resulting in ten net new visitor experiences, and the creation and social media distribution of a culinary video series.

Additionally, in 2016, the Google 360 virtual tour pilot project was led by RTO4, in partnership with the Stratford Tourism Alliance (STA) and several tourism industry partners, to add 14 key locations to Google’s popular 360 virtual tour program. At the onset of the 2016 pilot project, there were 5 virtual tours available in Stratford, and by the end, there were over 30 virtual tours. The 2nd phase of this project aims to add an additional 30 virtual 360 tours of key cultural attractions, restaurants and accommodations, providing Stratford with the potential of having the highest density of Google 360 tours per capita in North America.  As visitors increasingly use digital tools to research, engage and share – not only before a trip, but also during and after – virtual tours via Google search and Google Maps were identified as an important opportunity for destinations to uniquely showcase their key assets.

Year three of the project is focused on continuing the implementation of the two major themes in collaborative projects with the destination network.  The tactics described below are being implemented to bring Stratford closer to its vision as a stronger tourism destination with increased collaboration, visitor satisfaction and length of stay.

2017/2018 Objectives

OBJECTIVE #1 – Facilitate and cooperate on destination development projects to improve the visitor experience.

OBJECTIVE #2 – Leverage the high traffic platforms of Google search and Google Maps to virtually showcase and market criteria-based visitor locations and experiences that align with Stratford’s DNA as a ‘Cultural Resort Town’.

OBJECTIVE #3 – Increase the digital skillset and capacity of key/select tourism operators and organizations by continually measuring progress of digital sophistication efforts to provide data driven tools and tactics.

OBJECTIVE #4 – Increase research-based tourism decision-making capacity.

Key Activities

  • Partner with Stratford City Centre BIA, and Stratford Tourism Alliance on the launch of Year 2 of the Stratford Destination Animation Fund.
  • Determine, procure and promote 30 new Google 360 virtual tours.
  • In partnership with the University of Waterloo, collect and input data on all visitor-facing web and social media assets.
  • Finalize the research methodology and collect data for a study on the economic impact of tourism.

For more details on this project, please visit the 2017 RTO4 Business Plan, pages 13-17 (PDF 1.4MB).