Strategies for growing the tourism economy…

Last year in December I wrote a brief blog post about the progress to date on growing the tourism economy in Huron, Perth, Waterloo and Wellington. In it I noted that the reservation system sales up to that point were over 2 million dollars (since January 2012). As of Sept 1/2014 that number has jumped to over 4 million dollars.

As you know if you are an operator/owner, DMO or a regular follower of our media, RTO4 uses the reservation system to measure the impact and effectiveness of changes it introduces into the “experiment” – the “experiment” being the injection of development funds by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport into the tourism business environment of Huron, Perth, Waterloo and Wellington.

So what’s changed?

Well… branding was never part of the RTO4 strategy – we chose to go with “Experiential-Demand Generator” based themes where the region was already competitively strong – Theatre, Heritage Towns, Soft Outdoor Adventure, Motorsports and Agri-Culinary – and we presented these offerings, tied to local accommodation and attractions, through high production value advertisements in mainstream television and print media. The end result? Very little effect on driving targeted consumers to the fulfilment sites and even less on sales conversion. Phase II, 2013, the approach was expanded to include generalized “brand-like” advertising under “BetterWeekending,” direct to operator advertising and destination partnership advertising all with moderately improved results.

In 2014, RTO4 shifted gears and focused on the areas that showed the most promise from the 2012/13 data. Working directly with operators/owners, DMO’s, festivals, events and attractions, we set out to bring resources and tools to the table to “enable engagement.” Social media strategies, website improvements, advertising strategies and the amplification of existing successes are all part of the mix and with this focus the improvements gained are realized at the owner operator level. They become part of the fabric of their operations (read as “sustainable”). This is a big step forward and a big step away from a reliance on traditional “big media” advertising but the proof is in the pudding. Enabling operators, identifying and improving the marketing/purchase path with an eye to the user experience, co-investing in advertising and seed funding things like the Regional Sport Tourism initiative are all contributing to measureable and sustainable growth.

To all operators and to all regional partners, I put the question to you: “What does work in growing the tourism economy?” Or to put it differently: “If you only had marketing funds for one initiative this year, what would it be?”

I am constantly surprised and impressed by the answer I get and it always represents a focused, insightful and strategic take on the operator’s business. I would love to hear what your most effective initiative is – email me at info@rto4.ca.

David Peacock, CEO

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