Project Name: Heritage Destination Development – Stratford

Year after year, the Stratford Festival presents highly acclaimed productions that attract appreciative art-loving crowds. There are many live theatre choices within a six-hour catchment area around Stratford so the Festival’s bread and butter is in fine productions, delivered consistently with excellence in every way.

While Stratford may not be Toronto, New York or Chicago (nor should it strive to be), its local charm and hospitality, culture, parks, restaurants and accommodations lend great cachet to its delivery as a distinctly attractive destination. Opportunities to advance the town lie in delivering a seamless cultural experience, whether it is online, at the Festival, downtown or at one of the many splendid restaurants, retailers or attractions.

Stratford’s vision includes designing the perfect balance between high art and an authentic cultural destination by developing and improving an ever-growing suite of activities that complement the Festival. It also includes taking full advantage of its “Smart City” aspirations to use every possible technological advantage to leverage and amplify its story to current and potential fans.

Background

Stratford has now completed three years of the RTO4 destination development process.

In year one of the destination development process, a large group of stakeholders worked through a facilitated process to identify and align around the DNA and their vision for the future. Two major themes were identified within this collaborative process: solidifying Stratford’s unique position as a “Cultural Resort Town,” and servicing the next generation through the digital sophistication of operators and other tourism organizations.

In the second and third year of the project, tactics extended to strengthen the Destination Network. Highlights from the year include:

  • The creation of the Stratford Destination Animation Strategic Co-Investment Opportunity which partnered with operators, and the Stratford City Centre Business Improvement Association (BIA) to help create new visitor experiences that aligned with Stratford’s DNA and were designed to be highly shareable and widely shared.
  • A Google 360 virtual tour project was also initiated, resulting in 44 virtual tours of key visitor attractions/locations, as well as a project focusing on the social media distribution of a destination culinary video series.
  • To benchmark the digital performance of individual operators and holistically measure and benchmark the digital performance of the overall destination, RTO4’s Destination Digital Audit analyzed 326 entities within Stratford.
  • A destination storytelling video with an emphasis on music in Stratford was also created this past year and distributed across the social media channels of local tourism partners.

A major focus for 2018/19 is using the audit research to propel data-driven decision-making, and scaling up our work of increasing the digital sophistication of operators in Stratford. The data is being used as the cornerstone of a digital excellence program in partnership with key tourism stakeholders such as the City of Stratford, Stratford Tourism Alliance, Stratford City Centre BIA, Stratford & District Chamber of Commerce and investStratford. Tactics will include one-on-one coaching, workshops, presentations and experiments with nudge tactics.

2018/2019 Objectives

OBJECTIVE #1– Facilitate and co-operate on destination development projects to improve the visitor experience and leverage the visitor as marketer.

OBJECTIVE #2– Increase the digital skill set and capacity of tourism operators and organizations.

OBJECTIVE #3– Increase research-based tourism decision-making capacity.

Key Activities

  • Implement Year 3 of the Stratford Destination Strategic Co-investment Opportunity
  • Implement Phase 3 of Google 360
  • Partner with investStratford, Stratford City Centre, Stratford Tourism Alliance and Stratford Chamber of Commerce to increase digital sophistication.
  • Visitor Satisfaction Data collection and Distribution
  • Economic Impact of Tourism report distribution

For more details on this project, please visit the 2018/2019 RTO4 Business Plan, pages 16-19.