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.

In 2018/2019, RTO4 partnered with Stratford City Centre, Stratford Tourism Alliance, investStratford and the Stratford Chamber of Commerce to pilot a broad range of digital improvement tactics including one-on-one coaching, workshops, presentations and experiments with nudge tactics.

A major focus for 2019/2020 is combining the DDA research with the learning from the Digital Excellence pilot projects to propel data-driven decision-making and increase the digital sophistication of operators in Stratford.

RTO4 continues to strengthen and refine Stratford’s destination network. Initiatives include leading the collaborative Stratford Destination Animation Strategic Co-investment Opportunity as well as the DDA and Destination Digital Excellence program. In addition, the RTO will be supporting a number of upcoming events and experiential programming planned in Stratford for the 2019-20 year.

2019/2020 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.

Key Activities

  • Investigate and implement collaborative projects with the destination network that animate the destination, improve destination hygiene or market the destination’s DNA through media and story content.
  • Implement Year 4 of the Stratford Destination Animation Strategic Co-investment Opportunity.
  • Create and distribute Year 3 of the Destination Digital Audit.
  • Collaborate with tourism partners to create digital training programs to achieve industry lift in digital sophistication.
  • Implement digital excellence program, working one-on-one on collaborative digital projects with key experience providers to optimize their digital operations.

For more details on this project, please visit the 2019/2020 RTO4 Business Plan, pages 20-23.