Notes from a speaker on rural tourism marketing

26 May

You may have heard about the RIPPLE Workshop sponsored by Rural Development Initiatives, on Saturday, May 22, at the Hood River Hotel. It got pretty good turnout, but if you were interested and unable to attend, I wanted to share some excellent notes compiled by Bruce Bolme of White Salmon. Bruce is a huge fan of local, sustainable economic development. His notes were from a talk by Joanne Steele, a rural tourism consultant from Dunsmuir, Calif. Here’s Bruce’s unedited notes. Thanks, Bruce.

Explorer Tourism, A rural tourism model

Joanne Steele, Rural Tourism Marketing Group

(Ed note: She used as an example of good work that done by the … )

Kansas Sampler Foundation:

Lists of local assets are often forgotten but they can be the core of a system

Preserve local culture; promote “explorer” visits; assess our local culture, look for cultural elements to share such as local events.

Who are “explorers”? They want authentic experience such as slow food restaurants; they look for secrets to discover; they want to talk to local people; they want to participate & be helpful – be of service; explorers go out on quests [check out statues, soda fountains, other local culture treasures]

We are the custodians of our culture; think sustainable for our culture.

Rural communities are the workers and beneficiaries; are a perfect match for explorers.

All explorers want is an invitation. We need to clean up before we invite them

May use EDBG money for paint on buildings – it changes attitudes

Use empty store windows as a walking art museum for local art

Assessments – don’t look for what is missing or broken; stop circling the wagons; look at what is happening around you and collaborate with others

Rural tours are museums of local culture

Comparison of Leavenworth, Wash., and Branson, Mo,. These are examples of towns putting on a cloak of something that isn’t really them, but becomes an identity that will attract tourists, as opposed to celebrating the authentic that is already there.

Use the internet to invite explorers. Use key words on your web site. Use the ripplenw web site.

Identify your rural cultural elements – there are 8 elements, your:

  • Architecture
  • Art
  • Commerce
  • Cuisine
  • Customs
  • Geography
  • History
  • People

Market how visiting those things will make them feel – their experience. MAKE PEOPLE FEEL BETTER ABOUT THEMSELVES FOR COMING

Your town is defined by your own unique mix of culture elements

(Having an … ) Historic downtown is NOT unique

Multiple towns working together help explorers discover their own adventures

Don’t split up the pie into more small pieces – grow the pie instead

Have soda fountain [or other local stores] discovery trails

Each store has a display of “links” to other similar stores in other towns

When an area uses a common system, it becomes a powerful brand

Maintain a common website – spend time on it. Also Facebook, Twitter, texting

Most explorers come less than 100 miles

Long tail marketing – people are looking for you. Google: long tail marketing

You don’t need to target a certain area or areas

Put up a wordpress website – thesis theme [$1K tops]

Train volunteers to maintain it

A static website is not enough; jump on Facebook, etc.

We are in the midst of a paradigm shift in marketing. Rural counties are late in coming

Old (marketing) – trip over ads in magazines

New (marketing) – on line social media 80% of travel & reservations are on line


You have to break in to explorer groups; have passport tours!

Make free on line service [hot spots] obvious to tourists

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