The age old question of how to bring new people to your community is always changing in approach. Our recommendations in this blog are based on an overall community approach. If your local businesses can come together to tackle tourism, your community can see tremendous results within 6 months to a year of implementation. Read on to get started!
Optimize Your Listings
Each business should have a Google Business listing that has correct and fully informed business information. If you’d like to know how to start this process, check out this great step by step process Google already has in place. What’s another great place tourists check out before pinpointing their whole trip? Yelp and Tripadvisor! Click their links to see how you can utilize and claim these business listings.
Think it might be too difficult for business owners to do on their own? Have a community workshop! This is a great opportunity for your local tourism bureau or chamber of commerce to offer a workshop or video recorded sessions on how to claim a listing, edit the hours of business, encourage reviews, utilize photos, etc.
Reviews Go A Long Way
You know that your local businesses are great. Now it’s time to start commending one another digitally so that people outside your community can readily see how great you are too. Encourage community participation of other businesses to review one another. What helps the community helps everyone.
Visuals Sell Your Town to Tourists
Think with Google found, “Among travelers who watched travel-related videos, 64% watched when thinking about taking a trip. And 37% watched when deciding which web site to book on.” With 77% of the American population owning a smartphone, there is no excuse for your local businesses to not have videos or images online.
People are looking for travel opportunities that are experiential and unforgettable. They want to taste new foods and try new activities. Today’s tourists are looking to be inspired. You can prime them for interest through the visuals that you use to represent your community. One image can inspire someone to do quite a bit more research before booking a trip.
Have videos of various activities, farmer’s markets, the terrain, the downtown area, food, and show images of experiences that tourists can be a part of while visiting. Think outside the box to invoke their sense curiosity and adventure. This sounds a lot harder than it actually is, it can be as simple as taking a nice picture of your food at a local restaurant while visiting.
Tip! These images can be used/tagged in online business listing information. So, even if you aren’t the business owner, you can still tag the location of an image and add it to the appropriate listing for others to see when researching information about the area!
Hours of Operation Can Impact Interest
We have seen it time and time again within a community. Many mom and pop shops hold a 9-5 mentality with no operating hours on the weekends. Some of the cutest gems in the town are missed opportunities for tourists due to their “closed” sign.
Experiment to see what works. What would asking your community businesses to consider changing their hours around a bit do to the overall health of the tourist traffic? Maybe it’s having a Thursday 10-6 schedule or closing up on Monday to be open Saturday. This can be dramatically important for those towns that are drivable distance for day trips or weekend explorers.
Experience Insight: These hours of operation also actually impact the pull of millennial interest in settling down within a community. If there isn’t anything to do when they get off work, they’re not too interested in sticking around for long.
Before reading this section: If you don’t have a community calendar, you should take time to give this some serious thought!
Even if it’s a once a month event, let people outside the community know they are welcome by adding it to the calendar! Adding these types of events to the community calendar is so helpful to providing insight into the local culture to an outsider, and creates curiosity to explore how the locals live.
Author note: I once was convinced to go fly to Scotland instead of Whales because I saw a small town had a community swing dancing event on their city calendar (dancing with a man in a kilt is now off my bucket list).
Coordinate. There’s nothing more of a drag than having low turnout at two events on the same night, when you could have a full house at both events if they were planned on a coordinating schedule. Your local chamber or tourism bureau can help find the optimal times to coordinate these events. If they still have to be on the same night, make them at different times! Nothing like hopping from one party to the next or even to an afterparty to make the evening exciting!
Encourage outside participation. One of the best events to get tourists involved we’ve heard of recently is a rural town ice cream parlor. Their sign said, “City local scoops free when accompanied by two tourists (must have valid driver’s license with address from minimum of 75 miles away)”. Younger locals were so excited to help tourists, they were walking them (and their parents) down the street and into the ice cream shop.
Encourage the Arts
The arts generate high revenue for tourism and in turn, have an impact on economic development. Even if you run the local hair salon, everyone can participate in art events! (Even if it’s just hanging art in your front windows.) Have an art walk with stops at shops along the way.
The arts enrich your local community and attract more tourists! Does your community have an open lot in the middle of main street? Revitalize it with sculptures and benches where people can sit to enjoy the town during their leisurely stroll.
As Western City put it, “The key is to treat the arts as an essential part of the city’s identity. Successful creative placemaking builds the economy at the local level, enhances surrounding non-arts businesses and provides job opportunities and ways for individuals to participate in activities associated with the arts and cultural events.” When your community values the arts collectively, tourism naturally grows. If you don’t have a group that already advocates for the Arts, consider founding a Arts & Culture Commission to coordinate events and special art projects. Check out more tips on how to get that started by Kathy Dodge!
Utilize Hyper-Local Keywords for Your Community
Hyperlocal terms do not have a lot of data on the volume of searches because they are so specific to your community. You can utilize them though to see what search engines are suggesting for your location already.
Here’s an Experiment: Type in your town name into Google and see what naturally pops up in the Google suggestion drop down. Are there keywords that you want your town to be known for? If so, start making sure that people are using these keywords in their business descriptions or on their websites. You can also utilize the suggested results of towns or regions nearby that you would like to compete with for keywords.
Try searching “Location Name” with other words such as “day” (as in day trip) to see what results surface as suggestions. You can also try this in Google Maps, Bing, Youtube, and Facebook. See what is auto suggesting for regions close to you to see what keywords your community can capitalize on to be brought up in search results higher.
An example of this would be the following auto suggest keyword results for a location we searched: weather, newspaper, community college, high school, hotels, quick facts, mayor, raceway, trivia and lore. These are some pretty decent results.
From this list, you should pick the keywords that your local community businesses can utilize. Maybe it’s a hotel that adds the sentence: “2 minutes from the Raceway” or the restaurant that adds “conveniently located near the (Insert Town Name) Marriott.”
Cross promoting your local business keywords can help everyone’s searchable traffic for tourists researching your community!
Tip! A mobile search will have different autosuggest results than a laptop. So do tests on both to see what keywords could help your search optimization for your community.
Think Mobile First
All of your efforts, regardless of your local economy, should be done with a mobile mentality. Can your business be found when someone searches for it on a mobile device?
The results that show up for mobile are vital for getting those tourists in the door, especially when they are already in your community. Once their road trip has commenced, there are no more desktop searches. Mobile is their one and only option for the road!
But this doesn’t just impact the on-the-go traveler. Mobile is starting to be the place where people are planning their trip. “In the past year, mobile’s share of travel visits has grown by 48%” With our world changing so rapidly, it’s important to remind local businesses to keep their website in good working order for mobile devices.
Final Thought: The Myth of Attracting Tourists
Many communities get nervous when it comes to trying out new things for attracting tourists because they think it will cost a lot of money. This isn’t always the case!
When you work as a community to create a strong online presence, your location as a whole will be all the stronger for it. One small business alone cannot convince search engines that your location is worth ranking for broader travel searches.
Could you imagine what would happen if every single business in your town had their business location mapped on Google and their business listing claimed? If you ever get to that point, let us know. We’d love to see how astronomically your community grows from tourism traffic, and maybe even develop a case study with you!
When you, as a community, make tourism efforts a priority and utilize your digital presence to inform searchers. Money spent won’t be the deciding factor for tourists choosing to visit your community.
Looking for more personalized tips on how you can attract tourist to your community? Connect with Art Unlimited for a free consultation today. We love helping communities grow, and would love to learn more about your dream to make your location a destination!