--Bandera Business Association-- New age of tourism
Any community trying to attract more visitors needs to be a little like Oz. They need to take visitors over the rainbow to a new place, providing them with activities significantly different from what they can find closer to home. They need to tell the world how they're truly unique and worth a special trip. That image, the vision that sets one community apart from all others, is its brand, and branding a community is critical to its success in creating an outstanding downtown destination and increasing tourism spending.
Attracting more visitors hasn't always required such emphasis on being unique. What's brought us to this situation is three- fold: a change in the international psyche, the state of the economy, and the plight of travel.
The International psyche has a lot to do with the internet. The Internet has changed everything, opening doors to new places and adventures we have never heard of before. We don't even need to know where we want to go to find a great vacation destination - all we need to do is search for the activity we want, and a wealth of opportunities in different locations is instantly available.
According to a recent USA Today/Gallup poll, 45% of all air travelers say they are less likely to fly this year because of rising fares. This brings us to the plight of travel.
For those planning to drive instead, fuel prices are going through the roof. Gas is expected to surpass $4 a gallon this summer, and, according to the Travel Industry Association, that will be the "breaking point" where people will start to cut back on travel. Ninety-six percent of leisure travel in North America is by private vehicle, and the fuel price explosion could hit most drive-to destinations hard.
While all this sounds like gloom and doom for the travel industry, the fact remains that people still want to travel. What has changed is how we decide where we're going. And this is where the importance of branding comes front and center.
With the Internet at our fingertips we search for the activity, but when we see the results and start looking at websites and the location, two powerful questions surface: 1. Could I do this closer to home? 2. If I can't do it closer to home, is this experience so great it will be worth the extra cost and the hassle?
Welcome to the era of the brand.
Simplified, branding is the art of differentiation, finding that one thing that sets you apart from everyone else. Our community's brand is the image or perception that people have of us, and the experiences they can expect when they visit. We are now in the "age of specialization."