Rethinking Your Destination: Niche TourismOctober 8, 2020 | By: Janelle McKinsey
The pandemic has forced so many changes – even a few positive ones – on the tourism industry, in both mainstream and niche sectors. We’ve been forced to move and think and act and market in ways that we’ve never had to before, but guess what – it’s not over.
Moving forward, as we await the return to travel as we once knew it, there’s still time to think about your destination and the image you put forward.
Sure, California isn’t going to pivot away from wine tourism, and Floridians won’t stop marketing their sandy beaches. Just because you’re known for one thing, however, doesn’t mean you can’t put another face forward. As fewer travelers pile into cars and planes to crisscross the nation, American destinations will want to consider if there are niche audiences that they haven’t considered marketing to yet.
Once travelers do start hitting the road en masse again, they’ll be pickier than ever about where they go, so the more niche desires your destination can fulfill, the more likely you’ll capture a larger segment of these future travelers.
It might sound weird at first, but people travel for medical reasons all the time. Maybe your destination has a fantastic set of plastic surgeons, or your dentists are top notch, or some other specialist nearby might be a draw for people from your region. Lean into it! As people emerge from quarantine and look for elective surgery again, your destination may be an unsung location for wealthy travelers looking to get a certain procedure.
Tap into it, play it up, and don’t shy away from this niche sector that could provide more spending than your run of the mill travelers.
Outdoor spaces are one thing, but wildlife is another aspect that we don’t always focus on – but should. From destinations that have wildlife refuges, parks with exotic animals, or forests where birdwatching is popular, there are countless opportunities to market your destination as a wildlife hotspot. Whale watching, glass-bottom boats, and diving excursions are ways to animate your waterfronts where applicable. Inland, take stock of how people can engage with wildlife to see if you’ve missed an opportunity.
Such activities are especially useful to tired parents seeing to entertain their children. Don’t rule out hunting and fishing, either. People are migrating outdoors, and they’ll be looking for destinations that offer unique experiences.
More than just timely in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, cultural tourism is a way to showcase your destination’s natural assets – your people – without having to invent or create a single thing. If you have pockets of culture – longstanding ones or recent immigrants – don’t be afraid to celebrate them. There’s a line to walk between tokenism and celebration, of course, but a careful, reflected approach that involves members of the culture in question will lead to fruitful results for everyone.
Miami as its Historic Overtown district, rife with Black history and culture. San Francisco has its iconic Chinatown. Texas has no shortage of Mexican and South American influence showcased in its historical sights and, most notably, its food. Treated with respect and thoughtfulness, cultural tourism can be the remedy to so much ignorance that still plagues the U.S.
Take it one step further and evaluate how your destination could be presented as a destination that’s not just friendly to, but exciting for LGBTQ travelers. Take stock of your businesses and bars, restaurants and events – are there many owned or lead by LGBTQ locals? If so, get together, have a conversation, and get to know the community more to understand its needs and how it can help attract out of own visitors.
This particular segment of travelers appreciates supporting LGBTQ businesses, so the first step will be making it clear that your destination has any in the first place. If there are none, then it’s time to ask some deeper questions. LGBTQ travelers are notoriously big spenders, so there’s no reason to shy away from angling your destination toward them – and not just during Pride Month!
Do you have great running routes? Are there facilities for certain sports that don’t exist everywhere? Maybe the rock climbing nearby is stellar. Is the skiing top-notch in your mountains? Again, travelers want to be outside, not just to fight COVID but to get away from the ever-present walls that have plagued our 2020 existence. Sports are a great way to get out and experience something thrilling and unique, so embrace this niche.
Look at your facilities and offers and package your destination as a sporty escape, if possible. Water sports, winter sports, individual sports, team sports – cover all your bases (pun!) and make sure you’re not overlooking something unique that your destination can offer.
In the same vein, many destinations can position themselves as niche wellness retreats, yet fail to do so. You don’t need the world’s best thermal spas to market yourself as a place where people can get away and rejuvenate. In fact, thanks to COVID, it’s actually an advantage to be an under the radar destination in the wellness world, because people will be comforted by the lack of too many people frequenting your establishments.
Wellness can be spas and treatments, but also outdoor escapes, yoga retreats, or even serene escapes in an isolated lodge somewhere. Get creative! There’s no one image of wellness that you need to adhere to in order to make your destination a haven for those individuals who need to get away from the stress and doldrums of quarantine life.
Thinking about repositioning your destination? “Pivot” is the word of the year and we’re here to help. DCI has 60 years of marketing destinations through good times and bad, and we have ideas! Contact Janelle McKinsey at [email protected] for information about how DCI can bring your new ideas into action.