Communities employ varied strategies and tactics to create positive change. These strategies are a starting point for communities seeking ways to collaborate and improve their tourism products and experiences.
- 1. Assess what’s working and what is not – This usually requires a consultant who can serve as an objective observer. Analysis of the visitor experience is best done by a planning professional who understands both the “front of the house experience” and “back of the house” logistics. He or she can help you see what you may overlook due to familiarity. Guest comments, Tripadvisor.com and other feedback are also helpful.
- 2. Plan together with community input – A Community Experience Plan with stakeholders from varied sectors brings common goals and objectives to the table. Creating a logic model can be very helpful because it provides measurable objectives that can be used by all in planning and evaluation of progress to get results.
- 3. Train together with consistent themes – Training front-line workers as guides and hosts will improve the visitor experience while encouraging community relationships. People from varied businesses and nonprofits learn together and can carry that relationship into future work. Through the training they will learn the themes and storylines developed through collaborative planning and understand how their role supports that effort.
- 4. Package together to create rich experiences – Great visitor experiences that engage people in the community may require collaboration among lodging, food, transportation and recreation providers. Special events can also help diverse organizations achieve objectives in common. The planning process will suggest these opportunities but then stakeholders have to continue to meet and agree to collaborate.
- 5. Promote together with consistent themes – Promotions, tours, exhibits, informational publications and websites should be delivering shared themes and storylines. A community brand or identity is stronger with a commitment to consistency that requires collaborative efforts.
- 6. Visit innovative communities and learn from them – Who do you admire as examples of great community experiences and brand identity? Travel together with a group of stakeholders to get a “cook’s tour” of those communities. Learn from them about how to make progress and adapt it to your situation.
- 7. Use social media to monitor and promote the community – TripAdvisor.com, Yelp.com, Facebook and other social media provide an opportunity to continually evaluate the public’s responses to your offers. They can also be used as a place to do surveys, hold conversations and collect information about customer views. These can also be ways to promote your experiences and encourage feedback.
- 8. Meet regularly in standing committees that leverage funds – Monthly meetings of strategic partners can leverage grant funds and encourage monitoring of social media and measurable outcomes and impacts. Meeting over breakfast once a month is a great way to get people involved without breaking into their workday when competition for time is fierce.
Not everyone in a community will choose to work collaboratively but those that will can work together to create great experiences for residents and tourists. Usually someone has to provide leadership and invite others to the table. Collaborative work is addictive when done well with all partners benefiting personally and organizationally.
– Tim Merriman