Going Out? Stay Home! (Home in Your Community, that is): 3 Tips to Promote Local Tourism

Every time we shop somewhere away from home we are inadvertently taking away the economic growth we could be keeping in our own community. The dollars we spend go not only to the business owners is this other town, but also pay the payroll of the employees that do not live in your town. Then, you fill our gas tank before you come home, which has environmental disadvantages on top of the economic flaws.

It’s so important for a community to come together to help the area reach its full potential. A strong community is formed not only by promoting the beauty to its residents (who may take it for granted already), but also attract others who have never found reason to visit before. We need to encourage new businesses to come in, and stay. By improving the the success of local businesses we will improve the community strength and pride. A community with strong businesses paired happy and active residents will then push out community-leeches, like violence, drugs, and other unfavorable people. Which in turn only further improves the community. But we have to start, now.

So how can we promote tourism within our own community? It’s easy as ABC

Acknowledgment & Applause (celebrate everything)

Special events can be promoted in two ways: by bringing in annual special events, and by making every day special. Both will bring in outside guests, and keep local residents in town for the time being. When people are in the area, they are spending money. Hello, economic boost. Stay home with us, please.

  • A successful annual special event will utilize local businesses, bring in a crowd, keep people excited, and have people talking long after the event. By collaborating local businesses (see Step 3- Business Collaboration), everyone who participates will benefit. A crowd will increase the economic stimulus. And when people are talking, it not only means it was a success but guarantees there will be another event the following year. Whether it is a festival with food and music, a theater production, a block party, or a restaurant crawl, blow it up out of proportion. Make sure local residents don’t want to miss it. Make sure local businesses want to be involved, and if they aren’t they are sure to be open during the event for patrons who may wander in.
  • If there isn’t an event (yet), make every day special! Come up with something to promote at your local restaurant or coffee shop. What’s the soup of the day at the Top 10 local restaurants each day? Send out a weekly email blast with the week’s events, no matter how small. Do the work so the residents don’t have to. Furthermore, begin promoting a 16–18 hour downtown, and encourage businesses to remain open as destinations and activities for locals to stay in town, and draw in outsiders. What’s worse than going out to dinner, only to have the bar close at 10pm? Probably waking up at 7 and having to wait an hour before the store opens to buy coffee, and not even being able to stop at a shop before work. By increasing the time businesses are open we encourage locals to stay in town for their leisure and shopping.

2. Beautification (Be proud):

It seems simple enough, but it is more than just making your community beautiful. (Although I strongly suggest you take initiatives to do that as well. If you make your home pretty, and the neighbors follow suit, soon enough by domino effect the whole town will be beautiful). Beautification can be done with community cleanup incentives, improving safety and security, and adding decoration.

  • A community cleanup incentive can be something as simple as implementing a recycling or composting program. Frequently, community members would recycle if given the option. Organic waste, such as leaves and logs, would be cleared from yards if community members had the opportunity to have it picked up. Another great community cleanup idea is also a way to improve pride, community service, and potentially a modest income for otherwise homeless or unemployed. Similar to the mandatory service programs received as legal punishment, develop a program with short shifts to clean streets and public areas of litter and debris. This can be continued year round, as snow removal becomes necessary. Finally, form a Community Wide Cleanup Day (See #2 Special Events) to encourage groups, such as Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts, church youth groups, college clubs, etc to get involved. Dictate which groups clean which sections of town, provide trash bags for team members, and have a crew pick-up bags in the road shoulders when full. Finish the day with a pizza party in the park, or an ice cream social at the VFW.
  • The lack of safety and security in an area is a sure way to guarantee people are not engaging in nightlife, or possibly even walking the streets during the day. It is important to have proper lighting on all public streets, sidewalks, and parks. There should also be proper signage, to ease in communication for both pedestrians and motorists, and cross walks added to busy intersections. Street and sidewalk maintenance is very important, both aesthetically and for safety. This means snow removal in winter, and concrete repair in summer. Finally, public benches and awnings over bus stops will be useful for residents who walk from place to place, or use public transportation. It is also a pretty touch to the area.
  • The last way to improve the beautification attempts in a community is decoration. Simple enough, adding holiday lights or flags and banners, floral displays and landscaping, and even public art will help improve the overall aesthetics of the community and provide a more welcoming area for both residents and visitors.

3. Collaboration (Come together)

The goal of living local, first and foremost, is community pride, but the economic growth is a very close second. Some might argue that is actually the top goal. Economic growth is achieved through business development, networking, and collaborations.

  • Think about your community. Does it have 3 pizzarias but not a single Irish pub? Is the nearest yoga studio an hour away, with clients who drive that hour? What is your town missing? Think about which businesses your community members really need. Whether it is a new hotel, because the single hotel on Main Street sells out during each football game, or a bike path, because of a few incidents with bicyclists in the road- find what your town needs and reach out to those who can bring it. Don’t give community members a reason to go somewhere else.
  • One of the biggest disconnects with college towns is between the local residents and the college kids. Locals thinks college kids are rich kids who come to town for 10 months of the year, bring crime, and don’t care about the overall community as a whole. College kids are advised to stay out of the community because they have their own crime, and receive incentives by the Student Activities to stay on campus. But bringing these two parties is extremely beneficial for the economy. Even providing a 10% discount at 15–20 restaurants, shops, and salons in town will encourage students to leave campus and dine out, shop out, and perhaps not wait to go home for that snazzy new haircut. Students are able to benefit from these discounts, and perhaps consider themselves residents of the community as well, resulting in increased respect towards the public areas and bridging the gap between the two groups.
  • How often do you ask someone for the best place in town for [insert activity]? By networking, we are able to ensure loyal patrons of one establishment transfer their loyalty to other local businesses. Reach out to businesses and set up incentives. Perhaps the yoga shop will give out coupons to yogis for a BOGO natural juice at the vegan store. Or perhaps the brewery will offer a pairing at the restaurant for a weekly entry. Even if it is nothing more than a print shop aggreeing to display some locally made, organic candles in their shop (in exchange for some handprinted cards displayed in the candle shop), networking and business collaboration is everything. The next step is an event (See Step #2). Why not offer beer (from the brewery), music (from the local band), and a candle making class (from the candle shop), at a local venue. Charge one admission rate, split the profits. Bam. Business collaboration!

But of course, we can’t forget marketing!

The best way to draw attention to events, special deals and promotions, ribbon cuttings at new businesses, and positive experiences is by telling the community directly. Since we don’t have a personal relationship with every resident, this is done through marketing.

Social media is the quickest, most effective way to reach individuals of all ages, however it can’t hurt to use traditional approaches as well. A weekly or monthly newsletter, press releases to the local newspaper, an invitation for the local news crew to come shoot a story- all great ideas.

Hashtags like #SchenectadyDoesntSuck #EnjoyTroy and #KeepAlbanyBoring are all popular in the New York capital region, and are used by businesses and individuals to promote events and activities. Don’t run from the hashtag, or marketing attempts- embrace it! This is your town. You love it, now tell the world. If your community doesn’t have a slogan or common phase, come up with one and use it frequently. “I Love New York”, “Live Free or Die” and “The Sunshine State” are all marketing tools developed to promote a state, and as a community we must do the same.

The bottom line: make the community someplace you’d want to be, and soon others will want to be there too. We don’t want to outsource our jobs overseas, so why outsource our tourism to the next town over?

Are you a tourist in your own community? Are you taking steps to keep locals, local? What have you done to live local?