November 11, 2016

Destination marketing promotes region’s economic development

Together, we are better. Destination marketing and economic development go hand in hand in attracting talent and investment. Destination-marketing organizations and economic developers are in the business of competing in a global marketplace. Effective tourism marketing can place a community in front of C-suite decision-makers as well as individuals.

This is good news for businesses and residents located in communities and regions where collaboration takes place. The opportunity to maximize resources and minimize overlap certainly equals an increase in effectiveness for all involved.

I recently had an opportunity to travel with a group of economic-development professionals from Northern Colorado to Minnesota to learn from leaders located in Minneapolis and St. Paul. There were representatives from Fort Collins, Loveland, Estes Park, Larimer County and Weld County in attendance.

Taking time to think big is a good investment, and this group cleared their respective calendar for 2½ days to do just that. Collectively, they explored potential synergies, challenges and opportunities. There was good-natured ribbing at times over who offered the “best” of certain things or contributed financially for the betterment of their community or simply had bragging rights with a list of awards for doing things well. On the flip side, there were discussions regarding how to do things better, where we might have a blind eye or an inability to cross lines for the greater good.

Organizations such as Visit Fort Collins continually strive to offer opportunities to promote our overall destination at the highest level. This means telling the story or choreographing the destination experience for the good of the visitor. Visitors are not concerned with municipal borders or differentiation of counties. They simply want to come have a great experience. When that occurs, communities flourish and prosper. Handing the baton between organizations depending on the need of the visitor, site selector or investor increases the odds of success. 

The next level to consider is having a tourism master plan. This could include conversations of community members, tourism and economic-development leaders, city and county leadership with a willingness to explore where to go next.

For the last 18 months, Visit Fort Collins has engaged actively with internal conversations regarding tourism planning. We are studying communities that have done specific planning, such as Tourism Vancouver, Meet Minneapolis and Visit Indy. We also look at peers such as Visit Bend, Visit Boulder or Visit Columbia, Mo.

We must include those leading at the state level also. The Colorado Tourism Office has been on a yearlong quest to work with stakeholders to discern the best possible path forward for our big picture tourism efforts. There is clear correlation with economic development, as the CTO is under the umbrella of Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Visit Fort Collins supported an effort in October hosting one of the stops for the Colorado Tourism Offices Tourism Road Map. This initiative is focused on identifying future opportunities and challenges with the ultimate goal of creating a set of strategies and tactics for success moving forward.

Combining these efforts along with local and regional economic-development partners is more important than ever. Disruptions will continue to pop up in the marketplace. A few short years ago, we could not have known how Airbnb, Uber or even the use of social media would affect us. Currently, video and virtual reality are the hot topics to navigate and potentially integrate into destination marketing.

Both tourism marketing and economic development require forward thinking. It should also include stakeholder engagement and ultimately a unified voice to attract the best talent, investment opportunities and product development for our residents and visitors.

Innovative thinking, robust discussions and continued exploration will serve our city, county, region and state well.

Cynthia Eichler is executive director and CEO of Visit Fort Collins. She can be reached at cynthia@ftcollins.com.

Together, we are better. Destination marketing and economic development go hand in hand in attracting talent and investment. Destination-marketing organizations and economic developers are in the business of competing in a global marketplace. Effective tourism marketing can place a community in front of C-suite decision-makers as well as individuals.

This is good news for businesses and residents located in communities and regions where collaboration takes place. The opportunity to maximize resources and minimize overlap certainly equals an increase in effectiveness for all involved.

I recently had an opportunity to travel with a group…

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