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Against the Tide

Against the Tide - Calm Before the Storm

Dave Bahlman
Feb 28, 2022 3:39:27 PM

“Nobody on the road
Nobody on the beach
I feel it in the air
The summer's out of reach
Empty lake, empty streets
The sun goes down alone”
–Don Henley

Winter time in a seaside destination is special. The ‘Boys of Summer’ are gone, it’s quiet…only the essentials are open and it’s a chance to live like a local. You’ll find the tourist shops closed for the season, allowing time to find authentic mom and pop restaurants, local artists and plenty of untouched natural beauty. This also allows time for reading, reflection, and naps.

Reflection-for-action is thinking about future actions with the intention of improving or changing a practice. It allows one to plan, anticipate and execute their strategies. More importantly, it creates a space for self awareness and consciousness about a practice. It enables you to better understand and identify areas of improvement and areas of strength.  

I would like to share with you several stories from destinations that have learned from the winter insights within the operating system, they studied Why, When and How visitors moved around and spent money in their communities, and then after some reflection from these valuable data-led insights they have begun their journey of reflection-for-action.

Visit Austin

In October of 2021, visitation was back to pre-pandemic numbers. Austin was packed four weekends in a row with Formula 1, University of Texas Football games, Austin City Limits Music Festival and the Film Festival. What do you learn from being that busy? How can insights improve the experience in the future?

Looking at the data Visit Austin learned two key things: 1) The travel and spend patterns varied by event; and 2) Visitors used VisitAustin.com during October more for navigation than inspiration. This information allows the DMO to be more proactive with visitors, residents and fellow industry professionals in the community during the next event. They can change the content on their site to help with planning, parking and accommodations, as well as notify local businesses about when they can expect a surge and which may have an opportunity for market share. Perfect timing because April looks to be Austin’s busiest ever. A storm is brewing. 

Visit Savannah

The St. Patrick’s Day party in Savannah is one of the biggest in the world... but is that a good thing? After the short winter, Savannah comes alive in March with the city bustling with visitors the weekends before and after St. Patrick's day. The Irish holiday brings a totally different crowd to the city and the DMO wants to look at the geolocation and spend data for the month of March to learn: 

  1. Where do people shop and spend during the holiday vs. the surrounding weekends?
  2. Where do people stay in the city?
  3. Do the residents join in the festivities or stay home?
  4. What merchants benefit from the crowd, which ones close for the day, and what could be potential lost revenue?

This is a perfect example of reflection to action. Question everything, even your busiest day of the year, because if our job is to be the best stewards of our destination we need to learn the benefits for everyone. 

Explore Asheville

How do you change resident perception?  As a premiere travel destination and a hub for Western North Carolina, Asheville, and particularly its downtown, is a focal point for visitors and regional day trippers. 

Explore Asheville is analyzing movement and spend data to understand patterns and provide valuable insights as part of its County comprehensive planning process.  The data will also inform solutions that ease congestion, expand spending throughout the community and help with strategies to generate longer stays.

Analysis showed that regional visitors from nearby counties are a significant part of the day-trip mix.  Residents don’t often realize the extent that regional neighbors depend on the Asheville area for everyday activities including medical appointments, increased shopping options and other day-trip errands. This information is eye-opening for key leaders and crucial to the broader planning process.

 Explore Asheville is also using the learnings as part of its efforts to:

  1. Expand content around lesser-known areas of the County to encourage more movement and longer stays.
  2. Incorporating off-the-beaten path activities, immersive experiences and partner stories to showcase all that Asheville has to offer.
  3. Increase paid media in fly markets, leveraging the expected 50% increase in passenger traffic in 2022. 

When you’re able to prove the effect and value of a longer-stay visitor from a day tripper you can, not only change perception, you gain advocacy. I love the efforts of the DMO and I look forward to following the positive results in the community.

When the calm ends and you can sense the storm in the air, it’s a special feeling of anticipation of what could happen next. The sun may go down alone in the winter but it rises brightly in the spring to reveal the approaching growth. These destinations are not controlling the storm, but they’re not lost in it...they are the storm. 

dead head on a cadillac

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