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November 27, 2017


Dave Nolan

Hi Bill,

Good article. Just a small case of downside. In my Cleveland days a very powerful retail operator pushed for CVB dollars to go to locals only..ie Xmas Parades, local sports spends, etc, etc. The advocacy created many followers because of the "power play." The hidden message of course was a slap at our leisure marketing efforts to Great Lakes Cities. By the way the same effort that made Cleveland top destination in world to visit in 97' by Travel and Leisure Magazine. Anyway, I was too stupid to pay attention to power play and dismissed local effort which of course lead to dismissing my job....:(

Matt Stiker

Couldn't agree more, Bill! The flaw in the "locals" strategy is when a DMO starts thinking about them the same way they think about an audience who visits the city as a visitor. Fact is, locals must be thought of, targeted, and treated differently than visitors. Yes, they spend money at restaurants and in retail, they visit museums and galleries, but because they go home to their own bed at night, they are more likely to "drop in" than to "immerse themselves." It's like that old joke about the pig and chicken for breakfast - the chicken contributes, but the pig is committed. In that same way, the local contributes, but the visitor is committed. So what do with locals? Definitely don't ignore them - in an age of social media domination over "old school" media, they can be one of your destination's biggest champions and advocates. To your point, when DMOs think beyond their "Heads in Beds" strategy and think about product development, it's critical to remember how that product will impact (and benefit) the locals. Will a new museum be one that local school groups will be excited to visit? Will a new cruise terminal make it easier for locals to explore far and away? Will a new convention center bring more visitors in to spend their dollars at local restaurants and retail establishments? And of course, will any of these improvements be such that locals will want to brag about them to their friends and family, thereby spreading the word and encouraging others to visit? In short, while local dollars are critical to the success of many businesses that also rely on tourism, perhaps the greatest reason to engage and involve locals is so they'll amplify your message and make your marketing dollars both more efficient - and effective.

Bill Geist

Great points, you guys. Just as DMOs can't be solely dedicated to Room Night production, they can't let their focus on locals cloud their view. It is a delicate balancing act, to be sure.

Diann Bayes

I agree whole heartedly with you, Bill. In my experience, particularly through our social media efforts, sharing good news locally (university achievements, parades featuring local participants, and high school football wins) gets the citizens’ attention. They have paid more attention to our page. I have always believed if we get citizens involved, we create ambassadors who can also help us along with our heads-in-beds goals. As in most towns and cities, many of the residents have very little knowledge of what they have in their community and getting the tourism message out also educates so that the dreaded “there’s nothing to do here” gets toned down.

Bill Geist


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