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DMO Leaders Speak Out on Leveraging Outdoor Recreation to Drive Tourism

2016_05_20160406_MoabUT_CanyonlandsNationalPark.jpg
Backpacking "The Maze" in Utah's Canyonlands National Park Zach Dischner

This article is part of RootsRated's new "Adventures in Marketing" beat, covering the business of content marketing for the travel and tourism industry. We hope you enjoy it, and if you'd like to know more about how RootsRated helps companies connect with passionate outdoor enthusiasts, request a demo here.

Following are six successful content strategies employed by top destination marketing organizations looking to lure visitors with outdoor pursuits.

Sometimes to Promote Mother Nature, You Need to Show How Accessible She Is

Garrett

Mother Nature played favorites with Utah. “In some ways it’s easy to leverage outdoor recreation in Utah because it is so incredibly exceptional,” says Tom Adams, director of the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation. “You can do great things in snow or sand.” But, believe it or not, that’s not necessarily Utah’s secret sauce. “The one thing that really sets us apart is that you can fly in and be at a world-class ski resort in time to get in a half-day of skiing. You can do three totally different activities today and all of them will be a short distance from where you’re staying,” Adams says.

He’s right; several mountain resorts are within a 30-minute drive of the Salt Lake City Airport, and that’s just one example. Utah’s marketing strategy promotes the convenience and easy access to natural attractions and mountain resorts as much as the outdoor pursuits themselves, and that’s key to attracting visitors.

Turn Dreamers Into Doers

Thomas Shahan

Smart DMOs know when to be aspirational and when to be inspirational. “While a majority of folks won’t or can’t scale Mt. Hood, we all admire folks who do,” says Linea Gagliano, director of global communications for Travel Oregon. But it’s just as important to inspire consumers with information about what they can do, then prompt them to give it a try.

“It can spark us to tackle less intimidating activities, such as other hikes in Oregon or a specific trail with views of Mt. Hood,” she says. The idea is to turn dreamers into doers. If you want to spark motivation among a wider variety of outdoor enthusiasts, make sure you take them from one stage to the next.

National Parks Have Clout

Fred Wolfe

In 2015 the National Park System set new visitation records , paving the way for a massive centennial celebration in 2016. This year about a third of Americans say they will enjoy one of America’s national parks, according to the most recent State of the American Traveler report. All of this activity has prompted several destinations to step up promotions of their best outdoor recreation pursuits.

West Virginia, for example, launched a campaign to promote the state’s most under-appreciated parks. Marketed under the banner National Parks of Southern West Virginia, the campaign’s focus is on under-the-radar parks and recreation areas. Christy Bailey, chair of Visit Southern West Virginia, has said it would be the largest marketing campaign the organization has ever undertaken.

For the several dozen states and territories that are home to a national park, an event like this presents incredible marketing opportunities. But for the rest of the country, there’s no need to wait for the next centennial to take note of the clout that designated parklands have among travelers.

Tell The Same Story Different Ways

Sunset cruising near Manhattan Beach, California.
Sunset cruising near Manhattan Beach, California. Pierce Martin

If your destination’s reputation relies heavily on one theme, flexible, dynamic content can help you reinvent it. Case in point: Visit California. Long known as the home of some of North America’s best vineyards, the DMO does an excellent job marketing its wine regions as dream destinations for bicycling and hiking, too. California is also skilled at promoting its surf culture as much as the sport itself, drawing families with kids to explore the state’s outdoor lifestyle. Whatever your destination is known for, it’s important to constantly look for ways to shake up the same old story.

Leverage the Indoors and Out

Kristin Roper

Even indoor attractions can be leveraged to promote outdoor recreation. Utah’s Natural History Museum–considered one of the best in the country–is home to more than a million specimens and objects aimed at connecting locals and travelers to the state’s natural landscapes. From the Mississippi River Museum in Memphis to Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains , Tennessee also has no shortage of indoor attractions that celebrate its outdoor pursuits and natural heritage.

In destinations like these, outdoor recreation plays a significant role in the local culture, and museums and historic sites do a great job of highlighting that. For those who love history and the outdoors but perhaps aren’t interested in active pursuits, these indoor attractions feed that curiosity, offering DMOs content marketing opportunities.

Highlight Drive-By Adventures

Pete Hartl

Road trips have long been considered a quintessential American pastime, but they’re also a gateway to adventure. From Montana’s Going-to-the-Sun Road to North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway, smart DMOs use scenic drives to leverage outdoor recreation.

“In Tennessee, we lump outdoor adventure and scenic beauty,” says Cindy Dupree of Tennessee’s Department of Tourist Development. “I had a writer tell me she loved the Rockies, but the Smokies are warm and welcoming. It’s all trees and streams.” By luring in travelers with the notion of a scenic drive filled with abundant natural beauty, marketers can make outdoor recreation appear even more accessible.

RootsRated helps companies connect with passionate active travelers and outdoor enthusiasts through exclusive and syndicated storytelling; request a demo here.

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