Leverage Your Tourism Assets

Our research process to uncover the strategic brand essence for each destination includes a significant amount of time talking to stakeholders and residents in order to understand their perceptions of the place they call home. One of our first questions is the simplest, “What are your main tourism assets?” and just as interesting as what people say, is what they don’t say.

To illustrate this point, we need to go to Peru. Cocachimba, Peru is a small village of about 200 situated in the verdant and dreamlike forest landscape of the Andes in the Amazon. The village has been around since the 1950s, but it’s about 20 miles from a centuries-old city of about 25,000 people. And for years Cocachimba has been sitting on a whopper of a tourism marketing asset – the third-tallest waterfall in the world, which the locals refer to as Gocta. Although the village is a bit secluded, villagers did frequently interact with outside communities. Outsiders knew about the village, but not the waterfall. A local explained, “We could see Gocta from town – it was always there…but the population just wasn’t interested.”

It just never occurred to the villagers that their amazing waterfall was all that special. As the quote goes, “Even the biggest diamond ring eventually becomes invisible to the person wearing it.” That’s why it’s imperative to understand directly from the community what makes them special and unique. We’ve been able to use this approach to help several communities:

“We have an Irish name, but we don’t have a lot of real Irish connections.” – Dublin, OH, which now successfully leverages its connection to Ireland.

“Norwegian heritage of fishing and culture is very important. It helps provide identity as a community, and its positive aspects model ways to grapple with the future. But we’re not sure if it’s our unique story.” – Petersburg, AK, which now uses its unique Norwegian heritage as a competitive advantage.

“The Black Canyon is probably unique. I guess we could promote that more.” – Montrose, CO, which now connects prominently to the amazing national park.

Residents sometimes forget or even take for granted the features that make their home such a special destination. This makes it hard to see their potential as a portion of a larger brand strategy, so don’t take it for granted.