"Sense of place" and "local distinctiveness" are two phrases we increasingly hear in tourism marketing. What do they really mean? I first started using local distinctiveness in tourism marketing activities in the last century (!) but it seems for many these ideas are only just coming to the fore.
Major landmarks and famous sights can mark one place out against another but it’s not just big features that are important. Our impressions are formed through so many other aspects of an area’s character.
Local distinctiveness is what makes one place different from another. It’s the combination of aspects that makes each place special. It’s the essential details, large and small, natural and man-made, that combine to create a sense of place.
Normal for you - extraordinary for others
Features that you take for granted aren't necessarily obvious to everyone. They might be special and extraordinary for some visitors.
Visitors are certainly changing. There’s growing interest in all things ‘local’. Visitors want to understand more, to experience places in different ways and to meet “real” people. They are ready to buy locally made products. They want to do as well as see.
Visitors are increasingly interested in anything that helps them understand and appreciate the essential character of a place. Today’s visitors are looking for ‘something different’ from their normal life. They look for places with ambience, atmosphere and soul. They welcome in-depth experiences, opportunities to participate and chances to meet local people.
Offering a different type of information
Traditionally we’ve offered visitors lists and directories containing lots of information. The focus has been on covering everything, being neutral and leaving visitors to make their own decisions. This no longer works. Visitors increasingly use social media and websites like TripAdvisor for second and third opinions.
Visitors want insider tips and specific ideas for things to do. They've started to shy away from "official" in favour of more in-depth, personal recommendations.
Think about the information you offer your visitors, both when they’re with you and before they visit on your website. Visitors enjoy knowing more, being given information on your favourite places. We’ve moved on from loving all things “local” to wanting to know more, to hearing the full story behind products and places.
Beware of overwhelming visitors. They don’t want to plough through long lists. Phrases like “so much to see and do” can be meaningless and over-used. What is there to see and do? Far better to offer curated content and carefully chosen ideas than bland phrases or a long list. Show your passion for your area, demonstrate your local knowledge. Visitors will want to come to learn and find out more from you.
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Please note: all articles are copyrighted Susan Briggs