Monday, December 11, 2017

Rural Tourism and How to Draw More Visitors to your Destination

Photo Credit: Linus Strandholm

A common challenge with developing tourism in small rural communities is connectivity. How do you draw in visitors when you are located 2 hours or more away from main highways and cities? As tourism professionals that support responsible travel and community-based experiences, we're always seeking realistic and sustainable solutions to these types of challenges. Sometimes you can find the answers while talking to the tourists and witnessing the changing demands this industry has had from a visitor perspective.

One of the major growing demands with tourism experiences, especially in Canada, is the classic road trip. The road trips today are being spearheaded by the younger generation, the Millennials, that seek new unique off the beaten track adventures. So this new demand is different than the classic road trip out west to see the Canadian Rocky Mountains - this new generation is searching for nature-based and cultural experiences that are different than the typical "touristy" destinations. That said, this opens up a whole new opportunity for small scale rural tourism development.

How to Create a Destination

A question came up in one of our recent webinars from an individual that resides in a rural community. He asked "ok that's great if we start to develop local tourism opportunities, but who is going to come all the way up to our community when there are other more accessible destinations?" The answer to this, is that you just have to create an experience to get to your community... meaning taking that good old classic road trip and creating a route that connects your community to a variety of other places and the journey to get there, becomes a large part of the adventure.

An example of a destination that has planned this well, is Iceland. It is a remote, northern, secluded island nation with a low population, but because of accessibility it has become one of the most popular tourist destinations today. They created easily navigable routes throughout the country that allow opportunities for visitors to explore remote small communities. They have a wide range of small, locally owned guesthouses, farm-stays, cabins, hostels, attractions, tour operators/guides, and restaurants, scattered throughout the country making it a road trip friendly destination. This has attracted a wide variety of visitors of various ages and budgets to explore this country which now has over 2 million visitors per year and the entire population is only 350,000.

Photo Credit: Amanda Huculak

So instead of using the "if you build it they will come" approach - partner with your surrounding neighbours and create an experience. Work together and create an epic road trip and your community will be featured as one of the highlights. This approach will only grow and become more popular in the years to come. Partner with other tourism businesses, your regional Destination Management Organizations (DMOs), regional / provincial organizations, Car Rental companies, and Tour Operators to work together to create unique packaged experiences and sample itineraries for road trips. Start to make it easy for visitors to find you and the journey to get there is a major part of the destination.

For more ideas on how to create a sustainable tourism destination in your rural community book a free 30 minutes coaching session with a CES team member. Contact us at or call 1-877-444-5550.