It’s a reverse of the Bilbao effect where second- and third-tier cities built big showpieces to attract tourists, and then crossed their fingers and hoped they’d show. What we’re seeing now is a search for the authentic in a world that too often seems homogenous and already discovered. The movement is opening more destinations to visitors, and doing so without forcing the places to mimic the charms of top destinations.
Providence, RI doesn’t have to out-Boston Boston, it can call on its richer collection of early American architecture, booming culinary scene, and WaterFire attraction to set it apart. Smaller towns such as Bentonville, AK and Louisville, KY have seen small retail establishments pop up around their outposts of 21c Museum Hotels.
In most cases, it’s a matter of local tourism boards taking the lead from local businesses that are re-thinking how they can market themselves.
In Europe, where big destinations such as Paris and London are over-touristed, visitors are turning to alternatives. They’re checking out the rich sports legacies of a Manchester, England, or hunting down unique shops and one-of-a-kind finds in fashion-focused Antwerp, Belgium. Cities with a history of conflict like Belfast are turning a violent past into a storytelling opportunity while also giving visitors many other reasons to stick around.
For these destinations, it’s not about big campaigns on billboards or glossy magazines. It starts on digital, and if the experience is good, it continues there once the traveler has returned. To reach possible visitors, destinations are turning to content marketing and local influencers to make their case.
We see this in Twitter video advertisements from places such as Visit Myrtle Beach and YouTube videos encouraging travelers to Lexington, KY to #ShareTheLex across social media. As finding something new becomes a challenge, travelers themselves broadcast their unique conquests on Facebook and Instagram, and continue the cycle of discovery and exploration that makes what can make the been-there-done-that nature of traditional travel new again.
Jason Clampet, Skift