The saying is “out with the old and in with the new”. The past 2 years have thought us that we need to change things. Therefore I want to propose the opposite: “out with the new and in with the old”. Especially now with sustainability, doughnut economy and recycling/re-purposing being the new trends. Why not apply this development concept to destination management and development? Focusing on heritage sites, old buildings and other infrastructure. History is one of my passions. I can watch and read hours of documentaries & books about it. My day job is not that bad either. I have gathered 21 years of experience in International Destination Marketing. Through this career path I have encountered many examples of history, historical sites and buildings being used for promotion of tourism. It is still, in my opinion, an underused and undervalued source. In this era where content marketing, which includes the heavy use of images and story telling, our history is a treasure chest waiting to be discovered and used.
As I go along in my consumption of history, I constantly imagine all these projects, opportunities and concept creations based on interesting stories. A lot of the ones that I have encountered have a straight forward hook to enable a destination or city to target a very specific audience. It is the perfect example of ”low-hanging fruit” . Without implying that the destination management and marketing teams are not doing this already, allow me to give you two quick examples:
- St. Augustine – Florida, United States of America
Not many people may be aware of this, but St. Augustine is North Americas first city. It was founded by the Spanish, and later taken over by the British and later the Americans. While under Spanish rule, it allowed run away slaves from the northern colonies to settle in its vicinity. Creating additionally one of (if not) the first ”free village or city” of African Americans in the whole American continent. There is a rich history there with many opportunities for story telling and interested target audience attraction.
For a marketeer the above helps you hit 2 mayor target audiences. First, Americans who are proud of their history, who would potentially love to visit where it all started. Second, African Americans who would love to learn more about their American history and would love to visit the site of the (potential) first free settlement of their ancestors in the new world. Just imagine the storytelling galore for online marketing and the merchandising opportunities for the city and region to generate income.
- St. Eustatius a.k.a Statia the Golden Rock
This is a small Island located in the upper east of the Caribbean. It’s part of the leeward islands, and now a community of The Netherlands. Although currently pretty much unknown and forgotten, the Island has a rich history and played an important role in the independence war of the United States of America. As a Dutch colony (property of the VWC; United West India Company) it supplied arms to the American revolutionaries despite the British embargo. It was also the first territory to officially recognize the United States of America by shooting salute shots towards a US navy vessel, the Andrew Doria.
Also here, it has such a potential to target patriotic US citizens to learn and experience the history about the origins of their country. The small capital still has some of the old buildings and it could be turned into a lovely colonial old-town with small boutique hotels and restaurants. Due to the small size of the Island it has the potential to develop into something very exclusive. I was fortunate enough to have visited once in my life. There is much more which can be developed there to stimulate tourism and commerce.
Another opportunity lies in the fact that there are many other islands in the vicinity. And if Statia is to be developed into an upscale exclusive destination, the affluent can do day- or short trips to the island. Therefore piggy backing on other Islands’ tourism flow. (vice versa Statia can be offered as an activity when visiting other islands).
In with the old
Approaching destination development from this angle also has the benefit that it provides jobs and participation of many different disciplines. Such as historians, archeologists, marketeers, hoteliers, restaurant owners, construction companies, government, entrepreneurs and much more. Especially as these projects can carry a nations history, it has the positive side-effect of bringing the people together.
I would love to explore more of these opportunities. Feel free to drop me an email at email@example.com