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The First Step to Creating Smart Destination Development


The world’s most famous attractions didn’t come out of focus groups.  There wasn’t likely a visitor’s board in Paris in 1880 saying: “You know what this city needs . . . a giant flag pole!”  There wasn’t a research team in India in the 1600s looking at visitor data and suggesting a blindingly white Mausoleum.

Whether it’s the Great Pyramids or the Great Wall of China, or even AJ Hackett’s commercial bungy jump in New Zealand, it has typically been one guy with a vision and means to create it.

But now, as more destinations understand the revenue potential of tourism, many are undertaking the challenge of making their own modern attractions. Certain things are no-brainers (if you can afford to create them): the world’s tallest building, the world’s biggest aquarium, the world’s largest shopping mall, etc.

But what should everyone else build?

One recent trend is . . . well, trends. Maybe it’s because we’re used to the franchise model (what works there, will probably work here) or conferences presenting best-practices or investors trying to minimize their risks, but when something works in one place, you see it popping up everywhere else.

It’s one thing when we’re talking about a hop-on-hop-off bus tour or Segway tour (which also makes the destinations all feel somewhat alike), but with an attraction, the idea is that’s often supposed to be a destination driver. That is, motivate people to buy a plane ticket, book a hotel and use their holiday time to see and experience it.

There are many examples of these borrowed practices, from New York’s High Line inspiring similar High Lines in cities around the world to the London Eye inspiring other city ferris wheels to the onslaught of high walking bridges getting strung up everywhere.

Destination development includes beautification (cleaning the city and beaches and adding some nice landscaping) and infrastructure (more public toilets and park benches), but it’s also about adding incredible new things that people can’t experience anywhere else.  With this in mind, it makes sense that copying someone else’s attraction isn’t likely to achieve that.

The best way to ensure you get the most out of any new attraction is to make sure it supports your brand.  If your brand is all about adventure hiking, maybe a rope bridge isn’t a bad idea (though something more original is far better). But for most destinations, the first step is going to be fine tuning the brand.

Once you have that in place, you can focus your creativity in the right direction. And the more specific you can narrow your niche, the easier it gets to own the brand and develop new products that support it.

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