We offer this guide to regional visitor destinations as a help to those of our clients that are involved with economic development planning and tactics in their communities. Regional visitor destinations are an interesting phenomena from an economic development point-of-view. Some of these well-known tourist destinations have emerged organically from some combination of natural scenic, experiential, or purely locational factors.
In some other places, such organic growth has been punctuated by intervention – whether a production innovation, a shift in consumer preferences (more precisely, a change in “guest trip motivations“), or some foundational shift in the economy that affected travel patterns.
And of course there are the strategic marketing campaigns and promotional tactics that have also spurred the growth of these visitor destinations.
We began to muse on this topic many years when starting when on a brace of new projects that were intended to transform the Niagara Falls region – an “evergreen” tourism brand to be sure, but one that has also not seen much innovation. We compared the Niagara region to other regional visitor destinations such as the Wisconsin Dells. The Dells got its start in the usual way, but has grown as the visitor product has evolved and entrepreneurs have innovated. The most recent product innovation in the Dells has been the introduction of indoor water park (resorts) that have transformed this region into a year-round destination. We ask, how might the “lessons learned” from places like the Dells, help to inform the economic development of other regional visitor destinations.