Commerce + Interpretation: A Shared-Use Study from the National Trust

At the recent AASLH Annual Conference in Louisville, a panel discussed the opportunities and challenges of including for-profit operations at historic sites. While public-private partnerships have been successful at numerous locations around the country, the National Trust is providing a transparent look into the process for managing a historic site  with a section operated by a commercial partner. Cooper-Molera in Monterey, which includes nine roofed structures, will dedicate the original adobe buildings as interpreted spaces while a developer (Foothill Partners) uses a socially responsible business plan to operate the other buildings as commercial retail and restaurant. Key lessons learned from this collaboration: community engagement and involvement in the discussion for final use is essential; sorting out the legal structure and terms of agreement is also imperative. This $6.5 ... [Read More]

The Importance of Well-defined Outcomes

Too often plans include lofty goals and compelling visions, yet lack well-defined outcomes. Understanding what success looks like helps bring about consensus, inform the appropriate business/ implementation model and also instruct the best way to measure impact. A session at the 2015 AASLH Annual Conference in Louisville featured the Golden Historical Society and the planning process used to revive the Astor House into the National Museum of the American Boardinghouse - telling the little known story of a lodging sector. Facing declining attendance, the Historical Society conducted prototyping to determine possibilities for the National Register property before inviting the community to weigh in on ideas. The outcome: a 100% hands-on facility with program designed to increase repeat visitation. This is a museum worth visiting! ... [Read More]

Expanding African American Heritage Tourism in the U.S.

Black History month provides a great opportunity to raise awareness about African American heritage and U.S. destinations with important stories to tell. Natchez, Mississippi is one of these places. Recent research conducted by colleague Berkeley Young for the Natchez CVB reports that visitors to Natchez value heritage experiences. Sunday's article in the Natchez Democrat reflects on Young' research, my own observations and recommendations, as well as commentary by local leaders on how Natchez can enhance its heritage tourism experiences and educate travelers about the contributions of African Americans to the building, growth and sustainability of this Southern city. As Natchez prepares to celebrate its 300th anniversary, expanding heritage tourism to include stories relevant to the past and present (including its African American heritage) is a great economic development and education ... [Read More]

Marketing vs. Management

As destinations mature, the challenge for many convention & visitors bureaus - also known as destination marketing organizations (DMOs) - becomes less about messaging and more about tourism management. Are the scenic vistas, pristine beaches, lush landscapes and quaint Main Streets appearing in ads and promotional brochures really what visitors experience when they arrive at their destination? Or instead are visitors exposed to litter, traffic and long lines at various attractions?  Sustainable tourism management relies on destinations understanding their carrying capacity (how many people can engage in a given activity without compromising the resource or the experience) and establishing controls to help manage the flow of participants. DMOs often describe this as "delivering on the brand promise" - where reality exceeds perception. However, the delivery of experience extends ... [Read More]

The Fall and Rise of Strategic Planning

Strategic planning refers to the choices an organization makes about how best to fulfill its mission and realize its vision. To be successful, an organization must have a powerful mission, a clear vision for the future it seeks to create, sound values and effective programs. In order to be sustainable, every organization - no matter how successful it is - must regularly examine and adjust its goals and objectives by way of a comprehensive strategic planning process. Strategic planning first arrived on the scene in the mid-1960s and was widely adopted by nonprofits in the 1980s - just as it began to fall from grace in the private sector. Companies shifted away from comprehensive strategic planning for many reasons. Some found the process too time and resource consuming. Others felt that traditional multi-year strategic plans failed in the face of a rapidly evolving marketplace. Over ... [Read More]

Cultural Tourism Benefits from Comprehensive Planning

As instructor for the University of British Columbia's Cultural Tourism Course offered as part of the certificate program in cultural planning, I recognize the importance - and value - of comprehensive place-based planning. Not only does a holistic approach cast a wide net to the definition of culture, where the community can decide its parameters or inclusiveness, but also serves as a platform to address several issues impacting the development, marketing and sustainability of cultural tourism. How cultural tourism planning is unique for destinations is the focus on customer needs (the visitor or tourist) as well outlining the desired benefits to cultural institutions and value to residents. This three-legged stool of stakeholders - visitors, cultural institutions, residents – complements the sustainable tourism strategy often considered as the "triple bottom line" or people, place, ... [Read More]