How might the following suggestions help to shift the locus of decision making about tourism seasons, tourism marketing, and understanding the need for a very different approach to tourism development?
1. What could Tourism NS or TIANS do to increase the number of annual touch-points by Tourism NS (in-community sit downs) to engage local people in brainstorming and planning sessions, (Note: Not consultations) to learn what local people in different areas of the province value in tourism? What kinds of opportunities would local residents prefer, do more listening to local people, learn from them. That is, an active strategy for community engagement, listening, learning, and responding.
2. How do we broaden our understanding and approaches to recognize that there are different ways to develop tourism in different areas of the province? The Annapolis Valley/Kings County is a remarkable area of food producers, wineries, independent operators, and entrepreneurs. It requires a fundamentally different and creative approach between Tourism NS, TIANS and local folks to develop new experiences to be offered at different times of the year for different visitors. The tourism strategy for this region is not about just developing a marketing strategy. It is about first understanding what differentiates this area as distinctly different from Cape Breton, South Shore, or Halifax. That means learning what are the differentiating characteristics and building capacity with local partners to understand key target audiences (personas), their needs and interests, carefully craft new experiences in different seasons for different markets, and then develop a thoughtful approach to marketing. Not generic marketing, not for the Chinese market, not for the travel trade. It's different.
3. What can be done to align the #102 highway and its signage (Harvest Highway) to create new fall experiences that reflect harvest themes for fall travellers? Develop an innovative fall marketing marketing campaign full of humour and special stories akin to the Newfoundland approach, but distinctly Nova Scotian. With our own characters, stories, and with a very strong focus on culinary opportunities, farm markets, walking experiences, fall nature walks, cultural experiences. This region is rich with opportunities, but they are scattered, not connected thematically, and there are too many independent efforts that are not being coordinated. B2B collaboration between non-traditional partners is not being fostered. This is not about leaving tourism to the local Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce, or the town of Wolfville or a volunteer group. It's a different approach that needs to be taken. Working with local residents rather than a typical DMO approach.
4. Shift away from mass market tourism and travel trade to understanding that the long-term potential of culinary and food tourism is not just about creating large scale culinary events, festivals and restaurant retailing. It can also include the creation of small group experiences that combine food + storytelling + foraging/farm/winery visits with knowledgeable local guides who provide excellent education, connect travellers to locals with stories to tell, provide hands-on learning, and excellence in sustainability. Visitors are not generic. Many travellers today (catered to by AirBnB Experiences, ToursByLocals, or other guide services) want to immerse themselves into what makes a place local. They are interested in more personal and intimate opportunities with authentic local folks (people who live in the area, have local knowledge, and are willing to share).