Small Business, Big Impact: Driving Summer Tourism in Rural Destinations

Event Marketing

Here in the US, as we observe Memorial Day this weekend, it’s a time to reflect on the sacrifice of our military troops who have served our country and its allies. Memorial Day is also synonymous with the unofficial start of summer, although technically summer doesn’t begin until the summer solstice on June 21st. But hey, who’s counting the days, right? Let’s embrace the summer spirit and explore some exciting ideas to attract guests to your small hospitality business and tourists to your charming rural destination. For all you incredibly busy small hospitality business owners and city or county tourism managers, this one’s for you!

summer street festival

Embrace Local Charm

Whether you’re the proud owner of an independent restaurant, a boutique hotel, a local RV resort, or a cozy B&B, or perhaps you’re responsible for managing tourism in your small town or county, showcasing the local attractions and unique features of the area is a surefire way to captivate visitors. If you own a restaurant, consider offering a delightful picnic option for guests to enjoy in a picturesque county or city park. Lodging venues can plan enticing getaway weekends that coincide with summer festivals, collaborating with local restaurants and bars to offer enticing dining experiences. Support local farmers’ markets, theme parks, sporting events, or outdoor recreational opportunities to provide a well-rounded experience for your guests. And if you’re promoting your town as a tourist destination, don’t forget to highlight the local businesses and events happening throughout the vibrant summer season.

Capitalize on the Great Outdoors

There’s something about summertime that beckons people to venture outside and soak up the sun. Maximize the potential of your outdoor spaces, be it the charming sidewalk, inviting back deck, cozy side alley, or even the rooftop with a stunning view. Transform these areas into al fresco dining spots or vibrant pop-up bars. To create an even more enticing atmosphere, invite local musicians to audition and perform at your location, providing an extra reason for both locals and out-of-town visitors to gather at your establishment. Collaborate with local outdoor sports providers, such as kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals, bike rental shops, and camping venues, to offer unique experiences that will leave your guests wanting more.

For small counties and cities, consider hosting monthly outdoor movie nights, historic reenactments, or guided historic and nature tours. Think outside the box and get creative! You could even collaborate with local artisans to offer monthly workshops, studio tours, or classes that showcase the region’s rich artistic talent and cultural heritage.

Music Festivals & Concert Series

Music has a magical way of bringing people together and creating unforgettable experiences. Support local musicians by organizing music festivals and concert series that allow people to enjoy the beautiful outdoors while immersing themselves in captivating performances. Forge partnerships with other local businesses to provide venues for weekly or monthly concerts, fostering a vibrant music scene in your community. Don’t limit yourself to just your own town—reach out to nearby cities and towns or existing performance venues to explore collaborative opportunities that can diversify your music offerings. Consider hosting special concerts featuring young artists, or providing a platform for local school bands or choruses to showcase their talents. You could even go all out and invite a nearby pops orchestra for a grand Fourth of July gala that will leave your guests in awe.

Food & Beverage Experiences

Food and beverage experiences have become a major draw for travelers seeking unique culinary adventures. If you want to tantalize taste buds and create a buzz, set up a Friday Night Food Truck Festival to showcase local or nearby food truck businesses. Given the popularity of food trucks these days, you might even attract attendees from neighboring towns and cities. If you’re a local restaurant, consider partnering with a nearby distillery, winery, or brewery for a truly memorable tasting event with expertly crafted pairings designed by your talented chef. Collaborate with a local farm to create a fresh farm-to-table experience, featuring seasonal vegetables, fruits, cheeses, meats, and more. You could also offer cooking classes, food and beverage photography workshops, or other immersive culinary experiences to engage and delight your guests.

Don’t Forget the Kids

Family-friendly events are a fantastic way to ensure parents can fully enjoy their visit while keeping the little ones entertained. Bounce houses, arts and crafts activities, and treasure hunts are all great options to captivate children while their parents relax and have fun. Consider bringing in a petting zoo or popular TV or movie characters to add an extra touch of excitement. Partner with nearby family-friendly venues like children’s museums or science museums, and design attractive packages and discounts to make your destination irresistible to young families. By catering to the needs of all members of the family, you’ll create lasting memories that will have them coming back for more.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

If you’re lucky enough to be located near a farm-league baseball team, a professional sports team, or if you’re hosting a little league tournament, why not develop a package around these exciting games? Offer a special room package at your hotel, complete with a delicious picnic meal from a nearby restaurant before the game, and perhaps suggest a nightcap at a local bar to round off the evening. If your town boasts a sports complex, consider organizing a community sports league or a friendly rivalry between cities, or even a thrilling showdown between the police and fire departments. Partner with a local golf course to create unforgettable bachelor weekends, anniversary celebrations, or simply an enjoyable getaway for a group of friends.

Package it Up

Combining different event ideas and experiences can create a more comprehensive and attractive package for visitors. By offering a combination of activities, accommodations, and dining options, you can entice guests to stay longer and explore more of what your destination has to offer. Here are some ideas for combining summer events and experiences:

  • Festival Getaway Package: Create a festival getaway package that includes accommodation, tickets to local music or food festivals, and exclusive perks such as backstage access or meet-and-greets with artists. Partner with local restaurants to provide dining vouchers or special festival-themed menus.
  • Adventure and Relaxation Package: Collaborate with outdoor sports providers and wellness centers to offer a package that combines adventurous activities like hiking, kayaking, or zip-lining with relaxing spa treatments or yoga sessions. This package appeals to both thrill-seekers and those seeking relaxation.
  • Culinary Trail Experience: Develop a culinary trail experience that takes visitors on a gastronomic journey through your destination. Partner with local restaurants, food trucks, breweries, and wineries to offer a curated tasting experience with discounts or special menu items at each stop along the trail.
  • Family Fun Package: Design a family-friendly package that includes accommodation, tickets to family-oriented attractions like theme parks or zoos, and additional perks such as complimentary breakfast or access to on-site children’s activities. Collaborate with local businesses to offer discounts or special offers for families.
  • Arts and Culture Weekend: Combine art exhibitions, live performances, and cultural workshops to create an arts and culture weekend package. Include accommodation, tickets to art events, and interactive workshops where visitors can learn local crafts or artistic techniques.

Promote Your Events

Promoting your summer events effectively is crucial for attracting visitors and generating buzz around your destination. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Social Media Campaigns: Leverage the power of social media platforms to create engaging content and promote your events. Share behind-the-scenes glimpses, interviews with performers or chefs, and highlight the unique experiences visitors can expect. Encourage user-generated content by creating event-specific hashtags and running contests or giveaways.
  • Collaborate with Influencers: Partner with local influencers, travel bloggers, and social media personalities who have a strong following in your target audience. Invite them to experience your events and share their experiences through blog posts, social media posts, and videos. Their endorsements can significantly boost awareness and attract new visitors.
  • Provide Marketing Materials to Partners: Share event details, promotional images, and key messaging with local businesses, accommodation providers, and tourism information centers. Encourage them to promote the events on their websites, social media channels, and in their physical locations. Consider providing them with ready-to-use social media posts or customizable templates for easy sharing.
  • Email Marketing: Build an email list of past and potential customers and regularly send out newsletters and event updates. Highlight upcoming events, exclusive discounts, and insider tips to generate excitement and encourage bookings.
  • Local Partnerships: Collaborate with local businesses, attractions, and organizations to cross-promote events. Offer joint marketing initiatives, such as featuring their offerings in your event promotions and vice versa. This can expand your reach and attract visitors who may be interested in multiple experiences.

Remember to track the effectiveness of your promotional efforts through website analytics, social media engagement metrics, and event attendance data. Make adjustments and improvements based on the insights gained to optimize future marketing strategies.

Incorporate these combined event ideas and effective promotion strategies to create a compelling summer experience that showcases the charm and attractions of your small, rural destination. By offering unique and engaging events, and promoting them effectively, you can attract more visitors and boost tourism in your area.

Wrapping Things Up

As we embark on the summer season, it’s time for small business owners and tourism managers in rural destinations to harness the power of creativity, collaboration, and local charm. By embracing the unique attractions and features of your area, capitalizing on the great outdoors, hosting captivating events, and prioritizing family-friendly experiences, you can create unforgettable moments for visitors and locals alike.

Remember, the small businesses and communities in these hidden gems have the potential to make a big impact on summer tourism. By working together, promoting one another, and showcasing the best of what your destination has to offer, you can attract travelers seeking authentic experiences and forge lasting connections.

So, let the summer festivities begin! Explore the possibilities, ignite your creativity, and join hands with fellow small business owners and tourism managers to make this season one to remember. Together, let’s drive summer tourism and celebrate the vibrant spirit of our small rural destinations.

Wishing you a successful and exciting summer ahead!

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