The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

September 26, 2013

Travel expert says communities must ‘tell their stories’

ENID, Okla. — Communities must do a better job of telling their stories and informing people who they are.

Berkeley Young, a national travel industry expert, said there is a mix of art and science in presenting the story of a city.

“Its important when you look at the communities to find the stories, what’s under the surface and put it together in a meaningful way for the tourist so they can understand,” Young said. “Who are you people, what is this community about?”

He spoke Thursday during the Oklahoma Museum Association conference at Convention Hall.

Young’s research showed lodging is breaking records in rate of growth, and leisure travel has sustained the industry through the recession and now is increasing.

“Nearly six in 10 U.S. adults expect to take at least one leisure trip between July and January 2014,” he said.

Young said lodging places often are the primary funding source of destination marketing. He said after the meeting Enid’s Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express sponsored bowling tournaments for business travelers.

“That builds loyalty,” he said. “People would leave and say they were coming back next time and ‘beat those guys.’”

The highest monthly room revenue ever recorded nationally was $11.5 billion in June, he said. Hotel taxes have gone up, but sometimes that is due to increased room rate, rather than room nights sold, Young said. He urged marketers to track supply and demand.

“Make sure you’re tracking heads in beds,” he said.

The type of traveler also is evolving, Young said. Today, they typically are more the last-minute planner. They seek value, are making shorter trips and some trips are closer to home, he said.

People must get away from home to rest today, Young said, because  Americans are busier than ever.

“America has passed Japan as the hardest-working society in the world,” he said.

There also are some studies that show if a worker takes less than 10-14 days of vacation, they don’t really get the rest they need, he said. Americans are more stressed than ever, he said, and travel is a form of therapy.

Young said people want to get away from work, friends and family. They want to get away from debt, politics and religion.

He said visitors now have more things to do and less time to do them. There are more than 16,500 museums in the U.S. that attract 850 million visitors per year. There are 40 national heritage areas, 393 national parks, 2,461 national historic landmarks and 27,000 historic structures. The National Park Service has 281.3 million visits per year, and more than 14 million of those visits are overnight,  Young said.

Young said localities must make sure their attractions are unique and entertaining to the public. The message must stand out and be memorable, connect emotionally with the traveler and motivate interest, he said.

To do that, communities must tap into the silent majority, Young said, which is about 70 percent of the population. They are quiet and do not say anything, but if called on will help. About 20 percent of the community are leaders and 10 percent are CAVE people: Citizens against virtually everything.

“Don’t pay any attention to them,” he said.

Young urged communities to market to the Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials, because they control the economy. Those people are ages 15 through 69.

Enid museums are doing a good job of marketing, Young said. Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center, Leonardo’s and Railroad Museum of Oklahoma work well together.

“One of the biggest challenges is convincing people of the superior quality that you see in a community this size. Enid has a Smithsonian-quality museum,” Young said of the Heritage Center.

Young called Enid historian Bob Klemme his hero. Klemme marked the Chisholm Trail throughout Oklahoma, paying for the markers out of his own pocket and got the inspiration to mark the famous trail from a ninth-grade teacher.

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