Visit SLO CAL is the non-profit countywide destination marketing and management organization for San Luis Obispo County, California. In a world where the competition for visitors is fierce, knowing and understanding the ideal visitor segments, speaking directly to them and focusing on providing a high-value travel experience can help destinations differentiate themselves.
With help from Resonance, leaders across San Luis Obispo County, California (SLO CAL®) are taking a step back to purposefully consider what type of destination they would like the county to become in the future.
Resonance Consultancy was engaged by Visit SLO CAL to help San Luis Obispo County community leaders understand the key competitive advantages and weaknesses for tourism, and quality of life for local residents in order to create a Destination Management Strategy intended to guide the planning, product development, programming, policy and promotion of SLO CAL as a destination to live, work, play and visit. Here is how we approached the destination management strategy.
Past experience has taught Resonance Consultancy that successful destination management planning requires the participation and alignment of not only industry stakeholders, but those of the visitor and local community as well. As such, the process was designed to not only consult, but also engage and collaborate with industry stakeholders, visitors, residents and the community at large.
Resonance met with 130 stakeholders in 35 sessions in order to identify participant opinions, aspirations and ideas (issues and opportunities) for the future of SLO CAL as a destination for visitors and as a place for residents to live, work and play.
Resonance surveyed 1,064 previous visitors to understand who the current San Luis Obispo County visitor is, how they compare to U.S. travelers in general and what types of travelers and prospective residents would most likely be attracted to the destination in the future. The survey was also used to assess the quality of and satisfaction with current destination services, accommodations and amenities; and to create a segmentation analysis.
Resonance conducted a quantitative assessment of SLO CAL’s destination assets and experiences, utilizing a combination of social media reviews and core performance statistics collected directly from TripAdvisor and Yelp. This research benchmarked both the quantity of Travel & Tourism assets and the quality of these experiences against 14 actual and aspirational destinations. The focus of this activity was to understand what visitors are saying about SLO CAL’s products and what they compare online about SLO CAL and 14 other destinations when making their travel plans.
In consultation with Visit SLO CAL staff, Resonance developed an online survey to identify and gauge residents’ perceptions on a variety of key issues and opportunities with respect to livability, culture, economy and sense of place. The survey was extensively promoted via email, television and radio public service announcements, along with social media platforms to the databases of a variety of civic organizations as introduced by SLO CAL staff. The survey results were extremely robust, reflecting an excellent sample size of 5,053 respondents who live, work and study in SLO CAL.
The information from the four research activities was utilized in four visioning workshops to gain broad input and develop priorities for opportunities and challenges in SLO CAL that might be addressed by the Destination Management Strategy. The results of the four visioning workshops were then compiled into a Draft Recommendations Report, which was presented to the project team and steering committee and the Visit SLO CAL Board of Directors, and used as the basis for six individual municipal briefings with community leaders throughout San Luis Obispo County for consideration, feedback and comments.
The Destination Management Strategy Recommendations and Roles and Responsibilities were created from the collected research and community outreach. The Visit SLO CAL project team and steering committee reviewed the final recommendations and helped define the roles and responsibilities in order to carry them out. A plan for implementation was included to guide Visit SLO CAL and its partners in developing their annual plans and resources necessary to move the Strategy forward to implementation.
The project team finished the work for the Destination Management Strategy by developing an action plan that can be used by Visit SLO CAL and other responsible organizations, agencies and leaders to plan, monitor and review activities for implementation.