Every rural community and small town seeking to increase visitors likely has some level of barriers and obstacles to doing so. Some may be considered a given since they have been in place for so long that no one can remember why they were put in place. There are also opportunities that visitor service locations and others have considered but have, for one reason or another, not executed on. How do you find out what they are?
Discovering answers in both of these situations is most effectively done through a Listen to Learn effort that includes off the radar phone interviews with lodging, restaurants, guides and outfitters and selected community officials who will have an impact the future success of tourism. Plan to have 30-40 conversations in total, to tease out the real situation.
Prior to each call, the research the interviewer has discovered should be used to open the conversation and explain that the point of the listen to learn process was to learn about ideas that would help to attract visitors who stay overnight to increase the impact of their spending on the community and deliver even more economic gain. As the conversation progresses, interviewees generally point out situations, restrictions, rules and so on, that are barriers to increased visitors or increased offerings and some offered solutions to these situations. They are also generally very forthcoming with opportunities they had spotted but no one had implemented. Some of the best answers to expanding tourism often come from these calls.