Today’s Chattanooga Times Free Press contains a piece overing a speech by Tennessee Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker in which she mentions that $250,o00 was allocated for “niche marketing” of the state. “The state had been targeting such niche events as hunting, fishing, cultural events and music, Ms. Whitaker said, but this year is adding baby boomers, weddings and honeymoons, reunions and sporting events.”
I’m not sure if I’d call hunting and fishing “niche events,” but the idea of targeting marketing at particular groups of potential visitors is a good idea. Tennessee could begin with jerky lovers, as seen from this billboard on I-40:
But, seriously, folks, I will waive my usual consulting fee and herewith make some recommendations on where I would allocate $250,000, which is actually not all that much money. I recommend going after upscale individuals who will come to the state, spend money, then go home and tell their friends:
- Bicyclists. These Spandex clad folks often roll into town on bikes costing more than $2,000 and like to end their day with a wonderful meal and a high-end place to sleep. Road bike tourism is growing, and Tennessee’s gentle hills will appeal to baby booming bikers who want a fun day and not a hell-for-leather Tour de France.
- “Girl Trips.” Women are increasingly traveling with other women. These can be former college roommates, sorority sisters, actual sisters, book groups, or just friends. There’s even a magazine devoted to women’s travel.
- Foodways Folks. People have traveled to Europe for eating vacations. Why not Tennessee, which offers a great collection of high end restaurants in cities as well as down home fare such as barbecue all across the state?
- Gay and Lesbian Travelers. These folks are often DINKs–Double Income and No Kids–and they come to town with money to spend. G & L’s are already a presence in Tennessee travel. Here’s a site listing gay and lesbian friendly hotels.
- Garden Fanciers. People who are heavily into gardening take gardening vacations. Tennessee offers formal gardens at big houses as well as one-of-a-kind places such as Wright’s Daylilly Garden near Cookeville.
The allocation of tourism dollars is a highly political process, which explains why its hard to push aside some of the usual suspects–Sevier County, Nashville, and Memphis–for a nibble at the tourism trough. Niche marketing is a good idea, and I hope to see more of it.