At an all-time high in the US, Culinary Tourism is the fastest growing tourism sector. According to the National Restaurant Association, “across all dining segments, about one in every four dollars spent at restaurants comes as a direct result of travel and tourism.”
These days, tourists are looking for local context--they want to shop, play, and eat like the locals. Tourists seek experiential activities that immerse them in the place they’re visiting. From farmers markets to foraging expeditions, tourists are looking for experiences that they can’t find anywhere else.
Your state tourism organization uses its resources to convince international and national travelers to choose your state over any other for conventions, athletic activities, and recreational travel. Your local tourism offices, then, must convince visitors to stay in your city. Once they’ve done so, your job is to drive those tourism dollars to your restaurant. Here’s how:
Introduce Yourself to Your Regional and State Tourism Offices
Tourism offices are charged with telling the world what makes their city or state the best place to visit, but they can’t tell the world about you if they don’t know you yet. Typically, making an introduction is as easy as sending an email to the contact page of your tourism organization’s website.
If your tourism office allows you to create a listing for your business, this is a great tool for image control when it comes to presenting your business to visiting guests. Often, you will be able to add an image to your listing, and sometimes, you may be able to offer special incentives to visitors who are researching where to eat when they visit. As always, put your best food forward, with engaging images and offers that go beyond a 15% discount. Let tourists meet your chefs, get in the kitchen, and see what makes your restaurant special.
Let Your Tourism Organizations Know What’s New.
The modern tourist is looking for an immersive experience. They want to eat like the locals and participate in experiences that represent what that place has to offer. Tourists are creating memory souvenirs through each unique experience, and your mission is to give them that special insight into what makes your city and your restaurant worth visiting time and time again.
One way to do this is to loop your tourism organizations in on any press releases you send to the media regarding special dinners, pop-ups, or other unique experiences. Rather than limiting yourself to local press, sharing your stories with your tourism organizations can help to spread the story to a wider audience. Often, tourism organizations are a first stop for visiting press who want to get a good feel for what your city has to offer.
Engage in Tourism-Promoting Activities
Most tourism organizations host events for visiting businesses, media, and other out of town guests. Let them know that your restaurant is interested in participating in these types of events. Depending on the event, you may want to offer further incentives to guests to visit your restaurant during their stay.
Most state and regional tourism organizations have visitor centers that provide travelers with information to help them plan their stay in your state or city. Create marketing pieces that are specific to the traveler to give them an idea of who you are—consider including sample menus as well as your address, phone number, and reservation policy, to help guests plan their visit. Make sure you regularly update your supply of marketing materials, and when you do, introduce yourself to the tourism specialists who are working there. Being able to put a face to a name can make the difference between recommending your restaurant over someone else’s.
If your tourism organization has an ambassador program, research what this entails and consider joining or appointing a staff member to join to further strengthen your connection to tourism. USATourism.com provides a complete listing of all state tourism offices in the country.
Brainstorm how you would describe your business to visitors in a way that would relate to and appeal to them. Can you create a unique experience for visitors? If so, find a way to let them know. Then share your description with people who know your business well already to see if they can offer additional insight into what makes your business special in the eyes of tourists.