Southern Hospitality

It’s almost summer time here in Charleston, SC and we all know what that means…tourists everywhere. While we sometimes get a little frustrated with the masses of individuals blocking traffic, we remain thankful for the millions of people that travel to this historic city every year to witness the beauty we experience every day. Let’s count our blessings! And why are we so thankful? For most of us that work in Charleston, those masses of individuals allow us to keep our jobs with the ridiculous amounts of money they spend in the tourist industry. So here is my point; just how do we successfully market to these individuals in order to keep them coming back for more?

While being rated the top travel destination in 2011 is a great honor for Charleston, and will definitely boost the foot traffic on these cobblestone streets, it may not be enough in the long run to sustain the income tourists provide us. First of all, make them feel at home! Travelers want to feel immersed in the culture they are visiting, not like a herd of cattle that we bring in, then push back out quicker than they can say, “Hey look, a dolphin!” Because of this aspect, it is important to model tourism marketing efforts around marketing tactics of the local community. A strong form of marketing that works well under this model is word of mouth. Tourists rely heavily on recommendations they receive from restaurant employees, hotel staff, etc. (Trust me, I give out hundreds of recommendations a week…and they love it!)

Now on to my next topic:  Why do most women come to Charleston? The shopping of course. Don’t worry guys; we have plenty of fun to be had for all. In reality, most travelers model their budgets off of souvenirs and splurges along the way. They want something that they cannot find in the places where they live, and we want them to be able to personalize their experience with the products we can provide. Some tourists are hesitant to buy large, mostly due to suitcase space and the hassle extra baggage contributes. Market an easy form of shipment that takes all of the worry out of their time of vacation relaxation. By keeping their best interests in mind, they will not hesitate to splurge on a little something extra. Other ways to fill their experience with ease include providing alternative methods of shopping for the exhausted walkers that spend hours on their feet (updated websites), having parking that is easily accessible (impossible in Charleston, right?), and store displays that are not only inviting, but locally designed.

While these are just a few examples of how to market to tourists, proper marketing research will maximize your success. If you understand where your customers are coming from and what they are looking to get out of their experience, your return on investment will be thanking you. Let’s make them feel so at home, they won’t be able to stop the recommendations from spilling out of their own mouths. The season is already here, are you ready for it?