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Economic impacts of trails and greenways
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Market that trail: advertise your product!

Is it your job to market and promote the trail to reach its full potential as a tourism attraction for the community as well?

By Terry Whaley

Ad for bike, bus, walk week
Tie your trail into community events
You have dreamed of the trail, patiently acquired easements to route the trail, raised funding for the trail, developed plan specifications and a bid package for the trail, built the trail, and even invited the public to a dedication that blessed the trail with balloons, bands, and bikes. So what else is there to do?

For a growing number of us there is the great new discovery into the mystery world of trail marketing. While our local neighborhood trails come with a built in local audience the more regional trail projects really require a bit more attention to truly maximize their full potential for attracting the regional visitor or tourists.

The reoccurring nightmare is that you build your great trail from here to there, with all the great scenery and opportunities in between but no one shows up just because they are unaware of its existence. Also included in the formula is that most regional trails can handle a visitor capacity well beyond their local user load. So you designed, built and funded the trail, is it your job to market and promote the trail to reach its full potential as a tourism attraction for the community as well?

photo: An interpretive panel for the painting "Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte" by Georges Seurat
Identify ways your trail can appeal to tourists looking for a unique experience

Well, why not? Think of it as an adventure in the new uncharted world of trails. Our product has evolved to the status of other consumer needs. ADVERTISING. After a year and a half of discussion with local CVB's and state tourism directors, special event promoters, and even the traveling user, here are a few nuggets of marketing information that will increase your success.

  • Create a logo or icon that represents your trail, and brand the trail with this image
  • Identify your trail's unique niche: local history, art, nature, fitness, events, etc.
  • Build and use marketing arsenal to include print-website-kiosk- newsletters
  • Cross promote to a wide variety of users: cyclists, bird watchers, history buffs, etc.
  • Host special events and invent a signature event for the trail
  • Develop and submit a variety of feature articles for regional publications about your trail
photo: reindeer figure
Holiday events are another way tto attract visitors

And the number one buzzword that people are seeking is "Itinerary Trip Planning." The itinerary that tells them where to start the trip, what to see and do in route, where to eat, sleep and visit, as well as specific information on distance, difficulty, and time that the trip will take whether it is a few hours or a multi-day trip. It appears the more you can assist a visitor in the planning and comfort level the better your chances increase for getting them to your trail. Remember a good positive experience will most often result in a return visit.

While this has been a topic of great discussion at several of the state trail conferences and even our own Trail Symposium in October it is a topic that remains very nebulous and at best challenging for us. The typical response for our friendly professionals in the tourism field is " show us the numbers and then we will promote your trail" This because they need numbers of visitors to sell their advertising, which is what most Convention and Visitor Bureaus (CVB) live and die by.


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