Regional Destination Development Projects
Smaller than a state yet larger than a city, Snohomish County is spread over a vast 2,196 square miles. With 19 cities and towns spread along the coastline, scattered across rich agricultural land or offering edgy urban streetscapes, the sheer size and scale of the county is difficult for visitors and even the tourism industry itself to comprehend.
The 2010 Plan set out to strengthen and coordinate the county’s many tourism assets around the big idea, to focus visitor attention towards anchor clusters and attractions while working to enhance and extend the visitor experience with sustaining clusters and assets.
The 2010 Plan approach suggested the creation of four Tourism Exploration Zones (TEZ) to organize the county into North, South, East, West and Central sections to develop itineraries and promote attractions and assets located in each zone. The approach would help visitors plan their exploration between anchor attractions and sustaining clusters within a zone. The idea had merit but fell short in that:
- Visitors aren’t interested in visiting zones. They want to experience places and activities.
- The TEZs were still too large, the boundaries did not reflect existing and iconic regions in the county that follow coastlines, river valleys and urban areas where both anchor assets and sustaining clusters are located
- The TEZ approach didn’t address the need for local supply side investment or coordination to support target markets with packaged experiences, so the concept never moved beyond a “do it yourself, connect the dots” exercise.
This 2018-2022 Strategic Tourism Plan re-imagines this approach in several ways. First, it addresses both the need to make the county landscape more engaging and accessible to visitors. Second, many regions of the county are already attempting to organize their offerings, but lack an organizational framework to connect the dots between their product development, marketing and promotions and that of their regional partners.
Enhanced capacity and realigned resources between the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau (SCTB) and Snohomish County Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department (SCPRT) will allow the organizations to serve the industry together in new ways. Through a re-imagined regional approach, the organizations can enhance and facilitate development and promotional efforts already underway by cities, towns and communities by helping the regions organize offerings around their shared experiences for greater appeal to target markets.
The SCPRT with support from the SCTB should organize, coordinate and facilitate visitor region-specific sustainable destination planning and product development. This will include sub-regional identity / brand development and marketing efforts to complement and express regional identities in SCTB marketing and promotions efforts.
Staff, regional councils and work groups representing federally recognized tribes, communities and partners will draw from existing and projected development priorities and make plans to address and implement the initiatives of the 2018-2022 STP for their region. Evaluation and planning will consider the shared characteristics, cultures, landscapes, districts and trails, visitor capacities, infrastructure and other needs of each region, per the STP.
Facilitated regional development will include structured workshops, specialized think tanks, assessments and benchmarks and will culminate in a structured programming framework the County can use beyond the life of the current STP. Regional councils and work groups will collaborate on a variety of topics that address sustainable tourism planning and product development, marketing and promotions for each region and establish short, mid-range and long-term actions to implement the STP. Outcomes of this work will determine how shared challenges, opportunities, brand identities, resources and funding can best align to address overall implementation of the 2018-2022 Strategic Tourism Plan within each region.
Conceptual visitor regions to explore as the basis of this framework may be, but are not limited to:
- The Port Susan and Seven Lakes Region
- The Stillaguamish-Sauk River Valleys
- The Mountain Loop Highway
- The Skykomish-Snohomish River Valleys
- The Urban Hub Corridor
- The Coastal Communities of the Salish Sea
The process will engage stakeholders and communities with regional visioning, planning and development facilitation to identify and organize resources around the greatest shared priorities and challenges in their region and inform the county about how these issues can be jointly addressed.
Likewise, the SCPRT and SCTB will engage with stakeholders in the process to explore connections between anchor attractions and how these assets function as part of their regional differentiation. With goals of regional distinction, stakeholders should consider how large and small attractions interact with each other and how new connections between entities can create supply chains, tours, packages and itineraries for product development that the SCTB can market and promote on behalf of each region to further differentiate it. Major attractions identified in the STP include:
- Aviation District and Commercial Air Service
- Outdoor Recreation and Adventure
- Tribal Gaming
- Business and Events Based Travel
Special attention will be paid to linking region-specific experiences and routes with co-located attraction anchors for product development, to expand exploration and identify each region to visitors. Associating smaller regional assets like breweries, arts, water, land and farm trail experiences, and culinary excursions with major attractions, the SCTB can support regional priorities by marketing connected regional experiences designed to build affinities for, and connections to, local products and culture, to further differentiate the region.
- Winery, Distillery and Brewery Trails
- Indigenous Culture, History and Art Experiences
- Agriculture and Culinary Experiences
- Mountain Biking / Trail and Road Biking
- Land and Water Based Trails with Towns of the Trails
- Arts / Culture/ Heritage Festivals, Events and Activities
- Unique Visitor District Experiences
A wide variety of grass-roots efforts are needed by regional partners to collectively shape their sustainable destination planning and product development, destination marketing and promotions. With facilitation and newly developed regional planning frameworks, each region should approach this work collaboratively and consider how product development and destination marketing work together to influence quality of life and visitor perceptions for their region. Establishing regional work groups to weigh in on and advocate for the needs of their region will be essential to the success of this sustainable regional destination development planning, marketing and promotions work and are an essential tool to keep the process moving forward.
How are “regions” being defined?
Snohomish County is identified as the second fastest growing county in the United States with 200,000 new residents expected over the next 20 years. With 19 cities and towns, spread over 2,196 square miles of salt water coastlines, dense urban areas, and vast rural valleys and wilderness areas, with each year, this growing network becomes more difficult to comprehend!
To support our growing tourism industry network, the 2018-2022 Strategic Tourism Plan (STP), Strategy 2.1 brings elements from the successful Travel Oregon Regional Destination Development Program to Snohomish County. This approach galvanizes stakeholders with shared geographies and priorities into “regional” collaboration for sustainable planning, sharing resources and building networks, marketing and promotions.
As such, and from an initial geographical perspective, four major areas are broadly identified for the Regional Destination Development Focus Group sessions. This is only a starting point, the SCPRT, SCTB and Future iQ will engage with stakeholders to determine some basics like shared priorities between co-located cities, towns, attractions, open spaces to better understand what makes up a “region” with additional meetings on the topic in 2018.
We look forward to seeing you!
Contact Annique Bennett for more information regarding this and other exciting sustainable tourism development projects
Email Annique Bennett | 425-388-3263