Trying To Leverage National Tourism

July 26, 2002
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HOLLAND — The recognition, on its own, is certainly nice.

But Sally Laukitis hopes to turn a national honor from a mere boost for hometown pride into a distinct advantage in promoting Holland as a vacation destination.

The designation from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, naming Holland one of "America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations," will soon show up on tourism brochures and other promotional materials. Holland Area Convention & Visitors Bureau staff also will begin looking at ways to incorporate the designation into future marketing materials.

"We're just going to leverage the heck out of it," said Laukitis, the bureau's executive director. "This is one more 'Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval' I can tack onto Holland."

Holland is the only community in Michigan and just one of two in the Great Lakes region to make the National Trust for Historic Preservation's third annual list.

The National Trust cited Holland for its Dutch heritage and annual Tulip Time Celebration, as well as for having "plenty of quaint cafes and unique downtown shops," the preservation of historic buildings and a scenic lakeshore that makes the town "the perfect setting for a weekend getaway or a family vacation."

Holland and the other communities recognized as Distinct Destinations represent what National Trust President Richard Moe calls exciting alternatives to "the homogenization of many other vacation spots."

"Holland represents a truly distinctive slice of America's past," Moe said. "It is my hope that more American cities and towns will follow Holland's lead in preserving their own spirit of place."

The recognition that comes with the designation provides a unique opportunity for tourism-related business in Holland as they compete for the tourist dollar, both immediately and in the long run, Laukitis said.

The media attention, including a spread on the 12 "distinct" communities in a recent issue of USA Today, may help to put Holland on the map of more people as they plan a weekend getaway or vacation this summer and next. In the long run, incorporating the designation into future annual marketing campaigns will help to promote Holland in a growing niche within the industry — cultural tourism, a segment of travelers who are drawn to a destination by its unique history, heritage and culture.

"There are a lot of ways it could play out," Laukitis said of the designation's potential benefits for the local tourism trade. "It'll be interesting to see where it goes."

A report earlier this year from the Travel Industry Association of America found that people who travel to a destination for cultural and historic interests tend to stay longer, spend more money while they are there, and are slightly older than other travelers.

History and culture "are now a significant part of the U.S. travel experience," association President and CEO William Norman said in announcing the report's results last January.

Laukitis sees the benefits from the designation lasting for some time. She believes the National Trust's list, which is only in its third year, will become more significant as cultural tourism grows.

"It will only grow in stature and recognition," Laukitis said.

Beyond tourism, the National Trust designation also can pay dividends for Holland in the area of economic development.

Quality-of-life issues are becoming increasingly important criteria in recruiting and retaining businesses, as well as in helping employers recruit talent, said Chris Byrnes, president of the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce and the Holland Economic Development Corp. The designation provides one more tool for employers to use in promoting the community to the type of workers they need, Byrnes said.

"It's tangible evidence of the intangible things in how we try to sell the community," he said. "That's recognition that it is a community that people may want to be a part of."  

The Distinctive Dozen

Holland was among 12 communities nationwide named to the third annual list of "America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation (www.nationaltrust.org). Here are the others: 

  •  Asheville, N.C.
  •  Butte, Mont.
  •  Fernandina Beach, Fla.
  •  Ferndale, Calif.
  •  Frederick, Md.
  •  Milan, Ohio
  •  Morristown, N.J.
  •  Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
  • Silver City, N.M.
  • Walla Walla, Wash.
  •  Westerly, R.I.

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