Business Remember the fable “Stone Soup”? This is a classic tale of partnership strategy and innovation. The story goes that a hungry traveler arrives in a
remote village with no money and no food can be found. We’re talking zero, zip, nada. The sad-faced villagers insist that they are all poverty stricken and facing starvation. The clever traveler commiserates with the villagers and then suggests that he will prepare his delicious and nutritious stone soup, a secret recipe which he promises will feed the entire village if only someone could provide a large pot and a few logs for a fire. The villagers are skeptical, but one woman has an oversized caldron that she agrees to loan. The traveler fills the pot with water from
the village well, sets it on a wood fire pit in the center of town and throws in a carefully selected large stone. The villagers gather to watch as he stirs and tastes the stone soup and proclaims: “This delicious stone soup is just missing a few key ingredients. It would be so much better if we only had an onion and perhaps a little salt.” At which point one villager remembers he has a few onions saved from the last harvest and another has some salt. These are quickly added to the stone soup. A few minutes later, the traveler again tastes the soup and notes it just needs a few carrots and perhaps some garlic or a pinch of pepper. A few hungry
villagers then run home and reappear with carrots, pepper and garlic. Alter more stirring and tasting the traveler enthuses on how tasty the soup is now, but how much better it would be with a just few more veggies, some beans, potatoes or whatever, and would anyone happen to have a few small scraps of meat, perhaps. By now, the villagers have all gathered to watch the spectacle of the bubbling caldron. Smelling the garlic and onions, they are enthralled. Several dash home and manage to find other key ingredients and bring them back to toss in the pot, and so on and so on, tasting and adding this or that, until finally the traveler declares the stone soup has reached perfection and is ready to serve. By this time the villagers have set up tables around the stone soup pot, found some bread, wine, fruit and cheese to share and someone is playing music. It has become a party! When the stone soup is served, there is plenty for all, and the traveler is lauded as a hero. The Power of Partnership This story illustrates the power of partnership and the synergy that can be developed in your tourism marketing strategy. We start with the basic premise that no one has enough budget, time or resources to do tourism marketing on their own, just as none of the villagers had enough food to make a complete meal. To be successful in tourism, it really “takes a village” to market the destination as a whole, along with your venue or store, as a “must visit” component of the location. With this approach, you can easily identify your core group of potential partners-your “villagers”— who will share your tourism goals and help you leverage your own marketing resources. The most logical first step is to develop a win/ win partnership between your cultural and heritage institution and local tourism authorities, such as the convention and visitors bureau (CVB) or
destination marketing organizations (DMOs), including state tourism offices, conference and visitors associations, chambers of commerce, and so on. While there are some stellar examples of success that we will share later, most cultural and heritage organizations miss these key opportunities. DMOs throughout the country regularly comment and, yes, even are heard to complain that “cultural people do not ‘get’ tourism.” By the same token, some DMOs do not “get” cultural and heritage attractions or related retail activities. They understand how important it is to market their community’s cultural and heritage treasures, and they have the best of intentions. However, DMOs have many masters to serve and respond to trackable programs designed to put “heads in beds,” which serve their lodging partners and ultimately generate the essential taxes that fund most DMOs. There are ways to turn this reality to your advantage, however. Consider this: Hotels face a major business challenge every day, or in their case, every night, and that is driving occupancy, which historically averages around 60 percent or less nationally. Hotels need ways to fill up these unsold rooms almost every night. Packaging and partnering with cultural and heritage attractions can help. Clearly, then, there is an opportunity to strengthen partnerships between DMOs, their hotel constituents and cultural and heritage institutions and contribute to the success of all involved. Think of CVBs and DMOs as your tourism partners. They have knowledge, research, resources and ideas that can help you to refine your own tourism strategy. How to Prepare Your Partnership Plan STEP 1: Create your own organization/attraction partnership profile. Start with an outline of what you can bring to the table to support tourism marketing. It may include the following elements:
1. Your venue-Offer the use of your facilities for tourism events or meetings (either free or at an attractive fee).