At a time when other tourism destination cities, particularly coastal destinations, are recovering from the effects of 9/11 Branson appears to be, at best, level with its percentage of first time visitors continuing in a downward trend to critical levels. In an Ole Seagulls opinion, every person living in Branson and Taney County has a vested interest in reversing that trend because if it continues, and the sales tax revenues received from tourism drop enough, the residents of the City of Branson and Taney County will, one way or another “pay” to make up the difference.
“Whoa there a minute Seagull, is that a threat or scare tactic?”
“No, it’s the reality of the situation.”
Recently, the Branson Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce issued a report on the “branding study” that was conducted at their request and funded by the City of Branson. It pointed out that those who actually come to Branson are impressed with what Branson has to offer “great shows, beautiful outdoor environment, a wide range of attractions for young and old and all at a great price.”
“Ok, that’s the good news, what’s the bad news?”
“There are a lot of people that will not come to Branson because they have the perception that Branson is “out-of-date country and western shows and nothing else.”
The study refers to these people as “Resistors.” The scary thing is that not only are these people a large part of the “first time” visitors that Branson needs but they are so sure they are right that they don’t know they are wrong. The challenge is to show them why they should come to Branson and when they get here show them why they made the right decision to come.
“Did the study say that Branson must change its image, shows, entertainment, or culture to attract them?”
“Absolutely not, what it said was that the perception of the Resisters, as to what they believe Branson is, has to be changed to accurately reflect the reality of what Branson has to offer.”
In fact it indicates that Branson’s tourism product, as it has evolved and is continuing to evolve, has the right combination of factors to satisfy the needs of both the loyal visitors, who have been coming to Branson for years, as well the Resisters. The challenge is to show the Resisters enough about what Branson actually has to offer so that their perceptions will change.
Although, the study said, “it’s never easy to change perceptions through marketing,” it is clear that Branson will not attract the Resisters without showing them that Branson is “more than they expect.” To reach the “critical mass” required to change their erroneous perceptions in a given market will require increased marketing costs. The study recommends that this be done on a market by market basis as funding permits.
Interestingly enough the study showed that the number one thing that people identified with Branson was “values.” It’s a term that means different things to different people but we all know it when we see it. In an attempt to capture the unique character and values of Branson, the study developed “The Branson Promise“.
Although, the study states that “values” and The Branson Promise alone are unlikely to change a Resisters perception, it is obvious that they will play an important part in not only that change but in the experience that both loyal visitors and Resisters will have while in Branson.
“But Seagull it’s only a bunch or words.”
“No, it’s a promise, the creation of an expectation, which if fulfilled in the Branson experience of each visitor can ensure the future success of Branson.”
To an Ole Seagull, The Branson Promise and the commitment of every person who interfaces with our visitors to ensure its fulfillment is what will make Branson unique from all other tourist destinations. It is that “something” that they will want to experience again, that very “something” that a lot of us experienced when we first visited Branson and the reason why Branson is now our home.