In 2014, the St. Johns Cultural Council in St. Augustine, Florida noticed that most organizations have “underutilized capacity” in the form of unsold tickets, slow times during exhibitions, or performances that occur midweek or in other “off season” periods. Therefore, the cultural council created a business plan to enhance earned revenue for festivals, exhibitions, performances, and other events through cultural tourism by creating a “NAMP [National Arts Marketing Project] Team.”

The Council is fortunate to have a contract with the County Tourist Development Council to manage bed tax (aka transient occupancy tax) dollars designated to arts, culture, and heritage programming. The funds from the bed tax are allocated to a Cultural Tourism Grant Program. Through the grant program, the council is able to increase the marketing and advertising skill levels of grantees (NAMP Team), which will serve to attract and entertain more visitors and residents alike.

The increased attendance gained from the funds the council allocates to market and advertise to “out-of-county” visitors, in conjunction with the increased marketing and advertising skills from the NAMP Team, should create a cycle of increased revenue through the bed tax, which goes back to institutions for more program funding.

The Council sees the bed tax dollars as a source to build new audiences, generate increased revenue, and enhance organizational brand. But, we can’t do it alone, which is why we created the NAMP Team:

The Cultural Council will again offer this “co-op” funding for up to 6 representatives of the arts, culture, and heritage field to attend the NAMP Conference. Funds will support conference registration fees with each representative responsible for travel and lodging. Following the conference, the representatives will be required to share the learning with the field through one or more workshops and distribution of conference materials. Attendees will be selected through a questionnaire that asks: why is this conference important to your position in your organization; what are your learning objectives; and how will this improve your organization’s cultural tourism marketing program.

Below is our Business Plan Section on why Cultural Tourism is important for the economy of the County and why the arts, culture and heritage field needs to participate.

Cultural tourism gives visitors the opportunity to understand and appreciate the essential character of a place and its culture as a whole, including its:

  • History and archaeology
  • People and their lifestyle (including the ways in which they earn a living and their leisure)
  • Cultural diversity

What is Cultural Tourism?

  • Arts and architecture
  • Food, wine, and other local produce
  • Social, economic, and political structures
  • Landscape

It gives access to information, experience, and activities that can help the visitor feel involved with a place, its people, and their heritage. Creating a relationship between the visitor and the host community is an important feature of cultural tourism. Concepts of sustainability, authenticity, integrity, and education are as central to cultural tourism as they are to ecotourism.

Cultural tourism puts emphasis on the content of what people do when they’re traveling, rather than how they actually get there and where they stay while they are there.

Cultural Tourism:

  • builds on and markets cultural strengths
  • emphasizes the quality and authenticity of the visitor’s experience contexts
  • needs personal contact and specialist knowledge so that it:
  • meets the visitor’s demand for knowledge
  • conveys the richness and diversity of a place or culture
  • is active and involving for both visitors and host communities
  • creates new tourism product from people—it does not depend on high levels of  new capital investment
  • recognizes the dynamic and changing nature of culture
  • develops visitor and site management programs
  • develops interpretation programs designed to inform, educate and interest visitors
  • minimizes the environmental degradation and cultural exploitation which accompany some forms of tourism
  • is carefully targeted to meet the interests of particular market segments

The section above is our guiding principle for growing the cultural economy and the capacity of the arts, culture, and heritage field. But don’t take our word for it:

I was lucky to have the opportunity to attend the NAMP Conference in Atlanta [in 2014]. I must say that I was quite impressed with the caliber of not only the presenters but also the participants. Meeting and networking with professionals from around the country, learning first hand of their challenges and successes was truly priceless. I particularly appreciated learning about prospects for new fundraising ideas through social media outlets and how others were reaching younger and more diverse customers. It is so easy to fall into doing the same thing because it is comfortable and known, but to have the chance to listen to how others are growing their organizations by trying innovative, progressive tactics is worth the trip.

—Mollie Malloy, Director of Outreach, St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, Inc.

If your organization would like more information on implementing a Cultural Tourism Program or why your organization should form your own “NAMP Team,” we’d be happy to talk with you.

Andrew M. Witt is a member of Americans for the Arts.