#RainyDayShakespeare: Stratford, Ontario expresses its Place DNA® to enhance the visitor experience

Katie Shriner

24 November 2016

Today’s tourism destinations are starting to understand the importance of defining their Place DNA®. What does this look like in practice?

A small city in Southern Ontario has one answer: When it rains in Stratford, Shakespeare speaks. A creative project called #RainyDayShakespeare causes twenty unique Shakespeare quotes to appear on city sidewalks when it rains, giving visitors a unique, shareable experience.

Zac Gribble, Director of Media Technology at Regional Tourism Organization 4 (RTO4) in Ontario, Canada, shared his thoughts on the project and the region’s strategic direction, saying, “This particular project demonstrates how a small amount of enabling can uncork the creativity and collaboration of the local community with a common goal of enhancing visitor experience.”

How was this unique project made possible? RTO4 initiated a collaboration between tourism stakeholders in Stratford, a small city in Southern Ontario known for its internationally recognized theatre festival. Together, the community identified its Place DNA® and has used this foundation to improve the visitor experience through destination development. RTO4 stepped into its role as a leader to enable collaboration and continues to build consumer engagement with a tight focus on goals, strategy and measurement.

Identifying Place DNA® and sharing stories

Before #RainyDayShakespeare could happen, RTO4 worked with Stratford tourism stakeholders to create a destination strategy. Destination Think facilitated the initial process, which included workshops and meetings that identified and brought together Stratford’s “Destination Network”, with a goal to reach consensus and alignment on the Place DNA® of Stratford. Destination Think identified a need to improve how the destination told its cultural stories, and advised RTO4 to focus on two major areas.

First, Stratford needed to strengthen its unique position as a “cultural resort town” (its Place DNA®) and secondly, better serve the next generation of visitors by increasing the local tourism industry’s digital sophistication.

In addition, RTO4 collected input from more than sixty stakeholders who attended the final Destination Think workshop, which also included an ideation session. “As a group, they were able to share stories of the destination and generate hundreds of ideas”, said Destination Think Chief Strategist, William Bakker. “This was a breakthrough moment.”

Shakespeare statue

Image credit: Dave Bellous, Flickr

Incubating ideas and collaborative projects through funding models

In order to create collaborative projects based on Stratford’s unique destination stories and ideas, RTO4 also created the Stratford Destination Animation Fund in partnership with Stratford City Centre Business Improvement Area. The fund acts as a tool to foster new ideas and provide new visitor experiences that reinforce the destination’s “cultural resort town” DNA.

Under this funding, Shannon Stewart, the creative owner of a small retail shop, was able to realize her idea for the #RainyDayShakespeare project. A team of local businesses created the 20 hidden quotes, and it wasn’t long before people started sharing the message online. Zac underlined the Animation Fund’s importance, explaining that it “enables feasible projects like the #RainyDayShakespeare project that are shareable and have high impact on the destination.”

RTO4 Facebook comment

Visitor reaction to the project on Stratford Tourism Alliance’s Facebook Page

#RainyDayShakespeare project is an example of how tourism stakeholders can successfully work together to tell a destination’s unique story and share its remarkable experiences. The financial support of a shared funding model makes this a true community effort.

Why is this collaboration valuable?

“When these experiences are shared by both visitors and local ambassadors, there is inherent destination marketing value, arguably more valuable than many conventional advertising efforts,” Zac says. “This allows progressive destinations to shift focus and resources from conventional advertising to investing directly in experiences that market the destination’s unique qualities by virtue of the experience itself; it has the further benefit of creating an engaged Destination Network that becomes a self-sustaining source of innovation and collaboration.”

A successful DMO needs its entire community to work in sync. Destination Think can assist with proven processes to help you lead your destination. Contact our strategic consultancy today.


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