Place DNA® airs resident viewpoints to aid tourism planning in Big Sky, Montana

David Archer

19 January 2018

Can you define your destination’s community identity? Do you know your residents’ greatest hopes and fears about tourism, and do they impact your planning?

There can be no destination branding without residents.

To build lasting credibility and authenticity, a destination needs to work outward from its identity. This means identifying and articulating the core of what it is and who its people are. We call this Place DNA®.

Destinations that study their Place DNA® build a foundation for tourism planning that impacts everything from visitor experiences to branding to communication. The process also helps DMOs gain support and valuable input from residents and tourism stakeholders.

Montana community learns about its Place DNA® and opportunities to improve tourism

Visit Big Sky, a Montana DMO near Yellowstone National Park, recently set out to focus its new five-year tourism master plan with the help of its residents and industry stakeholders using Destination Think’s Place DNA® methodology.

As part of the discovery process, Think and the DMO conducted a resident survey to reveal resident opinions about the destination and the future of tourism in the local area. Destination Think Senior Strategic Consultant Frank Cuypers delivered the results of that study at a public event in Big Sky on January 8, 2018.

Frank presented the results of the resident survey, including positive and negative feedback. Analysis revealed the differences between how the destination is perceived and the message the destination and its residents project, and opportunities for improvement. Think and tourism stakeholders explored these ideas in a collaborative workshop the following day.

Big Sky Place DNA®survey responses

Samples of feedback from the Big Sky resident survey, part of the Place DNA® process.

Place DNA®alignment

An authentic destination brand requires alignment with its Place DNA®.

The Place DNA® project is changing the way Big Sky is thinking about tourism, and the results will impact the area’s tourism master plan. Candace Carr Strauss, Director of Visit Big Sky and the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce, commented for the Lone Peak Lookout:

“Our biggest takeaway was how much the community needs to be involved in the conversation about tourism,” she said. “They need to be onboard and embrace it.”

While marketing was once all about numbers and bed counts, Strauss said the strategic session attendees agreed that’s not the case any longer.

“We now need to understand the best types of tourists to attract,” she said. “It’s not about bringing more people, it’s about bringing the right people. They’re the ones that stay longer, enjoy it more, understand our place and want to return and protect it for future generations.”


View the presentation slides to learn more about Place DNA® and the results in Big Sky.

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