Five Tips for DMOs to Promote and Showcase Your Community’s Outdoor Opportunities

Family Kayaking

Your Outdoor Recreation Can Shine… Here’s How To Make Sure Travelers See It! 

Our Midwest is packed with outdoor opportunities. Outdoor recreational activities like biking, kayaking, and other silent sports were catapulted into the mainstream of family vacations during COVID. And it’s sticking around, too.

Wisconsin’s Outdoor Recreation department reported that in 2022 outdoor recreational activities contributed $8.7 Billion to Wisconsin’s economy. That was a 14% jump from 2021!

For many communities or tourism marketing organizations, promoting outdoor recreation may be venturing into unexplored territory. How can you make the most of your local lakes, rivers, trails, and public lands?

Here are five ways you can make the most of your outdoor recreation opportunities! 

1) Build Itineraries Based on Skill Level

Everyone loves a plan. When you’re scouting for activities with your family, a ready made plan will make decisions easier. By breaking down the experiences by skill level, your future travelers  can decide which activities will work for their family, children, or even grandparents. 

A great example is Devil’s Lake State Park near Baraboo, Wisconsin. Devil’s Lake State Park is renowned for its diverse hiking experiences. One of the area’s promotional sites provided a simple, color-coded list of trails that indicated hiking difficulty and helpful descriptions of the terrain. It had a nice photo gallery, too! 

Build itinerary
Build itinerary

Imagine how the same difficulty rating system may be applied to trails, rivers, or biking paths in your community?

2) Connect with Local Enthusiasts

Outdoor recreation has a vibrant community of enthusiasts for nearly every activity. Connecting with them can give you extraordinary insights, recommendations, and maybe even content! Organizations like this are priceless.

If you’re an avid paddler in Wisconsin, you’ll likely have heard of Miles Paddled. A Madison-based kayaking and canoeing organization, Miles Paddled features countless featured experiences ranging from tiny creeks to the massive Wisconsin River. homepage
a group of people in a boat in a body of water

The experiences on Miles Paddled give great insights into the condition of the waterway, length of trip, and recommended equipment. They even have a star-rating system for recommended paddling experiences!

Do you have a local mountain biking club or trail runners group? What other local resources can you use to promote your area?

3) Tag Along on a Trip

Whether or not you have a local club or organization that enjoys your outdoor opportunities, you can still create authentic content about your experiences. Travelers want to better understand what they’ll experience and you should be their guide!

Remember that outdoor recreation is not limited to hiking, biking, and paddling. We are in the Midwest—agricultural tourism (also called agri-tourism) experiences abound! 

The best way to entice future guests is to show them what they’ll experience. You can do this yourself! Videos like this take a little planning, your cellphone, and some app-based video editing – perfect content for YouTube Shorts, Instagram Reels, or even TikTok.

4) Partner with Your Members on Packages

Destination marketing organizations do a fantastic job promoting their members, but outdoor recreation brings another opportunity—unique experience-based packages. Think beyond “stay and play” packages that golf courses frequently offer with lodging partners. What are some of the unique outdoor experiences your community can combine?

One great example is in Vermont. In the northern mountains surrounding Burlington, the Lamoille River winds past cheese shops, wineries, and even maple syrup shops. One local rental company made the most of it and created a tasting trip by canoe.

The package included tours and tastings. Some options even included a “kayak and cocktails” option. Here’s an article on several paddling and tasting examples.

Imagine picnic baskets and hiking trails or bicycling and ice cream shops—brainstorming with your members can help compile a list of new opportunities. 

5) Don’t Overlook Accessibility!

Outdoors can be enjoyed by everyone—even those with mobility or sensory challenges. Showcase the experiences that are accessible to all! 

Two great examples occur in Door County, Wisconsin. First being Otumba Park and Beach in Sturgeon Bay. Since 2021, the waterfront beach and park have made significant upgrades to be fully inclusive and accessible. 

In August of 2021, Otumba Park became the first park in Northeast Wisconsin to include a Mobi-Mat that made the water accessible to those in wheelchairs. In June of 2023, the neighboring park completed construction of a fully ADA accessible playground for children 6 months to 12 years old.

The second example is Eagle Tower in Peninsula State Park (Fish Creek). A 60 foot observation deck can be reached via a climb of 100 stairs or from an 850-foot ramp that never exceeds a 5% slope. There are even flat sections for viewing and rest.

Not every community has accessible activities, but we encourage you to explore opportunities to make outdoor recreation available to all.How Can You Make Your Outdoor Recreation Shine?

Many of our communities are fortunate to have an abundance of outdoor opportunities. In the wilds of a forest or the wonders of a city—outdoor recreation takes countless forms. Take a look at the opportunities within your community and ways to make it unique.

If your community is looking for a partner to brainstorm unique activities, leverage your natural wonders, or find fresh ways to promote outdoor recreation, just give Signalfire a shout. We’d love the opportunity to learn about your community and find ways to make you shine!