Director at North Star Destination Strategies Speaks on Reputation and Tourism Research to METTC

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Shannon Gray, Director of Community and Tourism Research for North Star Destination Strategies, spoke on the relationship between a destination’s reputation and its visitor volume at the Middle East Tennessee Tourism Council’s (METTC) Regional State Legislative brunch January 27, 2012.

How can destinations deliver on an expected experience when they don’t understand their consumers’ expectations and perceptions? And how can they be part of that conversation, when they’re not even sure where it is taking place?

Regional members representing the many destinations of East Tennessee spent the morning learning how they can take control (or at least understand and be a part of) the conversations that may be impacting their reputation with potential visitors and residents. Shannon honed in on ways that destinations can use tourism and travel research to identify their existing reputations in the minds of consumers as well as tactics for revising, revamping or completely changing that reputation. To illustrate her talk, Shannon used relevant examples from North Star’s East Tennessee clients including Dandridge, TN.

According to Shannon, many DMO professionals report feeling helpless when it comes to understanding their destination’s current reputation, especially in light of rapidly evolving social media channels. “How can destinations deliver on an expected experience when they don’t understand their consumers’ expectations and perceptions? And how can they be part of that conversation, when they’re not even sure where it is taking place.” she asks. “North Star shows destinations why and how to uncover those fundamental truths before proceeding with any marketing initiative, regardless of whether it is something sustainable like an integrated destination brand or something temporal like an ad campaign.”

Shannon received her BA in Cultural Anthropology from Eckerd College and a dual degree of an MA in Anthropology and an MBA with emphasis on marketing and market research from the University of Colorado at Boulder--Leeds School of Business. As North Star’s Director of Research she works with destinations, economic development organizations and city government on visitor research projects including focus groups, surveys, perception studies, mystery shopping, man-on-the-street interviews, ethnography studies, geo-demographic visitor profiling, inquiry mapping, opportunity analysis, marketing content audits, competitive analysis, retail leakage reporting, event analysis, ROI studies and resident advocacy.

North Star is a community branding agency in Nashville, TN. Having worked with more than 135 communities across the nation, North Star is considered an industry leader in helping communities become more competitive. Areas of expertise include economic development, tourism and city government.

The Middle East Tennessee Tourism Council comprises East Tennessee destinations from the 16 counties surrounding the Great Smoky Mountains offering a wealth of culture, history and outdoor activities like fishing, water sports, rock climbing, canoeing, whitewater rafting, hiking, biking, golfing and more.

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