Local distinctiveness? Sense of place?
‘Everywhere should have a Local Distinctiveness Coordinator’ Martin Wainwright in The Guardian, 15 February 2012
Local distinctiveness is what makes one place different from another. It’s the essential details, large and small, natural and manmade which combine to create a “sense of place”. Local distinctiveness means looking at the small details that are easy to miss but which we love once we notice them.
Major landmarks and famous sights can mark one place out against another. But it’s not just big features that are important. Our impressions are formed through other aspects of an area’s character.
Local distinctiveness can include:
• natural features such as the landscape, flora, fauna
• man-made features like buildings
• heritage, culture, traditions – people, events, festivals
• produce and industry – food, drink, crafts, farming, textiles
• words, dialect, local sayings, jokes and quirky anecdotes
Why local distinctiveness is important to visitors
Today’s visitors are interested in all things “local”. Visitors want to understand more, to experience places in different ways and to meet “real” people. They are ready to buy locally made products. They want to do as well as see.
Visitors are interested in anything that helps them understand and appreciate the essential character of a place. Like most of us, visitors enjoy being able to tell a story about something they’ve seen or heard when they get back from their trip.
How local distinctiveness can benefit your business
How can you get visitors to stay longer and spend more? If we only tell them about the “highlights” of a place, visitors will continue to rush around, without staying for long. If they only visit a market town for a short while, they won’t have time to get hungry and spend money in a cafe or pub. They may not bother buying anything in the shops. They probably won’t need to stay in local accommodation.
We need to slow visitors down, to help them see the places that are special but often hidden or not so obvious. If we give visitors a different experience, they’ll be more likely to stay longer and spend more. They will recommend the area to others. And as we all know, word of mouth is the most powerful – and cheapest – form of promotion.
We have produced a free handbook full of ideas and ways of using and developing the sense of place and how tourism businesses can benefit from promoting their local distinctiveness. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for your free copy.
We have also developed the South Pennines Tourism Network to assist local businesses with marketing resources, support and advice.