Museums connecting cultural tourists: more substance over style, please
Museums should engage tourists with content rather than brand, says Sejul Malde, for the sake of themselves – and the sector
Can marketing approaches maximise the value that smaller museums, sometimes without a strong brand or landmark building, bring to and derive from tourism? With the threat of closure hanging over many such museums following budget cuts, their need to engage the tourism market has never been stronger. Promotional campaigns featuring iconic museum brands may advocate their importance to the visitor economy, but are hardly sufficient when seeking to generate tourist engagement with the wider sector.
Even where museums do have a brand to fit these destination-marketing strategies, this approach can quickly turn to cliché by treating the cultural tourism market as undifferentiated. Culture24’s recent Moving Targets research demonstrates that today’s cultural tourists are individuals from a variety of backgrounds who travel more locally and on shorter trips to engage with a variety of interests. Increasingly, these people want niche inspiration and localised information.
Museums of all types are well placed to satisfy these demands. More than just brands and buildings, they are also storytellers who purvey distinctive forms of inspiration and information through their collections, exhibitions, events and narratives. Rather than being subsumed or sidelined by destination-marketing strategies, there is an opportunity for all museums to engage cultural tourists by pursuing content-driven approaches instead.