It is imperative for the nine cities to work collaboratively on attracting new visitors for greater lengths. The implementation of one overarching marketing program and messaging strategy to overcome misperceptions and enhance awareness of Greater Palm Springs improves the competitiveness of both the destination as a whole and each city individually. Collaborative efforts to market Greater Palm Springs between VGPS and city Partners includes co-op marketing of print, digital, billboard, TV and radio media buys to avoid duplication of efforts while unifying the unique messaging of each Partner with the Greater Palm Springs’ branding of one oasis.
Four Key Pillars
By targeting marketing efforts and new product development on the unique assets (key pillars) that speak to the positive, authentic experiences available in all nine cities—Health & Wellness, Outdoor Adventure, Arts & Culture and Culinary—these key pillars are leveraged in a coordinated way. New events, conferences, programs and marketing efforts based on these assets benefit both the resident and the visitor, and the destination brand is strengthened.
The success of the Destination Development Plan is dependent on each of the nine cities’ ability to engage the modern traveler through product enhancements of hotels, attractions and events, as well as initiate new developments and experiences with a broad range of appeal to different demographics. As each municipality creates its budgets and redefines its development plans, collaboration with VGPS to leverage the brand momentum of Greater Palm Springs and market to potential visitors will accelerate efforts to attract more visitors.
Visitor Experience and Wayfinding
Adding unified signage and banners throughout the nine cities for signature events, attractions, event facilities and difficult-to-locate amenities is a long-term effort that will enhance the visitor experience through wayfinding while helping to unite and promote the destination. Additionally, the I-10 corridor does not reflect the same atmosphere as the destination, and there is an opportunity to beautify and add signage promoting attractions and key points around the valley. Ideas for consideration include digital billboards for each city displaying main attractions and events and creating a landmark “entrance” to Greater Palm Springs that lights up at night.
VGPS and the Palm Springs International Airport have collaborated on growing air service for the region. Due to FAA regulations, the airport is limited on its ability to negotiate exclusive agreements with airlines. VGPS hired a private company to represent the destination and assist VGPS with developing new air service agreements. Our goal is to target new cities, expand frequency and extend the seasonality with an overall goal of obtaining more year-round service and low-cost carriers. Consistent, year-round air service will also be beneficial to attracting new companies and diversifying the economy.
VGPS has been working with the Riverside County Transportation Commission to develop daily rail service between the Coachella Valley and Los Angeles. This would enhance the accessibility of the destination to in-state and international travelers. A proposed passenger rail service between Los Angeles and Indio is a long-term initiative that will not likely develop until 2020 or beyond.
Funding for the widening of a 4.5-mile section of Highway 60 through the Badlands east of the Coachella Valley was approved in early 2019, which will provide better infrastructure to support future increases to drive-in visitation. The new lanes could open in late 2021.
Continuing education plays a vital role in the local economy, and supporting the continued growth of CSUSB and College of the Desert is imperative for developing not only a labor pool in the hospitality industry but also a younger, educated workforce as a whole to attract business development of all kinds to the destination.
To help foster continuing education in the hospitality sector, in 2019 VGPS developed the Greater Palm Springs Tourism Foundation to create additional scholarship opportunities and implemented a TEAM GPS program for hospitality employees and community volunteers. The TEAM GPS program provides resources and training to further equip program participants with skills and knowledge they need to deliver a higher quality of customer service to visitors.
A coordinated strategy led by VGPS focuses on impactful feeder destinations and leverages assets throughout all nine cities to grow international travel to Greater Palm Springs. VGPS works with offices fulltime in the UK, Australia, France, Germany, and China and with offices in South Korea, India, Italy, and Scandinavia on special projects to reach travel agents, tour operators and receptive operators. Additionally, VGPS reaches out to international consumers through media relations and FAMs.
In addition, there are continuing efforts for the establishment of immigration and customs facilities at the Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) for international charter flights, as well as expansion from Canada and the addition of new markets like Mexico and Asia.
Demand for Off-Season and Midweek
VGPS has been focusing on growing off-season leisure visitation through coordinated marketing efforts to the drive/getaway markets of Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. For group business and conferences, past research has shown that a large percentage of meeting planners are unaware of the savings and concessions available during the summer months, especially midweek, and VGPS has been working closely with destination Partners to increase client engagement through direct sales efforts, social media, advertising, sponsorships, media and promotional efforts.
Eco-tourism—which unites the ideas of conservation, community and sustainable travel into one experience—is a fast-growing sector of the industry and one that Greater Palm Springs could “own” with a concerted, coordinated effort. CVAG is accumulating a list of the sustainable practices of all nine cities and venues and will collaborate with VGPS and its Partners to make a comprehensive and on-going list that can be marketed. Doing so would aid in overcoming the misperception that the region overuses water.
In addition, VGPS is continuing its support of bringing public awareness to the need to restore the Salton Sea and is maintaining continued coordination with public agencies, including the Salton Sea Authority, the Salton Sea Action Committee, CVAG and others. Also, VGPS will continue to promote events at the Salton Sea that drive outdoor recreation possibilities.
DestinationNEXT Key Findings
A recent research project, DestinationNEXT, revealed additional key components for the destination. Overall, Greater Palm Springs was identified in the study as being an established destination with strong community engagement.
To maintain this strong position, the destination needs to be mindful of these key strategic challenges: avoiding complacency; continuing to evolve the destination to deliver a compelling and authentic marketplace experience; keeping an eye on the ball; and maintaining & building regional collaboration & community support.
KEY STUDY TAKEAWAYS
Greater Palm Springs is above industry average in destination strength and community support & engagement, and its stakeholders are aligned on perceptions about destination and community support. To maintain this position of strength, the following destination opportunities for continued focus have been identified.
Transportation: Improve transportation to and within Greater Palm Springs. Areas of focus:
- Annual air access
- Road congestion (from the drive market)
- Public transportation (especially for hospitality workers)
- Mobility: bike-friendly, walkability, access for those with disabilities
Visitor Engagement: Ensure that the destination continues to engage visitors in creative and innovative ways.
Large-Scale Meeting & Events Venues: Develop a feasibility plan for meeting facilities in the destination for next 10 years, and explore the development of sporting event venues.
Broadband: Improve communication and Internet infrastructure (broadband width and capacity) to attract a creative and high-tech industries, and consider public Wi-Fi.
Community Support: Keep residents informed of the economic benefits of tourism to the region and efforts being made toward continued growth, and remain focused on improving the local workforce through education.