Clearly identifying what kind of visitors the community is seeking to attract (the target market) underpins many other aspects of developing and managing a CBT operation. Characterizing the target market is important so that the community is able to effectively market the experience they are offering, and to ensure that visitors to the community have a shared philosophy with community operators, in terms of respect for local culture and an interest in supporting sustainable and equitable local development. The marketing messages must provide a clear and accurate description of what the visitor experience will be like. This kind of information helps the visitor decide if it is the right destination for them.
Work in parallel
It is important to understand the target market and work on developing the tourism product. These two fundamental aspects of CBT inform and shape each other.
Invest time in understanding market trends
The market potential for the destination and the local operation is determined by tourism trends in and around the destination. It is crucial to assess and determine potential demand for CBT and its activities before investing in CBT. Tourism boards and bureaus and other bodies will have helpful information about current and future travel markets and segments in the country or region where the CBT is located. Local tourism authorities should be able to assist with understanding tourist travel motivation and behavior. If funds are available, commissioning a private firm to do a market analysis might be a cost effective way of learning about the market and how to position a new CBT product.
Characterize the target market
Potential types of travelers include adventure travelers, health or eco-tourists seeking to experience the local natural environment, travelers interested in cultural exchange and education, or a combination of each of these. Taking time to characterize the kinds of visitors the community would like to and expect to have to visit will help clarify many aspects of marketing and CBT management. Local or national tourism authorities may be able to assist with understanding tourist markets. The Canadian Tourism Commission, for example, has identified a series of ‘traveler types’ to characterize visitors to Canada and this provides one example of what this might look like—though it will not be directly applicable in other APEC economies. Generally, visitors interested in CBT are likely to be seeking a more ‘authentic’ experience than travelers who stay within larger cities or resort accommodations. This means CBT travelers are likely to be interested in meeting and spending time with community members and in learning about past and present customs and cultures.
Look locally as well as internationally
Targeting a local or national market in addition to appealing to international travelers can help to build and sustain a critical mass of visitors and can minimize the seasonal lows characteristic of tourism dependent on international markets.
Authenticity is critical for CBT visitors
Invest time in designing appropriate and authentic mechanisms for the interpretation of the CBT.
Acknowledge that any market analysis will have uncertainties and that predicting and characterizing the CBT market is an inexact science. Planning for unexpected changes in market trends and preferences will help to build a resilient CBT venture.