When 2018 drew to a close, Expedia proclaimed it “The Year of the Secondary City.” Late the following year, Booking.com predicted “the rise of the second-city traveler” as a top trend for 2020. Then the pandemic hit and tourism everywhere evaporated. As COVID-19 cases decline, vaccinations ramp up and travel restrictions are lifted worldwide, we predict that secondary city tourism will actually outperform visitation to the globe’s former first-tier destinations.
But first, what is a secondary city?
It depends on who you ask. Cities Alliance, an international partnership formed to support cities in delivering sustainable development, broadly defines a secondary city as ranging from 150,000 to five million inhabitants or being home to 10-50% of the population of a country’s largest city. So, clearly, the actual size of the secondary city will vary widely from nation to nation. One in China will be far more populous than one in, say, New Zealand. Trust your gut instinct—if your DMO is the Kelly Rowland to your country’s (or state’s) Beyoncé, you will likely already know it.
What makes secondary city tourism such a force?
We’ve identified a few factors at play in elevating these second-tier cities to first-choice vacation destinations. Here are three: 1) Millennial and Generation Z travelers are very aware of their environmental footprint and cultural impact, so they’re actively choosing not to burden destinations already feeling the negative effects of overtourism. 2) Modern wanderlusters have a burning desire for authentic experiences and living like a local—something more easily accomplished away from attractions, cultural sites and eateries notoriously overrun by tourists. 3) As we ease our way out of the pandemic, travelers will want to steer clear of crowded major cities.
How can I increase tourism in my secondary city?
When it comes to what travelers want, size isn’t what matters. It’s a true sense of place and being immersed in a destination. So target niche vacationers by pairing specific reasons for a trip—along with personalized interests—with relevant attractions, activities and tours. Promote your distinctive culinary offerings to “I want to eat where the locals eat” foodies—as we’ve done in content created for New Jersey Travel & Tourism. Attract lucrative group business by establishing your destination as a thought leader and showcasing what sets it apart—this blog post for our client, Kiawah Island Golf Resort, is a perfect example of the approach.
As travel and tourism marketing experts with over 40 years of experience, Dana has the know-how to take your secondary city straight to the number one slot. Ready to boost your year-over-year visitation numbers and expenditures? Reach out to Lynn Kaniper at 609.466.9187 ext. 117 or firstname.lastname@example.org today.