BrandingWire: Estes Park

This month we are looking at Estes Park … and as this is an entirely new destination for me, I want to look at some of the challenges that face small towns with small budgets seeking an overseas audience.

Now, I want to make it clear, from the beginning of this ramble, that not all tourist destinations want or need international tourists — for international tourists bring a whole level of complexity to a localised economy. There are the language/cultural needs, the challenges of cuisine and even safety/signage concerns (something that seems somewhat relevant to Estes Park). However, the single largest challenge is awareness.

There is a whole world out there … and much of this is driven by the blockbuster icon. Generally what cuts through our tourism radar is natural beauty combined with a man-made structure. Think Sydney Harbour and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Think New York and the Statue of Liberty. Think Paris and the Eiffel Tower. Think Cairo and the Pyramids.

It strikes me that Estes Park has a unique quality in this respect. Estes Park is the gateway to the Colorado National Park — and it consists mainly of two streets running along a ridge. The town is landlocked but home to an eclectic range of shops, locals and spectacular views. The potential is to draw out the history and "present moment" of the town. And who, exactly, would be interested?

I am thinking that the desire to balance local needs with increase in high yield tourism indicates a focus on high net worth tourists. This means targeting a demographic we call "grey nomads". This baby boomer generation has plenty of spending power and a taste for adventure … and there are a couple of immediate steps that could be taken:

  • Package offers: Work with a string of similar destinations across the USA to build seasonal short stay tours. This could include self-drive and full-service elements. Build the offers and then think about how to activate them.
  • Association marketing: With a focus on self-drive tourism, marketing through motoring association newsletters makes sense and would be highly effective
  • Sister-community marketing: Estes Park should find and activate a sister-city style relationship with similar towns in other countries. This could be done through organisations such as Rotary
  • Web: I am sure that some of my BrandingWire colleagues will address "web strategy" … but there is obviously a range of work that needs to be done from SEO through to presence, community and storytelling points of view
  • Closed loop feedback: Finally, one of the most powerful opportunities for those targeting this lucrative group of travellers is feedback. By finding ways of closing the loop — allowing good experiences to be discussed, furthered and broadcast, and by bringing the voice of the town into this discussion (whether through on or offline comms), Estes Park will be able to turn the destination into a "talking point".

Get more high-voltage ideas at

Other members of the BrandingWire team include: Becky Carroll, Olivier Blanchard,  Derrick Daye, Lewis Green, Ann Handley, Martin Jelsema, Valeria Maltoni, Drew McLellan, Patrick Schaber, Kevin Dugan and Steve Woodruff.

4 thoughts on “BrandingWire: Estes Park

  1. Gavin,
    Good recommendations! I particularly like the idea of a sister community. I bet Australia or New Zealand have getaways that are great matches as are some destinations in Latin America.

  2. Closing the feedback loop is essential to a lot of towns and places that offer experiences. Insightful idea of reaching out to the baby boomers with package offers and associations outreach. You complete us 😉

  3. The closed loop feedback idea seems like a very cutting-edge way to move from the more typical “static” marketing of places, into the newer realm of social media. I think much of the potential for that is yet unexplored – why shouldn’t a small town like Estes Park be a pioneer in approaches like this (which are now so simple and inexpensive to implement)!
    Good creativity, Gavin!

  4. Gavin:
    Great ideas. When I owned a shop on main-street Estes Park (incidentally, it’s in a valley not on a ridge: the cliffs go up, not down) We really welcomed both the money and the enthusiasm foreign tourists brought to town, particularly Asians and French people. Both have a real facination with the old west.
    I’m going to “piggy back” on your “sister city” concept. I was thinking, why not enlist several towns in Colorado get together to promote tours? And with some help for State coffers, pretty large budgets could be pooled for such an endevor. Just keep those buses goin’ all summer.
    And the icon (Rocky Mountain National Park) coupled with the events, activities and attractions of Estes Park do make a very attractive package that can be tied up with a bow, the bow of a sussinct message.

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