Think about the top five cities you’d like to visit in 2018. Now think about the reasons why. What’s on your travel itinerary? I’d be willing to bet you’ve got two or three major sights to see. Beyond that you’re interested in getting a general sense of the city. You want to avoid tourist traps. You’re looking to “do what the locals do.” You want authenticity. You want culture. You want the souvenirs you bring home to be handcrafted locally, and to have significance beyond your stereotypical “…And All I Got Is This…” t-shirt. Today’s tourist wants to experience a destination as a temporary local.

Today’s tourist wants to experience a destination as a temporary local.

How can I be so sure? Well, firstly, I’m with you. When I’m in a new place, I want to blend in. I want to understand what it’d be like to live there. When I get home, I want to be able to speak to the city’s “vibe.” And, secondly, I took a tip from Wonderful Copenhagen, which opened my eyes to this more formal idea of “localhood.” This is the basis for their newly updated marketing platform. They have a strong point – try Googling “Hidden Gems of X City” or “Tour Y City Like a Local,” and you’ll be provided with an astounding number of search results. Clearly there’s a demand for this type of content.

So, what’s next? Well, it’s time to give the people what they want! DMOs and CVBs, hoteliers and restaurateurs, here are two opportunities for you to capitalize on this localhood trend today:

Give your locals a mouthpiece. If you’re able to find folks with a strong passion for your city, they’ll serve as natural, authentic spokespeople. Here’s how:

  • Survey them. Ask them questions about their city. What do they think are the touristy areas? What do they think are the coolest attractions? Use this information to create sample itineraries for your website.
  • Repurpose their content. Encourage locals to use a unique hashtag on social media so you can better track their city pride posts, and amplify their original content to your followers (with their permission, of course).
  • Tell their stories. Seek out unique local business models, one-of-a-kind art installations or heartwarming “neighbors helping neighbors” tales, then use them as pitch fodder for national media. (I’d recommend media training these folks in advance.)

Show off even the seemingly boring features. The reasons a person might choose to visit a city are melding with the reasons a person might choose to live in a city. For example:

  • Affordability. We’re not taking as many full-blown week-long vacations as we used to, but we are taking quick weekend trips or hopping on board the bleisure travel train. To keep up this new lifestyle, we need to make sure our mini trips do not break the bank.
  • Public transportation. We’re getting used to the convenience and affordability of ride sharing, so we expect that getting around a new city will be simple and at our fingertips. If public transportation is not easy and immediate, we’ll start to lose interest.
  • Weather. Talking about the weather gets a bad rap, but it’s an important consideration for both tourists and locals. Tell people what to do in your city when it’s hot, cold, rainy or snowy, and embrace every bit of it (as the locals do).

I want to leave you with one additional *bonus* tip: the localhood trend actually goes both ways. As much as tourists are looking to experience your city like locals, your locals are also interested in having the occasional tourist experience. Make sure they know about “must-see” traveling exhibits, exciting events and critically acclaimed restaurant openings. Unearth some hidden gems that even the locals haven’t found.

As much as tourists are looking to experience your city like locals, your locals are also interested in having the occasional tourist experience.

Have fun with this ultimate travel identity swap challenge. Go forth and make your locals feel like tourists and your tourists feel like locals.