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The Port A Way

Destination Stewardship in Port Aransas

The Port Aransas Tourism Bureau & Chamber of Commerce launched and completed a destination stewardship planning process needed to balance visitor growth with the long-term health and vibrancy of the Port Aransas community, beach, and residents' quality of life. Destination stewardship is different from destination marketing and management in that it’s a shift from promoting communities to engaging and stewarding communities, which in turn provides more livable and sustainable destinations.

In the midst of this global pandemic when destinations across the globe are seeing significant drops in visitation levels, Port Aransas continues to see record-breaking numbers of visitors. This surge in visitation is putting pressure on natural resources and infrastructure, amplifying issues related to workforce, and leading to negative resident sentiment toward tourism.

This program was an opportunity for the community to come together around ways we can encourage visitors to blend in with, not disrupt, our very special way of life. It was a four-month project that enlisted the entire Port A community in developing a new messaging campaign aimed at inspiring vacationers to "Live the Island Life—the Port A Way" while they are here.

The Process

The process was led by Cathy Ritter, founder of Better Destinations. This Denver-based consultancy specializes in maximizing the benefits of tourism while addressing impacts to achieve overall positive outcomes, especially for those who call a destination home.

Two community sessions were held in December. Ritter shared an overview of preliminary findings from some interviews and discussed opportunities and concerns as well as potential ways of addressing them with about 75 workshop attendees.

Additional community workshops took place in early February and late March to gather community input into a messaging campaign that launched in May 2022.

The project also included research. A highly regarded national tourism research firm, Strategic Marketing & Research Insights (SMARInsights), surveyed Port A residents both full- and part-time, to gain further insights into perceptions, concerns, and best ways of addressing them. SMARInsights also fielded a study to past and potential Port A visitors to better understand attitudes toward Port A and the best ways to encourage respectful travel here.

Another organization, The Travel Foundation, researched best practices for managing tourism to coastal and marine destinations around the globe. Learnings from these other destinations provided inspiration for Port A to shape its tourism economy in ways that bring more benefit to residents, whether economic, cultural, or environmental.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about destination stewardship and respectful tourism can be found here.