The Port A Way
Destination Stewardship in Port Aransas
The Port Aransas Tourism Bureau & Chamber of Commerce is gearing up to kick off 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 is 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's a four-month project that will enlist 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 will be 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 will begin the process in December. To kick off the first workshop, Ritter will share an overview of preliminary findings from interviews with about 20 Port A leaders, developers, and business owners last month. Then, discussion will center on identifying opportunities and concerns as well as potential ways of addressing them.
Participants will be invited to use a discussion tool called MentiMeter, which is designed to ensure that all voices in the room, not just the loudest ones, are heard. Participants will be able to use a phone or other device to share opinions in response to various questions. Each set of responses will lead to an open discussion.
Sign up for the session of your choice using the form below. Additional community workshops are planned for early February and late March to gather community input into a messaging campaign that will launch in conjunction with Port A's next summer marketing campaign next April.
The project also will include research. A highly regarded national tourism research firm, Strategic Marketing & Research Insights (SMARInsights), will survey Port A residents, whether full- or part-time, to gain further insights into perceptions, concerns, and best ways of addressing them. SMARInsights also will field 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, will research best practices for managing tourism to coastal and marine destinations around the globe. Learnings from these other destinations can provide inspiration for Port A to shape its tourism economy in ways that bring more benefit to residents, whether economic, cultural, or environmental.
Workshop Session Sign-Up
Residents, businesses, community organizations, and elected leaders are welcome to attend either of two sessions. The first is set for 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, December 9. The second is 9 to 11 a.m. on Friday, December 10. Both will take place at the Port Aransas I.S.D. Administration Building Board Room (100 S. Station St.).