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Heritage Tourism • Evaluation & Renewal

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Evaluation and Renewal

. . . an ongoing cycle of development

In a healthy process, we evaluate because we want to make sure that
what we did “contributes to improving our community’s future.
Eric Thompson, University of Nebraska-Lincoln



Why Evaluate?  It is a Matter of Perspective

We evaluate to look at what we have accomplished up to a certain point in time and then review it, address our shortcomings and build upon our strengths, and then incorporate these lessons learned into the next phase. In many ways, the process of evaluation is part of our everyday lives. In fact, it is easy to assume that people are in a constant state of evaluation. We evaluate the weather, both yesterday and today, to determine whether it is a good day to take a walk later this afternoon. Other examples might include what radio station to listen to, whether or not the soup needs more salt, and on and on.

Two basic questions are at the core of heritage tourism efforts:

Has the initiative worked well enough to continue it in the future? 

What improvements can be made to the heritage tourism initiative?  

Both questions are critical to the renewal of the initiative. Evaluation will help to determine whether the initiative should continue and how to make it better.


 Image of Flamenco Dancers (PhotoMorgue)  Image of Calhoun Co. (MI) Home Grange Fair ladies hammering contest  Image of Michigan's Produce, courtesy MI Dept. of Agriculture 

Flamenco Dancers (PhotoMorgue). Calhoun Co. (MI) Home Grange Fair ladies hammering contest.
Michigan's Produce, courtesy MI Dept. of Agriculture.


Different types of Evaluation For Different Needs

Many approaches to evaluation are available, and many reasons exist to use evaluation to benefit your work. It isn’t useful only after you have put programs in place. Evaluation methods can be broadly grouped into two types --formative and summative. These two approaches are used at different times and for different reasons.  

Formative evaluation is a tool to use as you are planning. It can help to refine and “test-drive” approaches and products. Formative evaluation can assist you in knowing which approach among many options to take, or provide feedback as you conduct trials of materials or products. 

Summative evaluation is used to discover whether you have accomplished what you set out to do. Summative evaluation looks at the effects of your work for the intended purpose. Summative also looks at the individuals who have been involved in your services or products and the impact or results on your visitors or users.


Evaluation can help to determine success, return on investment,
and how you have impacted the community. Nothing is done until evaluation is conducted.
Evaluate as you go along at specific time frames and at the completion of activities.  
Eric Thompson, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Factors to be Measured

Are you meeting your intended goals?

The decision to continue a heritage tourism initiative depends on whether the initiative is meeting its intended goals and whether the community has the resources to continue support. The level of community involvement is a strong indicator of both, and is the first factor to be measured. Sustained or growing community involvement in initiative meetings, activities and events signals that the community can continue to support the initiative. It also suggests that community members believe the initiative is successful and worthy of their time. To measure community involvement, the primary concern is to determine whether volunteers continue to attend meetings, events, or other activities of the initiative at roughly the same rate (or a higher rate) at the end of the process as at the beginning. You can track this through recordkeeping. Of course, near the end of the process, it is also important to ask volunteers, funders, and key participants whether they would like to continue.


Is your initiative functioning?

Another important step is to determine whether your heritage tourism initiative is functioning as it should. This suggests two more factors to be measured: performance benchmarking and quality of assumptions. Performance benchmarking is a way to determine whether the activities that are part of a heritage tourism initiative--events, festivals, exhibits, heritage tours, or marketing efforts--are of high quality. The attributes of these activities are benchmarked against similar activities in other communities (or perhaps an existing activity in the same community) that are considered to be successful. Performance benchmarking is explained in more detail in the methodology section.


Logic models -- a good tool for planning and evaluation.

Logic models can be used to isolate the key assumptions of a heritage tourism initiative. Logic models show the expected relationships between activities (also known as outputs) and outcomes. Logic models also show the assumptions that underlie those expected relationships. Logic models allow evaluators to discover why a heritage tourism initiative is working or not working as expected, by allowing evaluators to consider the validity of these key underlying assumptions. But, logic models are required to determine the key assumptions, so that the validity of each key assumption can be measured. For example, a heritage tourism initiative based on holding heritage tourism festivals (the output) may expect that this will lead to an increase in overnight guests in the community. In other words, an expected relationship exists between festivals and overnight guests. But several assumptions might underlie that expected relationship. These are: 

   1) visitors are willing to travel more than 100 miles to attend such festivals, 

   2) local lodging facilities normally have vacancies at the time of the festival and 

   3) local lodging facilities match the expectations of festival visitors. 

Once identified, evaluators can assess each of these key assumptions. Further information on logic models is in this overview. In addition these two well thought out examples and reports about the logic model concept and process will be useful:

•  W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Logic Model Development Guide. 2004. 

•  Univ of Wisconsin Cooperataive Extension's Program Development and Evaluation unit has materials, especially the guidebook: Developing a Logic Model: Teaching and Training Guide (2008).


Outcomes -- a measure of accomplishment

The last factor to be measured is the outcomes of the heritage tourism initiative. Expected outcomes are identified and developed as a part of the planning process. Evaluators examine whether those anticipated outcomes occurred and may also look at the overall impact on the economy. This can be accomplished via economic impact analysis, which is also described in the Methodology section. 
                 Image of A Grand Rapids, Mi ArtPrize entry (center)   Image of tenting   Image of at the beach               
 A Grand Rapids, Mi ArtPrize entry (center); tenting and at the beach (PhotoMorgue).     

Preparing for Evaluation

The evaluation team must clearly understands the rationale,
relationships, and assumptions behind the tourism plans.
Eric Thompson, University of Nebraska – Lincoln

An interesting characteristic about evaluation is that the end result of any evaluation depends on the evaluator’s perspective. For example, after assessing today’s weather, you may want to take a walk. To you, few things may compare to a nice neighborhood walk when the weather is cool. It makes sense, then, for you to see a little snow outside as a perfect day for a walk. Another person, however, may like warmer weather. When they see snow outside, they might think that the day is too cold, or that more snow on the way would prohibit their walk.
An Evaluation Group
For your planning, this suggests that the evaluation of a community project should be made by developing an evaluation group or task force that reflects the diverse perspectives of the community. Consideration also should be given to involving external as well as internal stakeholders in the evaluation process. Once assembled, the evaluation group should work to develop a shared understanding and commitment to an evaluation. This includes openly discussing issues of organizational development, schedules, and evaluation to clarify key concepts in initial meetings. Initial discussions may determine that evaluation requires a facilitator or that persons participating in the evaluation require training of some kind.
The evaluation group also should be developed at the beginning of the heritage tourism initiative, rather than after the initiative is already underway. A plan can be developed with specific timeframes for when data will be collected and which specific individuals will be responsible for that. Further, it is important that the logic models for the initiative be developed as the steps of the initiative are being planned, so that the evaluation team clearly understands the rationale, relationships, and assumptions behind the initiative plans. As the evaluation proceeds, the team should consider sharing findings and recommendations with key stakeholders throughout the process. The team may receive constructive feedback and sharing will build confidence in the evaluation.


Who will be interested?

The first key issue when conducting an evaluation is determining who will be interested in the results? Participants and volunteers of the heritage tourism initiative will be interested, since the evaluation should yield valuable information about whether to renew the initiative and how to improve it in the future.  This Survey of Heritage Visitors provides an example.

Who else might be interested?  Other interested parties can be identified by thinking about the assumptions identified in the logic model. Returning to the example of the festival that is expected to increase overnight guests, certain assumptions were made about the capabilities of local lodging businesses. Managers or owners of those lodging businesses may be very interested in the results of the evaluation. The evaluation group must be sure to present results in a way that will reach these potentially interested parties. 

Grant agencies, local or regional press, and peer communities also may wish to see the results of the evaluation. The evaluation team should think carefully about whether it is necessary or desirable to prepare a formal report on the project to make the results accessible to these other audiences.


Validate your findings. 

Another key question is how evaluation results will be cross-checked and validated? To begin with, an outside expert can review the evaluation methodology and study. One possibility would be to hire an outside consultant. A more cost effective option would be to engage experts with the state Extension service or broader university-system. Cross-checking within the evaluation group may also be possible. This can be done by having several committee members review each issue separately and independently, then come back together and compare results. 

If both evaluations yield similar findings the cross-checking exercise will build confidence
in results. If each evaluation yields different findings, further study is required.
Eric Thompson, University of Nebraska 


Beyond these general approaches to methodology, you may need to use these specific methodologies.

BENCHMARKING     The first is performance benchmarking of the initative’s activities, such as festivals, exhibits, heritage tours, or marketing campaigns. Benchmarking examines whether the initiatives really achieved what was planned? For example, if the heritage tourism plan was to hold multiple heritage festivals over the summer, were multiple festivals held or just one? Further, were these activities of high quality? Returning to the example of festivals, were the festivals well organized and of sufficient scope? This discussion and worksheet on of performance benchmarking provides a framework for benchmarking analysis.


ECONOMIC IMPACT STUDIES     In some cases, the evaluation group will decide to conduct an economic impact study, to determine how the local economy grew in response to a heritage tourism initiative. A detailed description of economic impact studies and companion economic impact worksheet provide a guide for conducting an economic impact study for heritage tourism initiatives.

One key concept in economic impact analysis is the choice of comparison communities. It is critical to identify appropriate comparison communities that are similar to the community where the heritage tourism initiative will take place. Sales, employment, and visitors to heritage tourism businesses change over time for a variety of reasons. One reason might be the activities introduced as part of the heritage tourism initiative, but many other factors such as weather or the general condition of state or national economy also matter. Making comparisons with other, similar communities that are impacted by the same weather and the same state economy, but do not have a heritage tourism initiative, is necessary in order to isolate the impact of the tourism initiative.  Reports describing this comparison group approach are:

The Efect of a Smoke-Free Ordinance on Easting and Drinking Places in Lincoln, Nebraska. McGarvey, Thompson, Dority and Sainath. A Bureau of Business Research Report, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 2006.

Big Box Stores: Their Impacts on the Economy and Tips for Competing. Golden, Jeutang, Pattaik, Rosenbaum and Thompson. A Bureau of Business Research Report, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 2006


Golden, Sean, Noel Jeutang, Ratikanta Pattiak, David Rosenbaum and Eric Thompson, 2006. Big Box Stores: Their Impacts on the Economy and Tips for Competing. Bureau of Business Research, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (June).

McGarvey, Mary, Eric Thompson Bree Dority, and Jyothsna Sainath, 2006. The Effect of a Smoke-Free Ordinance on Eating and Drinking Places in Lincoln, Nebraska. Bureau of Business Research, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (October).

Taylor-Powell, Ellen and Ellen Henert, 2008. Developing a logic model: Teaching and training guide. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin-Extension, Cooperative Extension, Program Development and Evaluation (February).

W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 2004. Logic Model Development Guide. Battle Creek, MI. 

Dickerson, Larry Creating Healthy Communities, The Process of Community Discovery; University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension, 2001.

Dickerson, Adams, Flora, Gulick, Jeanetta, Nakazawa  Building A Strong Community; University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension, Forthcoming Fall 2013. 


Image of Edsel Ford Sheep Barn at Haven Hill, Oakland County MI Image of Old growth cedars, Manitou Island, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Image of Spring Green, WI, airport diner -- site of 'fly-ins' Image of Heritage oxen, Tillers International, Scotts, MI

Edsel Ford Sheep Barn at Haven Hill, Oakland County MI. Old growth cedars, Manitou Island, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  Spring Green, WI, airport diner -- site of 'fly-ins'. Heritage oxen, Tillers International, Scotts, MI.




Life Cycles and Renewal



Products, brands and tourism sites and programs go through different life cycles or stages.
Consider it as a part of your communications, marketing and planning.
Francis Boggus, Community Planning & Development, Des Moines, Iowa


Evaluation is a critical and ongoing element to your work in tourism planning. It helps to understand the life cycle of the heritage tourism process and ensure that you can continue to renew your efforts and sustain heritage tourism as a viable economic and community strategy for your community.Use the product life cycle approach to keep on the cutting edge and have up-to-date products and attractions.


Lessons of the Brand Life Cycle for Tourism

Every product/brand has a life period: it is launched, it grows, it develops, and, at some point, it may decline. In practice, not all brands decline. Like some brands, some heritage tourism sites will live on indefinitely. The important point for a site to be self-sustaining, it needs to know where it is in the life cycle of the brand and constantly evaluate and market itself based on its position in the marketplace. All heritage tourism attractions need a brand, and they need to establish a strong brand to express their identity and character. Heritage tourism is competiting for the tourist dollars with other sites and services. The goal is to achieve and extend the maturity stage of the cycle. That can be achieved by regular, rigorous evaluation.Consider the adaptability of the product Life Cycle Model to heritage tourism products and community/regional activity

A product’s life cycle can be divided into several stages that are characterized by revenue that is generated by the product. If a curve is drawn representing product revenue over time, it may take one of many different shapes:         

Image of A product’s life cycle

Source: From NetMBA-Business Knowledge Center: www.netmba.com


The five main stages of a brand’s life cycle each have characteristics that define them.  

Development stage 

Concept is created
Demand has to be created
Consumers have to be prompted to visit attraction
Startup costs are very high
Makes no money at this stage


Introduction Stage

Market evaluation is done and niche sought
Active promotion is needed
Actual costs vs. projected costs evolve
Public awareness is established 


Growth Stage

Costs may be reduced to economy of scale
Attendance increases
Market share and niche is found
Public awareness increases 
Promotion pays off with increased revenues


Maturity Stage

Costs are lowered because of increased attendance and experience effect      
Attendance peaks and market saturation is reached
Competition recognizes place as a major destination
Brand differentiation and feature diversification is emphasized to maintain market share 


Evaluation and Renewal Stage

Costs become counter-optimal
Attendance declines
Profitability diminishes
Change by constantly evaluating the attractionProduct Life-cycle (PLC)


Like human beings, products also have a life cycle arc. From birth to death, humans beings pass through various stages e.g. birth, growth, maturity, decline and death and so do products. The product life cycle goes through multiple phases, involves many professional disciplines, and requires many skills, tools and processes. Product life cycle (PLC) has to do with the life of a product in the market with respect to business/commercial costs and sales measures. To say that a product has a life cycle is to assert three things:

1. Products have a limited life
2. Product sales pass through distinct stages, each possessing challenges, opportunities and problems for the seller.
3. Products require different marketing, financing, product development, purchasing and human resource in each stage of its life cycle.


                         Image of Roadside quilt barn mural, Diamondale, MI  Image of Dock scene  Image of girlfriends courtesy PhotoMorgue                           

Roadside quilt barn mural, Diamondale, MI. Dock scene and girlfriends courtesy PhotoMorgue.


The life cycle concept can be applied to a brand, a place or a destination.

Heritage tourism is economic development. Your site/place/event should address marketing 
in the same way a producer moves their product into the marketplace.
In heritage tourism, the tourist is the consumer.  
Francis Boggus, Community Planning  Development, Des Moines, Iowa

Product/brand life cycle management (or PLCM) is the succession of changing strategies used by management as a product goes through its life cycle. In heritage tourism, the product is the attraction that will appeal to tourists. Tourists are identified as anyone who visits a place for pleasure, interest, or recreation. In the context of heritage tourism, the heritage place and the community need to address its concept (the place, historic site or event) as an attraction, and the attraction must brand itself into a destination, and the attraction must differentiate itself from other attractions. Your attractions (place, historic site, event, etc.) progresses through the same product life cycle as any other product/brand in the marketplace. 

In treating heritage tourism as an economic development tool, the same strategy is applied to the marketing aspect of the site, place or event, as a business person would use in developing a marketing strategy for its product or service. The point of heritage tourism is to get more consumers into the sites, places and events. This, in turn, produces more revenue for the local community. Travel Iowa, in its annual report for 2011, found that their 19 Iowa Welcome Centers served 170,000 parties and 450,000 travelers. These tourists spent an estimated $174 million at those locations.

The duration of a product life may be as short as a few months for a fad or a century or longer for product categories like the gasoline-powdered engine. The same holds true for the brand experience of heritage tourism.

Two good examples are the Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy museums. The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum was once a popular tourist attraction. However, it moved from Victorville, California, to Branson, Missouri, in 2007,  then closed in 2010, and its items were sold at Christie’s Auction house for about $3 million dollars. Roy Rogers merchandise is still marketed, but only through an web site.

The Hopalong Cassidy Museum in Cambridge, Ohio--the birthplace of William Boyd, AKA Hopalong Cassidy--is now free to the public and supported more like a charity than a self-sustaining attraction, without active promotion. In the 1950’s, Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy were the most popular cowboys, with television shows and extensive merchandising sales.


Walking Through the Stages

DEVELOPMENT     Brand development is the first or incubation stage of the product/brand life cycle. The concept is originated and the heritage tourism place opens. Initially, no visitors come from outside the community and management prepares to introduce the brand to the general public. As the brand progresses through its life cycle, changes in the marketing mix usually are required to adjust to the evolving challenges, change in tastes and opportunities that occur in the marketplace of tourism. This is usually the stage when local people discover that something in their community has appeal beyond the immediate area  and can attract a crowd that will pay to visit the place/site. Sales and attendance, those willing to pay for admission to a place, will determine the economic feasibility of a heritage site/place as a tourist attraction.


INTRODUCTION     When the brand /site/place is introduced, the second stage, attendance will be low until visitors become aware of the heritage tourist site/place and its benefits. However, at some attractions, visitor attendance will be high initially, then level off or drop off after the grand opening. The key is to develop a marketing strategy that will keep visitors coming back or having more visitors discover the heritage site/place/event.  

During the introduction stage, the primary goal is to establish a market and build the primary demand for the brand/heritage site. The product offered (experience), price and promotion of the brand/heritage site is vital and crucial for success at this stage.


GROWTH     The third phase is the growth stage. This is a period of attendance growth as more tourists become aware of the heritage site/place/event. Additional market segments are targeted, and the market segment is solidified. Once the site has proven to be successful, visitors will pass the word of their satisfaction and word-of-mouth advertising will be utilized, as well as paid and earned promotion. 

There will also be increased competition for the tourist trade from similar tourist heritage sites, locally, regionally and nationally. 


MATURITY     The fourth stage of the brand life cycle is the maturity stage. The maturity stage is the most profitable. While attendance continues to increase in this stage, it does so at a slower rate. Brand awareness is strong. Differentiation of your brand from the competition is important at this stage too. The primary goal of this stage is to maintain the market share and attendance at the historic site/place/event and extend the brand life cycle. Re-evaluation of the heritage site/place and its relevancy is needed at this and every stage.


DECLINE • RENEWAL     Decline and/or renewal is the fifth stage in the brand life cycle. The brand becomes stagnant because of changing consumer tastes, the market becomes saturated with other competitors, or advertising isn’t done to maintain brand presence or awareness in the market place. If the attraction has developed brand loyalty and profitability, keeping the it open can be maintained without dooming losses . Four options usually exist when a brand has reached this stage: 

     • maintain the attraction with the hope that interest will recover, but scale down costs; 
     • harvest the brand and coast along with an internet presence only; 
     • discontinue the heritage site and close it; 
     • and, the better alternative, is to renew the attraction's appeal to tourists. 

Renewal can be achieved by evaluation of the entire attraction on a reoccurring basis, annually or not longer than every 2-3 years. That way the attraction can be assessed and evaluated for relevancy and appeal and not lose its connection to tourists.


Life Cycle

The term “life cycle” implies a well-defined life cycle as observed in living organisms. However, products, brands and heritage tourism sites do not have such a predictable life and specific cycle curves and the brand can survive ad infinitum as “ghost brands.” Some attractions such as Roy Rogers Museum close, , or they, such as the Hopalong Cassidy Museum, coast along as “ghosts” of their former selves. Other attractions are still sustainable and viable, e.g. U.S. Grant home in Galena, IL, and many others.

However, remember that “Elvis Lives”! The Elvis Presley Museum –Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee boasts that it is the largest tourist site in the United States, outside of the White House in Washington, D.C. This is an example of an attraction that was in the decline stage, was revived and and is now still in the maturity stage. The management of that heritage attraction keeps Elvis’ memory alive with a mixture of very creative, prominent and active promotion and merchandizing. 


It is important that each site make an honest assessment of their place in the brand life cycle
and decide what can improve their marketing presence in the tourism field.
Heritage sites may not literally die, like a brand or products, but they can become economic liabilities.

Remember, most heritage sites are non-profits. If they continue to lose money, they will eventually close. 
The goal is to adopt renewal as an ongoing process and become a sustainable part of the community.
Francis Boggus, Community Planning & Development, Des Moines, Iowa



Image of Dan's Cabin, "Artis-in-Residence" program of Friends of the Porkey's, Silver City MI
Dan's Cabin, "Artis-in-Residence" program of Friends of the Porkey's, Silver City MI