Help bridge the gap between USFS public lands and rural towns

Updated: Dec 31, 2021

ASTC hopes to be an Entrepreneur Incubator in 2021. We appreciate any feedback as we try to produce ideas for others to run with.



Opportunity

Market Failures with United States Forest Service (USFS) Land Management that is adjacent to Small Communities


Background

As stated in the Trail Crew/s Formation 2021 goal, the federal government does not have the budget or personnel to maintain our Federal lands like they did in the past. The community leaders who have the most to gain from tax revenue have no jurisdiction over the lands. Some of the community leaders (mayors) found within small towns are not paid. Furthermore, some counties in rural Appalachia still do not have paid tourism directors. Many still do not even have websites, twitter accounts, and other social media platforms to help promote nature based tourism that is found on federal lands. Futhermore, the federal websites that promote the recreational opportunities are not well made and user friendly.


During the summer of 2020 we had an entire campground closed on a Ranger District. The regular camp host did not make it, and two other people never materialized. The county (who stood to benefit the most) and even the regional tourism authorities failed to have a strong list of camp host volunteer applicants for the USFS. Furthermore, when people were trying to social distance, we could not provide that service when unemployment was double digits in the USA by early April.

Many of our trails are in neglect on USFS land, but at no fault of USFS employees. Their funding and staff continue to be cut back year after year. What is made worse is that there are less volunteers than in previous generations.


ASTC is concerned that we will continue to offer poor services in the incoming years and greatly hurt our branding and not reach our potential with diversifying our rural economies. This lack of collaboration will also retard organizations and entrepreneurs to help bring down tourism contraints by creating Outfitters, Guides, and Shuttles.


How do we fix this market failure?

Model

B2B (Business to Business). In this case Business to Localities.

You launch these small towns forward by creating and or providing quantum leaps with their online tourism marketing, advertising, and tourist trip planning.

The localities pay a entreprenuer, or market firm to help them reach tourists and volunteers.

Ideally, an organization is providing services for one principal (Chamber of Commerce or Coalition).

The regional website and social media platforms are owned by the principal.

After 2-12 months you let the localities run the sites, or you drastically reduce your responsibilities.


You have two options:

1)Make the case that you want to work yourself out of a job. This could be a 100 day package where you set up everything and then you hand over the keys to the localities. The advantage to you is that there will be a faster return on your investment over a shorter time period.


2)You work on the site continuously. Here you are free from training localities staff and you can focus on the sites. You will receive less in a shorter span, but more in a 12 month period. The advantage to the localities is that they know things are being done right, and they can focus on other tasks.

Value Innovation

Create a market space that is found in the void between the federal government and small rural towns. You will be connecting the supply (nature based and other tourism opportunites) with the demand (2/3rds of the nations population in a days drive). The service you are creating will help rural communities catch up to the more developmed areas due to the deflationary properties of the internet.


Is there a model already out there?

There are freelancers who work on small campaigns. There are also regional marketing organizations that can help. Please see our Tourism Consulting and Management Consulting Twitter lists.

Here are some links to look over.

Upworks

Freelancer

Here is an excellent resource to look over.


Skills

You will need to be able to generate high quality websites in short order, and maximize the resources of the social media accounts created.


You will need to interact with trip planners and tourists on social media; promote job promotions, and create and promote volunteer recruitment.


You will need to interact with and work with USFS and tourism employees and volunteers for the localities.


Setting up advertisements on the sites will help increase revenue, allowing your fees to be lower. You may need to train county and town staff in person on how to use the sites.


Grant researching and writing skills will help the localities when they apply for funding to pay for your services and increase their tourism outreach.


Motivation

You should have a good understanding of tourism and especially nature based tourism.


You should be motivated to help small counties transition their economies.

Organization

ASTC recommends starting at least a sole proprietorship if you do not already have an internet type business. A single Member LLC would be fair. A partnership could attract positive attention from stakeholders.


Expenses

Start up costs could be $300-$800 for the website and domain for an entire year. Monthly costs could be $15-45. If you already have a smart phone and computer, your start up costs are drastically reduced. Note, this is just a crude estimate at best.


Income

This is not known. There are many variables. It all depends on how much you research to discover the demand, and how much you promise to deliver. The idea is to carve out a niche that you are happy with.


Sales Pitch

First, make the case of what is not being done currently. Show examples of what other localities are doing and how they are benefiting from such services. But then bring up all of the costs that are associated with such benefits. Sell the idea on how US Forest land is a hidden gem in the Mountains of Appalachia. Make the case of the changes that are coming to the region. Read what ASTC is excited about to help you.


Second, make the case of how you can duplicate what other localities are doing, but more efficiently and for far less in cost. And best of all, you will hand the keys to them once things get rolling.

Last, make the argument on how the return on investment for the communities and counties would be incredible. You will receive just fractions of a penny on the dollar from the tourism revenue generated.


Sale Pitch Notes

You are a contractor that the counties do not need to pay medical benefits, and other Human Resource responsibilities.


Have some solid leads on grants that will help pay for your services and beyond.


You could already have the website made and social media sites at the presentation to really wow the crowd. When stakeholders see their business on your platform they will get more excited.


You will be putting more work on people who are overworked, underpaid, and understaffed. What do they personally stand to gain? In your sales pitch talk about how this will help their careers.


Do your research on the US Forest. If there is a Ranger District that fits this niche, then just make the sales pitch to that region.


Let the principal own the website and other platforms, so once you part ways they know the site will not be taken down. Have cost estimates for how much they will need to spend to start up things in addition to your expenses.


Do not get greedy. Keep in mind some of these towns located at the doorstep of the US Forest do not even pay their staff, they are volunteers. You should have an intrinsic value to motivate you in the sales pitch.


Have USFS staff present as much as possible at sales pitch meetings.

Have county, regional, and state tourism authorities at the table as much as possible. They must have skin in the game.


Make the case that what’s good for the region is good for the county.


Day to Day Routine

  1. Promote the particular US Forest or Ranger District/s and the surrounding tourists attractions found within the region.

  2. Your organization also supports businesses that benefit from nature based tourism on social media that depend upon the Public Domain Land.

  3. You collaborate with county tourism directors, clubs, and other stakeholders to augment and reinforce their marketing and branding objectives and goals. The same goes for real estate agents. Anything that will help people visit the area.

  4. You collaborate with USFS employees to advertise for seasonal hires, camp host volunteers, and other volunteers that they can handle. The same goes for small towns.

  5. You collaborate with USFS employees to advertise for college interns who directly or indirectly bring forth the use of volunteers.

  6. Coach and help organizations with their websites and social media, and marketing campaigns. Keep in mind, if you win over these organizations, you will most likely have your services picked up after the contract ends.

  7. Work with others or start an international campaign for marketing the US Forest globally.

  8. Work with online travel agents, and local travel agents.

  9. Help Stakeholders with Policy Formation by promoting meetings.


Making the Case for your Contract to be Renewed


Collect data. In your presentation, show how you helped reach X% capacity with camp hosts, volunteer onboarding, and have quotes from organizational stakeholders. Use social media examples of how tourists were happy with their trips and link it to your platform.

You must also get the County Tourism Directors and other important Stakeholders to advocate for you. Have them make the case!



Model Pitfalls

Trying to get a principal to represent others will be a challenge. Do your research and find out what counties work with whom. These alliances usually do not cross state lines.


The research to make the best sales pitch will take time.


Many stakeholders do not see the potential for this region of Appalachia, or believe tourism jobs are not ideal. Actually they are. An enterprise could make $3,000+ on one package if they have everything lined up. Bridging the Gap between Travel Agents and Tourists in Coal Country.


There will be less money for grants due to the pandemic.


Some stakeholders are happy with how their towns are doing