How do we let you discover the north of the Netherlands?
March 2020 The world is shutdown. For the small entrepreneurs in horeca and tourism it’s an outright catastrophe. But, we’re entrepreneurs down to our bones, so when adversity hits, you have to shift gears.
In that bizarre time, the first steps toward the platform LocalVoucher / LocalGroningen were made. We – Hans and Wil from Straw-Hotel Hayema Heerd saw for a long time already that there’s a lot missing in the way that Groningen is known by the rest of the Netherlands. And that while the travelers who did make it up here were always blown away by Groningen and the rest of north Netherlands. These people experienced it is as a fantastic traveling destination, with the widely varying landscapes, the picturesque villages, and the many small, local gems… Much of all this beauty, however, is unknown to the larger audience – and unknown makes unloved.
But how can we improve that? In a way that everything that’s always been here, is now easily found?
This is how the idea was born: show all the special and small-scale offers throughout the province in 1 place – as a tourist friendly alternative for the many marketing websites that tend to make a mess of all the fun things that you can do around here.
“And let’s do it NOW, so that we will all get a little bit better out of the crisis!”
A new adventure, a new company.
With Rocket Minds (founded by two young IT entrepreneurs) and us two (a bit more senior entrepreneurs in the recreational industry), founding a company together? In the middle of the corona crisis?
Precisely in times of crisis you have to take unorthodox steps, so “Yes,” precisely now!
Combine advanced knowledge of smart IT-solutions to make things easy for people with our seasoned years of entrepreneur’s experience, and “tadaah”: LocalVoucher BV was in development. With the first regional operating area being: LocalGroningen. Expansion of our expertise we quickly found in André Jager from Pitch2Work (strategy, development, and presentation).
After that, our story was enthusiastically picked up by Janneke Epema from Buro Sjans (tourism expert Friesland, promotion, and social media), who soon joined our initiative.
Company in development
The website will go live in summer, and hundreds of contacts in the region have been established. A beautiful foundation to start building on.
However, first we have to get through one of the busiest periods of 2020. Besides foreign tourists, numerous Dutch travelers have also visited Groningen and the rest of the north. The platform LocalGroningen – while still in its infancy with its many contacts – immediately proved its added value. The tourist looking for the last camping spots or rooms available we could now quickly help, simply by forwarding them to the camping/B&B’s that still had availability. The traveler was very happy (he/she didn’t have to call another 250 addresses now), and the entrepreneurs in the region were happy to have their camping or B&B filled to its maximum potency.
Still, we wanted more, and as concrete as possible. Putting Groningen-Ommelanden and other, lesser-known regions in the north on the map could only be done by working together with the many small entrepreneurs in the area.
The small local entrepreneur is certainly up for cooperation, but only if you come with concrete and directly implementable proposals.
What enjoyable things can we still offer to the people?
Perhaps the most asked question during the corona lockdown periods.
Touring with the car through the region is always fun and safe. So, let our new goal be making the most beautiful routes that the north can offer. So simple the idea was, and this is how the concept of: LocalGroningen-Car Puzzle Routes came into being.
A concrete product with a regional story
With the LocalGroningen-Car Puzzle Routes we let the people discover the unique stories of the lesser-known regions of the north. The knowledge and stories we get from the people who know best: the longstanding village associations, historical clubs, and of course the local entrepreneurs.
This way we’ve created a two edged sword: The people who have driven the routes are unanimously enthusiastic and feel inspired to come back another time because they have discovered so much beauty; and the region and companies in the region profit from having an increased interest in their products and services. This is precisely what we were looking for. Something as practical as assembling a route together turning out to foster fruitful connections and mutual benefits among local entrepreneurs.
The story and mission of LocalGroningen is acknowledged.
In a good half year, a lot has happened. From a simple startup platform, we have grown into a key player in the region – to the point that now we’re asked by the locals to think and work along with them.
In Groningen and in Friesland we’ve actively worked together with numerous companies and marketing organizations in the tourism and recreation sector.
We’re proud that by now thousands of people have booked with LocalGroningen, that we’ve grown an average reach of 20.000 followers via Social Media, and that we’re continuing to grow every day!
Tourism benefits everyone
We offer more than just tourism and visitors:
- A visit or journey to the north shouldn’t be dominated by the hassle of finding your way. We work hard at a website and application that’s simple and intuitive to use.
- Traveling is freedom, but not if it’s at the cost of the region. That’s why we go for pure and small-scale tourism, which can benefit both the region and the local entrepreneur.
- We highlight the undiscovered gems of each region that make them unique.
- No high commissions for companies participating on the platform. Realized profits we invest back into the platform, so that it can continue to benefit the entire region.
Green and sustainable tourism
A few developments that we’re working on to stimulate “green” tourism:
- Besides driving the journeys with your car or camper van, very soon you will be able to ride these beautiful routes by bike too. We work hard at the development of a route application with audio functionality.
- We map out the CO2-footprint of all the car puzzle routes that are driven, and develop a compensation plan together with all the participating companies.