top of page

River Roots Redevelopment: The Power of a Destination Brand

Guest writer - Jarred Heuer

“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” If you were to mention this phrase to any stranger on the street, it is likely that they would recognize it, whether they have ever visited Las Vegas or not. Although it may seem that this phrase has always been around, it may surprise you that it debuted in 2003. The slogan is the product of the City of Las Vegas’ destination marketing organization. The sticking power of this slogan is extraordinary and is a terrific example of the concept of a “destination brand.” Destination brands can form the identity of a place and is the beginning of promises made to tourists. If, for example, we consider, “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas,” the promises made here are ones of freedom, adult empowerment, and a general lack of consequence, for better or for worse. Each year, tens of millions travel from across the world to enjoy Sin City for those very reasons. Important to note, a destination brand is not limited to a powerful slogan. The slogan serves an initial purpose, but a true brand offers destinations an opportunity to fully encapsulate a particular identity. This includes the styling and messaging, but it also impacts the operational strategy and structure of its local economy. Destination brands are a critical piece of any successful tourism destination.

Although Las Vegas is a world famous, premier destination, these promises of questionable activities also suggest that this is not a destination for everyone, say, families with young children. Las Vegas understands its target audience and focuses its resources towards developing and enhancing its abilities to repeatedly reach that audience and offers them an opportunity to escape.

Although it may be obvious to suggest that Clarion County, PA and Las Vegas, NV sit on opposite sides of the destination spectrum, it can be argued that Clarion County’s positioning as a tourism destination also offers its target audience a chance to escape. Rather than getting lost in the glitz and glamor of The Strip, Clarion County offers its visitors a chance to find rootedness and connection within the forest. Though this is easily understood by locals and loyal visitors, those unfamiliar with Clarion County do not know what the area can offer. Regular tourists in Clarion County often attribute their frequent trips to having grown up visiting Cook Forest or the like. This is a great testament to our area’s offerings, however if there is no destination brand in place, the ceiling for new prospective visitors is lowered. Considering this, how can Clarion County seek to reach its own target audiences and offer tourists the opportunity to visit us here, as opposed to other areas with similar offerings? Who are our most frequent and loyal visitors? Where do they travel from? Which markets remain untapped and how can we strategize to reach them? The answers to these fundamental questions are largely known. The challenge lies in building the systems, strategies, and campaigns that engage those demographics and convince them to choose Clarion County. This requires a diverse mix of marketing that appeals to the variety of prospective visitors. The steps down that road begin with an effective destination brand.

To note, there is strong demand for Clarion County as a tourist destination. According to the Economic Impact of Travel and Tourism in Pennsylvania – 2021, total tourism spending in Clarion County in 2021 reached $110.0 million. Of this $110.0 million, $11.2 million was spent on lodging, $25.5 million was spent on food & beverage, $22.1 million was spent on retail, $19.2 million was spent on recreation, and $13.9 million was spent on transportation. When compared to neighboring counties across the I-80 corridor in northwest/northcentral PA, Clarion County sits middle of the pack. With the increasing demand for better access to outdoor recreation, Clarion County can grow. With new tourism initiatives in place, the CCEDC has begun to create Clarion County’s own destination brand. In partnership with Bull Moose Marketing, the CCEDC has spent many months conducting community engagement, market studies, brand workshops, research, and surveying to understand what best supports Clarion County’s tourism economy and where the opportunities for improvement reside. All this information collected aids the development of our destination brand, which we plan to roll out later this year. If you wish to contribute to the development of Clarion County’s destination brand, we encourage you to complete our online destination brand survey.

The survey can be found online by visiting www.

- Jarred Heuer, Executive Director, Clarion County Economic Development Corporation

More information about the Clarion County Economic Development Corporation can be found on their website at


Rachel Brosnahan is the Community Engagement Coordinator for River Roots Redevelopment. She can be reached by email at

14 views0 comments


bottom of page