Cannabis has come a long way in recent decades. From an under-ground illicit substance found only on the streets to a respected medical and recreational commodity, the rapidly legalized world of medical and recreational cannabis use is spreading horizontally into other legacy industries.
One such legacy industry currently taking full advantage of patchwork legalization laws is the travel industry via the ever growing demand for cannabis tourism or “canna-tourism” from states where the plant is not yet legal.
In a world where legalization is often still only found at the state level, with many states, let alone countries, still prohibiting the plants use, cannabis themed hotels, resorts and vacation packages are exploding in popularity.
Whether you operate a hotel, rent a resort, or simply want to provide tours of your growing operation there is no better time than now to cash in on the publics booming intrigue with this brand new industry.
More people are searching for “weed tourism” and “420 friendly hotels” than ever before. While Airbnb and Vrbo may have a monopoly on the independently owned B&B market most owners and operators prohibit cannabis use on their property, assumedly due to discrimination and/or fear of legal consequences.
So, the need for safe spaces to consume and explore cannabis is definitely in demand, and since many states still have cannabis prohibition many American’s actually have to travel across state lines to partake in the herb.
Cannabis tourism or “canna tourism” is not just about appealing to the typical “stoner” crowd.
Instead, as the plant of purpose finally sheds some of its undeserved negative stigma applied to it over the years it is appealing to a wider and more eclectic type of consumer.
From baby-boomers eager to relive the happening 60’s and 70’s to white collar professionals looking for an alternative to alcohol to foreign tourist from far flung stretches of the world, this is a truly massive travel segment.
Below are a few steps any business can implement, from hotel/bread and breakfasts, to producers and farmers and everything in between to attract visitors and get their share of the marijuana tourism pie.
Understand Your Local 420 Laws For Non-Residents
Depending on whether you are operating a dispensary selling medical marijuana or if you are a shop open to recreational use you will need a thorough understanding of not just local laws but laws for non-residents as well.
Since medical marijuana laws are still hyper-localized because of the fragmented market it is important to keep up to date on how they evolve so you can quickly and confidently educate visitors on your website and at your business.
Clearly listing any state requirements on your website is important as it helps non-residents and even non-nationals better plan their trips.
Owners and Operators Must Get Up to Code
If you operate a hotel or bed and breakfast and are looking to get in on the “420 Friendly” trend then you don’t have as much work to do since your business model is already designed around hospitality.
Making sure rules are still clearly communicated to your guest regarding smoking policies. For example, just because weed may be legal for recreational use does not necessarily mean you can still smoke indoors.
Many states still have complete indoor smoking bans, regardless of whether the substance is tobacco based or marijuana based.
Communicating the legality of vaporizer use indoors and setting up specific outdoor areas for your guests to partake in recreational cannabis use are key to keeping both cannabis users and non-users alike happy.
If you are not in the hospitality industry and instead sell cannabis accessories, souvenirs or provide farming and cultivation tours you will need to get up to code to provide said tours.
This varies by state but generally involves making sure work areas are safe for non-employees to occupy without threat of bodily harm or legal liability.
If you have a farming operation this will involve cordoning off dangerous areas and machinery.
Other upgrades will involve potential use of safety gear (hard helmets, protective eyewear etc), implementation of safety equipment such as fire extinguishers, as well as implementing a training program for staff conducting tour operations.
The requirements for providing public tours in places of manufacturing or industrial processing are usually the same across various industries so these can easily be researched at the state level.
The International Organization for Standards is a great place to start planning your industrial tourism safety renovations.
Have a Marketing Plan & Solidify Your Branding
If you manufacture or process marijuana products you probably are already set in a very weed-friendly branding strategy.
If your business serves both weed lovers and non-weed lovers then you will need to re-evaluate your branding strategy.
For hotels, resorts and B&Bs you will need to determine the level to which you wish to cater to marijuana tourism.
Are you simply a 420-Friendly establishment, meaning you do not discriminate against legal cannabis use on your property, or do you want to position yourself as a marijuana-enthusiasts destination, perhaps turning off some non-enthusiast clients along the way.
By first determining how niched-down you’d like to get you can then revise your website, social media and print advertising to reflect to what degree you are seeking to attract cannabis tourists.
How to Market Your Cannabis-Friendly Business
After making sure you are legally compliant at the state level, adapting your operations to accommodate for a new on-site clientele, and determined to what degree you want to brand yourself cannabis-friendly, you can then re-evaluate your entire marketing strategy.
Marketing to marijuana tourists is not the same as marketing to regular guests. For starters many traditional advertising platforms still do not officially allow marijuana-focused advertising. This includes platforms like:
- Google Adwords
- Google Display Network
- Retargeting Platforms/Software (Adroll, Doubleclick etc)
There are however still channels in which you can legally market a cannabis-oriented tourist-based business. These include:
- Instagram (although requires subtlety)
- Print/Billboard Advertising (state-level only)
- Search Engine Optimization (bring in organic web traffic)
- Google Local Business (getting your business listed on Google Maps)
- Influencer Marketing (working with popular marijuana and travel bloggers)
It would be prudent to have a series of marketing strategy sessions with your marketing team or agency about how you want to go forward in promoting your business to cannabis tourisms via channels currently friendly to weed-related content.
In the long run building an attractive website that is informative to users will be a sure-fire way to generate business without worrying about what way the federal-law wind is blowing.
Search engines like Yahoo, Bing and Google return results for all sorts of businesses under the sun so you can go bonkers publishing blog posts, rich media like photos and videos and even audio files (podcasts!) to generate buzz around your brand.
Connecting directly with pro-cannabis bloggers and online personalities is also a way to bypass big, restrictive corporations like Google and speak directly to your target audience. This requires a bit of dialogue but can make for a very satisfying long-term relationship.
Still a Lot of Opportunity in Weed Tourism!
Cannabis tourism is exploding, however it’s not as single-faceted of a demographic as many mainstream media outlets make it seem to be. Your target demographic is massive, and could range from 21 to 101, including both men and women, from all income levels and all professional classes.
Some hot trending areas within the marijuana tourism industry include:
- All-inclusive cannabis vacation packages
- Cannabis business tours
- Grow operation and farm tours
- Exhibition and trade show support
- Cannabis travel agents
- Medical marijuana tourism
- Weed Bed and Breakfasts
- Growing and cultivation seminars
Strategizing and preparing for this emerging behemoth of a population will be critical in position your business for success at the forefront of cannabis tourism in the decades to come.
Once federal legalization occurs, which given the increasing pace at which individual states are legalizing the good plant, the market will absolutely explode with eager customers looking for a safe, relaxing, fun place to begin their relationship with cannabis and you can provide that.