Signs of the Times?

As I was driving through a section of I-75 recently, the actual numbers of billboards assaulted the senses!   Even more disconcerting were the numbers of EMPTY billboards!    I counted 77 empty boards in the space of 50 miles.   Why?  I wondered if this scene were indicative of the economic downturn, an example of supply and demand or the plethora of other alternatives to advertising like social media.

Billboards along the interstate are most definitely not an inexpensive advertising choice, plus billboard results are almost impossible to “track”.   But so many empty billboards could possibly offer opportunities for better deals:

Short Term Use:

“If I buy the paper and pay the labor, would you give us a Board to advertise our up-coming Festival?”

Multiple Boards:

Oh how I long for the simple, but so effective Burma Shave signs!   Buy billboards in a row and give those your 1950’s “Burma Shave-Like” messages.  Well, just wishin’!

Strong Southern Women

Having been reared in a generation where young lasses only aspired to being teachers, nurses, secretaries or “stewardnesses”, I especially appreciate the modern Southern women professional with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work. These Steel Magnolias are mistakenly described as “sweet” because of their gracious manner; but that belies an ever-present determination, independence, and self confidence. My observations are prompted by the loss of Madison Georgia’s first lady of Tourism, Marguerite Copeland. This energetic tourism professional understood the value of  partnering with regional tourism entities and was singularly proficient in inspiring travel writers to generate stories in publications equating to thousands of dollars of paid advertising equivalence for Historic Downtown Madison.
In addition to this incredible woman, Georgia Tourism has also been blessed with the early brilliant leadership of Hanna Ledford, the now creative leadership of Lake Lanier’s Stacey Dickson, and the organizational skills of Kingsland’s Tonya Rosado. “Sweet”? I think not! Gracious, smart, focused, and assured, “YES”!

Planning National Tourism Week? May 7-15, 2011

Need a motivational luncheon speaker for National Tourism Week, May 7-15, 2011?  Contact me ASAP, I am already booking.  I have a 30 minute presentation that celebrates the tourism industry’s recovery, but asks  your community:  “ARE YOU READY”?

Vacations Plus Learning Experiences

Whether it’s beautiful Calloway Gardens near Columbus, GA and hearing a gardening expert or it’s Historic Savannah, GA  and benefiting from the teaching of a culinary expert, more and more vacations are coupling with fun opportunities for learning.

Recently in the foothills of North Carolina near Ashville, I attended a Plein Air workshop in Saluda.  Local artist, Jim Carson had us carrying our paints and easels to colorful mountain vistas inspiring to even the novice painter.  I returned with four completed canvasses to frame in remembrance of this delightful experience!  (I purchased one of Jim’s, too!)

Soaking up the culture of the region in Saluda and nearby Hendersonville, I enjoyed smoked mountain trout and other dishes indigenous to the area.  Unloading dollars in Hendersonville’s “Banana Moon”, Christmas presents were purchased for the ladies in my family.  Imagine my surprise to find a bottle of wine tucked in my packages!  Never, but never say tourists don’t  spend money at retail establishments!

If you are a Destination Marketing Organization create such an experience in your area.  If you are looking for an inspirational, fun vacation experience, choose one that expands your mind and even your soul!

What’s in a Name? for travel destinations

If, like Savannah did recently, you inquired of the man on the street in your destination:  “What is a CVB?”, I contend you would get the same  answers varying from “It’s a governmental agency or it’s a bank!”  Even when local citizens do know, they are often heard saying, “Visitors and Business Bureau” or other misnomers!  Even the International parent organization moved from International Association of Conventions & Visitors Bureaus to Destination Marketing Association International.

Savannah recently dropped the CVB moniker and the organization and the brand is now “Visit Savannah”.  Other CVB’s across the country are spicing up their names,  making it easier for the locals to understand the mission and for customers to more easily find the destination on the internet:  Visit Denver, Experience Grand Rapids, and Discover Kalamazoo.  For popular destinations, this works well; but what about the lesser known?  Marketing gurus suggest you add the State name ie Visit Macon, GA or Discover Historic Madison, GA.

Destinations being held hostage by the agencies through which funds are distributed is a common hurdle.  For example Grand Rapids is in Kent County.  Who knew that?  Besides, who can find county names on maps or even a GPS?  You must carefully convince your local partners that the CUSTOMER is the first priority!  “How can we make it easier for the customer to find us?”

Facebook Marketing for Travel

At a recent Regional Tourism meeting, the speaker, Amber Thomas with Engage, shared some astounding statistics.  No doubt there is a decided movement from Internet static links to an Internet of linked people.  According to Thomas, in January 2010 there were 400 plus Million Facebook users!  If Facebook users were a country, they would be the third largest after China and India!  Facebook users spend a minimum of 55 minutes a day online and have an average of 130 Facebook friends.  Users, categorized by age from 13 to 17 years and to 35 plus years, are pretty evenly divided.

Content posted on weekends is shared more often than content posted during the week, according to findings from social media marketing scientist Dan Zarrella. That’s in part, he points out, because many workplaces block Facebook and most user activity takes place from home.

It’s important to remember that your organization’s Facebook entries are a reflection of your brand.  Check out the  “Georgia Made, Georgia Grown”, “Georgia Music Hall of Fame” and “Little White House” Facebook sites for good examples of branding.  Facebook can be easily used to stay in touch with your customers and particularly to reach out to new ones!  Corporate use is dominated by retail first and travel and leisure second.

It’s free and so, so easy!  For smaller DMO’s with even smaller budgets, go for it!  If you are technologically disadvantaged, get your teenager to log you on and create a template for you.