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A Tri-lakes Tourism Consortium & A Regional Chamber Part 2

November 4, 2011 - Ernest Hohmeyer
Is it time to consider a Tri-lakes Tourism Consortium? Is it also worthwhile to consolidate the chambers into a regional business development entity?

Currently, multiple entities are involved with both tourism promotion and business development. Should we consolidate and separate these 2 important functions?

A Separation of under-funded Powers.

Chambers historically have been business-to-business development organizations. They have been key to business services, referrals, liaison to government officials and a partner in recruiting new businesses.

Yes, it is true that chambers have also been involved in tourism promotion.

But with declining dollars is it time to consolidate and separate these 2 very different functions? Would a more specialized function make each mission clear and help ease what many of us face in our own business: too many directions with too few dollars?

I think we can all agree it seems that running your own business is so much more complicated today. Enhanced services to businesses may be welcomed.

On the other hand, marketing your community has changed. The historical role of a chamber that mailed out visitor’s guides and snail- mailed brochures has been joined by social media and direct on-line bookings. In order to be an effective local marketing engine, well, that has become complicated too.

Is doing both beyond the capacity of the chambers as currently constituted?

At the same time is the Tri-lakes maximizing and leveraging their marketing dollars? Are the local, county, regional and state tourism promotion agencies fully aware of our activities? Are we fully aware of their resources?

Let’s take a look at the anatomy of promoting an event. We will assume that the goal is to bring in tourists or visitors from outside the area.

Goal:

Encourage more folks to visit and shop during the fall shoulder season. Create traffic for downtown shops, restaurants, and lodging facilities. A theme is needed that incorporates a variety of activities.

A Destination Event:

A Dickens Christmas Festival. To create a destination feel, the community is urged to wear period dress, have history related performances, music, artist tours, and literary readings – all in theme. Lodging and restaurants would be encouraged to offer specials. Much work is done by the volunteer committee to organize and coordinate this.

Target Customers:

While locals are a prime target, the overall goal is to fill rooms, have them stay for a couple of days and spend money throughout the community.

Marketing Plan:

A strong local media campaign with fliers, press releases and local specials is conceived. Partners and sponsors are imperative and included in the local awareness campaign. The effort will also communicate with local government for permits and banners.

The focus though is to bring in folks from outside the region. There is not much money to do so. Social media and press releases become prime targets. Leveraging other resources becomes another. Volunteers begin connecting with the many resources available and learn the do’s and don’ts and the can do’s and the not’s. We learn that the county can leverage their marketing funds. The County’s injection can also trigger involvement from the region and subsequently the state.

Volunteer Burn-out

Wow! Today you need to know how to navigate the world of social media and be sure you incorporate traditional media. To be successful you should also understand the layers of local, regional and state marketing partners. One other important task that is often underestimated: keeping the information fresh – constantly.

Now include the different volunteer groups that are promoting various events. You start to see the same few people over and over again until you hear the term “I’m burned out.”

Besides your own marketing efforts and keeping up to date, as volunteers you need to navigate the resources within the Tri-lakes of more than 12 marketing organizations, over 10 community calendars and over 20 media outlets that cover just our area.

That is just the local and regional market. Now you enter the world of visitor and tourist marketing and hello, as a volunteer you can become overwhelmed. What is the best location to market? How should you market? Should you focus your scarce resources on newsprint, radio, Facebook, or press releases? What do you need for collateral material? Do you need a web site? What about a mobile web site? Who is going to respond to e-mails? Who is going to handle the money from contributing businesses? Who is going to be the liaison with all these marketing partners? Here is perhaps an even more important task: keeping the information updated.

Is There a Way to Make it Easier?

Is the Tri-lakes is a natural destination area? If so we should strive to come up with one calendar of events now – for 2013.

Yes, that’s right, 2013.

Filled with representatives from each of the Tri-lakes communities, we would have an understanding of what events are taking place.

As a marketing effort we could cross village, town and county borders.

We could begin to develop a comprehensive tourism calendar.

With this calendar in place we can begin to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy that takes advantage of the power of social media. To be successful we will need to construct this carefully with key words and be relentless in updating the information – to stay fresh and on top of the search engines.

With knowledge of each others activities, we can also begin to cooperatively promote each other.

More importantly this could become the basis to approaching community organizations like the chambers as well as the counties, the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council and I love New York programs among other partners. Partner with them and leverage our resources with theirs. By getting other organizations involved now we could potentially invoke their expertise in a proactive manner on other ways to market our destination events.

The irony is that the Tri-lakes are responsible for most of the bed tax money in Essex County and sales tax in Franklin. Is there a way though to cull our collective weight as a natural tourism region as well as a business center?

Can we focus one effort that is held accountable for business services and one initiative that is responsible for tourism marketing? Each has one mission, one goal but very different objectives and expertise. More importantly, they respond to a very different customer.

What do you think? Is this worth further discussion?

A Tri-lakes Chamber A Tri-lakes Tourism Consortium

Mission: Biz Dev Services Tourism & Visitor Promotion

Goals: Business Growth Increased Tourism/Visitor Revenue

Key Objectives: Biz health, Job Creation Increased Activities, Awareness

Services: Biz recruitment, referrals Marketing Coord , Awareness Campaigns Networking, Services Events, Co-op Marketing, PR Center

Support: Biz services, membership Co-op Marketing, Marketing Services Sample Services: Networking, Gov’t liaison, Coordination of Marketing Resources, Education, Biz Welcome Center Events, Communications Center, Biz Recruitment Social Media/PR

Members: 4 Chambers, Local Gov’t Tourism businesses, Merchant Groups Community/Econ Dev Groups, Lodging, Arts, Outdoor Rec, Retail Non-tourism/Professional Biz Event Reps, County & Regional Tourism

Priorities: Tri-lakes Business Referral System Coordinated Calendar of Activities/Events Regional Biz Recruitment Plan Co-op Marketing, Marketing Packages Regional Econ Council $$ Leveraging $$ with County, Region, State

 
 

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