In an effort to remain proactive in the increasingly challenging tourism market, at its board meeting this week, the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau (SMCVB) announced a supplementary marketing, advertising and public relations plan that is intended to increase brand awareness and visitor expenditures through the end of its fiscal year this July. The campaign is in addition to the visitors bureau’s regular marketing efforts, and it is being executed through online efforts with little to no cost associated with it.
Herb Handly, executive vice president of tourism for the SMCVB, explained to the board that while hotel/motel tax revenue is down, the SMCVB intends to continue its outreach to target markets, and by using online resources, they are able to do this at a low cost with high reach.
“Because of the slower than expected economic recovery we are shifting the budget from branding to focus on lower cost and higher return on investment interactive tactics,” said Dooley Tombras of The Tombras Group.
Despite the economic downturn, the SMCVB’s Web site traffic is steady, and when compared to the previous fiscal year, the average time each visitor spent on the site increased more than 50 percent and the average page views per visitor increased 25 percent.
The five-month plan includes a “Deals and Steals” campaign, which is an e-mail campaign offering weekend deals in the Townsend area. Property owners who have chosen to be part of the campaign are included on a new link on the visitors bureau’s Web site, as well as included in e-mail distribution and in the SMCVB’s e-newsletters.
As part of its online efforts, the SMCVB is also expanding its newsletter distribution to two per month instead of once every other month. Additionally, the SMCVB is hosting an online sweepstakes where prospects can enter to win a free weekend get-away package in Blount County.
Other parts of the plan include slight alterations to the advertising messages for the short-term, pay-per-click advertising on Google and continuing a sponsorship of a major travel Web site that reaches more than 200,000 targeted travelers.
Handly said that while this year has been historically bad for travel, creating new campaigns based on travel trends is something they have been doing for years.
In addition to these campaigns, the SMCVB will continue to print 180,000 Peaceful Side of the Smokies Vacation Guides, which includes a free listing for all accommodations in the county; utilize print, outdoor, broadcast and web-based advertising to create brand recognition and increase visitation; and maintain www.smokymountains.org, which received nearly 300,000 hits in the past year.