States look close by for tourism

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States look close by for tourism
States look close by for tourism

As the summer travel season nears, state tourism boards are encouraging consumers to save money by taking trips in their own backyards. Tourism agencies also are boosting social media efforts.


Belt-tightening consumers are looking for more local options to pass the dog days of summer. According to the April American Pulse Survey, 27.4% of Americans said that they are looking for a local getaway that does not require air travel for this summer vacation.


It's wise for tourist bureaus to beef up their efforts now, said Bill Siegel, chairman and founder of research firm Longwoods International. He pointed to the recent tourism efforts by Ohio and Michigan, two states hit hard by the recession, as smart, revenue-generating moves.


"We've measured many examples of states, cities and countries that can generate a substantial and relatively quick ROI [with tourism]," Siegel said. "I think the smart players are doing their best to resist the trend to cut back in difficult times. Others are simply cutting, and I think they'll pay for it."


While investment is still happening in some tourist areas, dollars are shifting from traditional marketing, like brochures and print ads, to online work, including social media, Siegel said. 


To take advantage of this kind of market, Travel Oregon recently launched a campaign to reach consumers who live in Oregon or within drivable distances. The campaign, developed by Wieden
& Kennedy, marks the state's 150th anniversary and calls consumers to challenge their knowledge
of Oregon. "The Oregon 150 challenge" campaign calls on state residents and those of other local states to rediscover Oregon as
a destination.


Oregon started planning for its anniversary about a year ago, said Michelle Godfrey, PR manager for Travel Oregon/Oregon Tourism Commission. 


"As the recession hit, we realized that people are going to be doing more road trips to more local destinations and less airplane travel," she said. "And we wanted to reach these people."


The campaign is centered on an online contest called the Oregon 150, which is designed to inspire travel throughout the state. At TravelOregon.com/Challenge and Oregon150.org, visitors can browse and create trips across five categories. Consumers can prove that they have experienced all of these five categories in at least two regions of the state by uploading their own photos or posting a story about their trip. Participants who enter by September 30 will qualify to try to win one of seven grand
prize tours of Oregon. 


The site also includes suggestions for trips to different parts of the state, including special packages and deals. Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski gave the campaign some of his favorite places to visit, which also are included on the site. 


"We want people to get out and take road trips," added Godfrey. "Oregon is a big state with lots to offer travelers. Even Oregonians who have traveled to some parts of the state may not have been all over."


Charlottesville Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau (CACVB), which promotes a Virginia tourist area near the University of Virginia and Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, also is pushing local travel this year. The CACVB is confident that it can create a significant return on its marketing dollars this year by beefing up its online efforts and continuing to focus on its core audience of Virginians within driving distance. 


"Washington, DC, Hampton Roads, Williamsburg, Richmond — these are our strong markets," said Kurt Burkhart, executive director of the CACVB. "For them, we are easy to get to, affordable and accessible, and in this crummy economy, we will see people being smart about travel plans. People are looking for value-based opportunities." 


The new CACVB site is intended to become the primary marketing destination for the area, and the bureau will be investing less in print ads. Burkhart said this was an effort to reach consumers who are making travel decisions with less advance time and don't want to wait three or four weeks for a visitors guide.


The CACVB's Web site is being updated to feature event calendars, trip planning tools and online ticket buying. The new site is slated to launch in September — in time to engage incoming school groups and UVA students and their families.


"If people today aren't putting pen to paper and redoing their strategies and adjusting their spending allocation to meet the paradigm shift we've had with this crummy economy, they are going to be in trouble," Burkhart added.


Michigan also is trying to sell its great outdoors with a new campaign called Pure Michigan, developed by their agency McCann Erickson. The campaign is running on national cable and local radio, and includes search and social networking components. Michigan is specifically targeting people who live within driving distance and is running ads in the state itself, Chicago, Indianapolis, Cleveland and Canada.


The tag line for all of the creative calls consumers to the state's site, Michigan.org. Like the Oregon site, the Michigan site includes a social aspect that lets consumers upload their photos and videos, as well as upload their "Pure Michigan" experiences.


"Michigan is a special place because of the combination of unique experiences that you can enjoy, from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to the Detroit Institute of Art," said David Lorenz, manager of public and industry relations at Travel Michigan.


"We have almost always relied on the in-state traveler to hold up the industry," he said. "We know that people don't have as much disposable income as they used to have, so we are trying to educate residents about all that there is available to do in Michigan." l


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