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Tourism DMers Entice Convention-Wary Residents to 'Get Out of Town'

Travel and tourism marketers on the East Coast are using direct response media to promote their destinations to New Yorkers who may want to get away during the upcoming Republican National Convention.

The convention is expected to bring nearly 50,000 visitors to the city Aug. 30-Sept. 2, along with four days of street closings, traffic shifts, tightened security and throngs of protesters. Marketers are taking advantage of this, promoting their areas as an escape from the crowds. The move to get out of town is receiving national media attention as journalists notice the many mail pieces, e-mails and commercials.

Bally's Atlantic City, for example, dropped a mailer this month. On the front of the gold-themed, 8.5-by-5.5-inch postcard, the logo of the hotel and casino appears as well as the phrase, “An offer that's as good as Gold.” The flip side contains the questions: “Convention coming? Traffic Jams? Closed Roads?” and arrows pointing to a box that says: “Get Out of Town!”

The postcard offers a promotion, including overnight accommodations, 20 percent off selected merchandise in Bally's shopping outlets and an Exclusive Preferred Customer Card for Atlantic City's outlet stores of The Walk. The offer is available during the four days of the convention only.

Bally's representatives did not return calls for comment.

Also this month, the Maine Office of Tourism began airing a commercial on broadcast television in New York promoting Maine as a quick getaway. The 30-second ad features images from Maine, including a couple sitting on a beach under an umbrella and surrounded by blue water. The voiceover says, “Want the perfect escape when the convention comes to town? Visit Maine, where the people are happy to see you.”

The commercial highlights the tourism office's site, www.visitmaine.com, and includes a toll-free number. The ads run through next week.

The campaign differs from Maine's effort in July to entice Bostonians to visit the state as an alternative to dealing with transportation hassles during last month's Democratic National Convention. For that, Maine sent an e-mail blast to a rented list of people who opted in to receive travel information. Because of poor results, it decided against doing an e-mail blast in New York.

“We are not going to do this in New York because we didn't feel it was very successful [in terms of the] click-through rate,” said Donna Reinheimer, marketing manager at the Maine Office of Tourism. “I'm not sure why. Maybe people had already left town.”

The Boston campaign did not include TV ads.

Maine's effort for the two cities was created by Warren Kremer Paino, New York.

“We are always looking for extra reasons to promote the state, besides the fact that it is a great place to visit, and we felt this was a good opportunity,” Reinheimer said of the conventions. “We just thought that [people] may want to get out of town and that they should think of us.”

Reinheimer is awaiting results from the New York ad.

“Because we are such a big vacation spot anyway, it's hard to say whether someone was planning to come on vacation because they saw the poster, or that they came that week because of the convention versus planning to come another time,” she said.

The New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism also promoted the state as a getaway to Boston residents during the Democratic convention. Its campaign included three ads in the Boston Globe, each featuring the slogan “Head north.” The ads noted the state's travel and tourism site, www.visitnh.gov.

Also, a letter from Gov. Craig Benson and a New Hampshire guidebook were sent in early June to delegates to the Democratic convention.

The letter “urged them to extend their stay in New England and come up to New Hampshire after the convention,” said Margaret Joyce, director of communications at the travel and tourism division.

The combined campaign was successful, Joyce said.

“The entire campaign pushed people to the Web site,” she said. “Normally, we get around 60,000 visitors a month, and we had a jump to 80,000 while that campaign was running.”

But Joyce said it's hard to know how many people went to New Hampshire as a result of the campaign until a conversion study is done.

“We really didn't have anything else running, so we are feeling pretty confident attributing the bulk of that to the campaign in Boston,” she said.

New Hampshire's campaign was created by Rumbletree, Portsmouth, NH.

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