The Tourism Council received a briefing on its upcoming baseline tourism study and discussed the launch of its 2019 marketing campaign Tuesday.
A baseline study that lays out the facts regarding the Williamsburg area’s tourism industry has been a desire of local officials since the earliest days of the Tourism Council.
The idea is that such a project would establish where the region stands in terms of number of room nights sold and admission sales. That way, the Tourism Council can track the success or failure of its marketing efforts, which seek to increase those numbers.
Though the Tourism Council picked Southeastern Institute of Research for the job, just how much the study will cost hasn’t been determined. The Tourism Council budgeted $150,000 for a research consultant, said Jody Puckett, Tourism Council administrator. Council expects to appoint a steering committee to assist the consultant.
“We’re excited to talk with the team to figure out the best path forward,” said Rachel Burgess of Southeastern Institute of Research.
Burgess didn’t have many specifics during her presentation to the Tourism Council, rather she gave it a taste of what to expect. The process of formulating the study starts on Friday. At that meeting, the firm and Tourism Council will figure out a contract, determine the scope of the work and a project timeline.
Essentially, it’s about studying multiple data sources — past visitor profiles, regional tourism industry data and the like — to hash out a baseline to gauge the Tourism Council’s success in coming years. The firm will pull data from localities and the state to determine travel trends, industry employment and expenditures, Burgess said.
It’s important to determine why people come to the area, how they learned about the area’s attractions, as well as a person’s intention to visit, perceptions of the area and other factors.
It’s also important to determine how residents look at their local tourism industry and to figure out what sort of activities appeal to different generations, she said.
Ultimately, the firm expects to have a completed study in hand for 2020, as well as brand development suggestions for the region, she said.
The Tourism Council’s inaugural marketing campaign is in full swing, and new digital and video content seeks to reach a wider and larger audience than was previously possible as part of the “Expect the Funexpected” campaign, said Dave Potter, Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance marketing communication director. The Tourism Council is a sub-component of the alliance.
The campaign has developed TV and streaming video spots and digital banners in order to reach young couples, active adults and families with young children, Potter said.
The digital content is scheduled to launch March 4. The video content is expected to be in the public eye March 18. The campaign marketing budget is 59 percent digital, 27 percent TV, 10 percent print and 4 percent other media, Potter said.
“We have made a major paradigm change with our marketing this year,” he said.
The Tourism Council, owing to its deeper pockets, will outspend its predecessor, the Williamsburg Area Destination Marketing Committee, across the board. The Tourism Council has a 2019 budget of $8.5 million — $6.6 million of which would be actual marketing. The region’s marketing budget through WADMC and the alliance amounted to about $5.2 million in 2017.
The Tourism Council gets its funding from a 1 percent sales tax increase signed into law in 2018, as well as the $2 transient occupancy tax.
Among its line items, the Tourism Council’s budget has $325,474 for public relations in 2019 compared to the $209,600 spent in 2018. Social media content spending is also up. The Tourism Council budgeted $285,734 for 2019 compared to $147,949 spent the previous year. Paid media jumped to $3.5 million from $2.3 million.
In other news, the search for an executive director continues as the Tourism Council seeks someone to take on the top administrative role, which will oversee the Tourism Council’s marketing office and answer to the Tourism Council.
Several interviews have already been conducted and more are expected. The Tourism Council spent $25,000 to hire SearchWide Global, a firm helping track down candidates.
“There’s been a lot of interest in the position,” Tourism Council member Doug Pons said. “We’re still on track on having a decision made in the next couple weeks.”
That decision is who to recommend to the board to hire. Pons said he expects to have someone actually working in the position by late April. That person is expected to have a salary of $180,000 to $220,000.
Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, firstname.lastname@example.org, @jajacobs_