Sunday, November 27, 2022

New Tourism Council director plans revamp, data-based marketing to grow visitation to Williamsburg

Prince George Street in downtown Williamsburg. (WYDaily/File photo)
Prince George Street in downtown Williamsburg. (WYDaily/File photo)

It’s been two months since Williamsburg’s Tourism Council retained its new executive director — and she has already made plans to revamp marketing strategies and reorganize.

Tourism Council Executive Director and CEO Victoria Cimino gave a presentation to Williamsburg City Council Monday afternoon, detailing her first two months and her plans moving forward as part of the organization’s quarterly report.

Cimino, who will lead the cause in determining the fate of millions of dollars in tax revenue generated by Senate Bill 942, said she has started her work at the ground level.

“At the end of the day, our business goal is to increase tax revenue,” Cimino said. “We’re building this shop so it’s tooled up to do just that.”

So far, she has conducted an internal audit and review, met with City Council and stakeholders, made an outline for the organizational structure of the organization, formulated job descriptions and started working on putting out requests for contractor proposals.

The Tourism Council is a new body in itself, meaning there’s a preliminary period of organization and laying the operational foundation for the council.

The Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance was reorganized following the passage of Senate Bill 942 and the departure of former chamber president Karen Riordan. That reorganization resulted in two new arms under the organization: the Tourism Council and Business Council.

SB 942 went into effect July 1, 2018, sets aside tax revenue generated by the $2 room tax from hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts and a 1 percent increase in state sales tax. Half of the funding from the taxes will go toward marketing the Historic Triangle as a tourist destination.

The Tourism Council, under Cimino’s leadership, determines how that money is spent.

“I feel like we’re making some good strides,” she said.

During the meeting Monday, several City Council members also asked Cimino to keep in mind they would like to use some unallocated funds from SB 942 — not those given to the Tourism Council — to create a new, unique tourism “product” for the area.

“[Visitors are] very familiar with history and roller coasters,” Councilman Doug Pons said.

Pons has previously voiced an interest in building an aquatic center or other facility to attract new visitors.

Staff

Part of the adjustments so far have involved discussing staff positions and reworking job descriptions, Cimino said.

She has worked with staff to evaluate their current jobs to see if they’re “really in the right positions” and “set up to be successful.”

Some employees may be reassigned into new or different roles. Other leadership roles may be created and posted for hire, Cimino said.

Besides staff, Cimino has also taken a look at the Tourism Council’s contractors, and is preparing to send out requests for proposals for those positions.

Some contractors may change through the contract awarding process. The Tourism Council will contract consultants and agencies for strategic planning, research, records, public relations and digital marketing.

Some of those, such as the public relations agency, will be hired pending the results from the research consultant, which will gather data about marketing and visitation in the area.

Cimino hopes to have contracts with the various agencies finalized by Sept. 1, so new ad campaigns can make use of the area’s fall foliage and activities.

Ad campaigns

Some of the research will include an ad effectiveness study to see how previous campaigns worked.

The research consultant, once hired, will also find out how much tax revenue was generated for each dollar spent on marketing the Historic Triangle to potential visitors.

“I think that you’ll find that my approach is rooted in data and research, and at the end of the day numbers don’t lie,” Cimino said.

Strategic planning

A large part of Cimino’s plan for the next few months includes developing a strategic plan — or a “five-year road map” for the Tourism Council, as Cimino called it.

The strategic plan will use input from a consultant to build the road map. It will also take into account stakeholder input.

She said she hopes to have “at least a blueprint” for the strategic plan within the next several months.

“Strategic planning can last a year-plus, so this will at least give us some foundation to start with as we then go into a deeper dive,” Cimino said.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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