As Virginia began its Phase 1 reopening, the Williamsburg Tourism Council is creating a new marketing campaign to attract travelers to an area that depends greatly on tourism.
Williamsburg City Council on Thursday heard a presentation from Visit Williamsburg on a new marketing strategy aimed to bring a quick return of visitors to the area.
Victoria Cimino, CEO of the Williamsburg Tourism Council, said a national study showed the hospitality and tourism market would have a decline of 45 percent over the course of the next year, which would greatly impact Williamsburg.
“But I do feel there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
The Tourism Council, prior to the pandemic, launched a new marketing campaign aimed at bringing in tourists from across the country, including new markets such as Atlanta and New York City.
Heading into the spring season, marketing was in “great shape,” she said. There was a strong budget for the 2020 summer campaign, approximately $5 million over 2019’s budget, and occupancy in the area had hit 40 percent for the first time since 2007.
“We were ready to go guns blazing into spring and summer before things changed,” Cimino said. “We pulled our advertising and had to adjust how we were going to function.”
Then coronavirus happened.
The Tourism Council changed its efforts to become a source of information and communication for people. The organization created a “micro site” that provided industry updates, resources and information regarding the pandemic. It also developed a twice-weekly email chain that connects people to local information and updates.
While advertising was pulled, the Tourism Council used this time to consolidate its consumer database software and made new initiatives, such as sales individuals making 35 points of contact each day.
Social media was also adjusted to show photos of landscapes instead of groups of people.
The Tourism Council also started creating a new marketing campaign that would fit the data and analytics for the new reality of tourism post-pandemic.
Within the next six months 20 percent of individuals will be willing to travel at least 200 miles, 19 percent would be willing to travel over 200 miles and 13 percent by airplane, according to a national survey.
“The good news for our destination is that…travelers view small towns…as safe,” Cimino said. “Which aligns with Williamsburg, coupled with our geographic location, provides them with a strong sense that we’ll be able to recover once travel resumes.”
Cimino said the Tourism Council was working during National Tourism Week on May 3 to point people to the resources page and remind them that Visit Williamsburg is working in the background and ready to turn on its “marketing machine.”
“The idea is we will work to stay as safe as possible today and focus on economic recovery tomorrow,” she said. “It’s a complex world and there is strain involved in everyday life and Williamsburg is a safe and relaxing escape from that.”
That will include efforts of a new creative campaign aimed to last multiple years, such as social media marketing which will include the introduction of influences, dropping the newer markets and focusing on those that have proven historically successful and closer for travelers and a focus on television ads.
Cimino said Visit Williamsburg is the only Destination Marketing Organization in the state to run television advertisements, which launched this month.
“Our focus is that we will be together again soon and the idea that people are craving to be social and around other people again,” she said. “And that we’ve just got the most beautifully unique backdrop to make that happen.”
The Tourism Council also has dedicated $500,000 to cooperative advertising with Tripadvisor and Adara, where private sector businesses can participate in the platforms using the organization’s creative template. As a digital resource, it allows advertising analytics to be tracked for success.
The organization is also launching a local dine and retail campaign in early June to help encourage locals to eat and shop in the area.
More details of the campaign will be shared during the Williamsburg Tourism Council meeting at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
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