Friday, June 15, 2012

Marketing DeKalb to Chattanooga by John Dersham

It has always been a challenge here at DeKalb Tourism to distinguish our area of northeast Alabama and the Lookout Mountain attractions from Chattanooga and the Lookout Mountain attractions in Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. 
Nearly every day someone will come in our information center thinking they are already in Tennessee. They see Lookout Mountain signs as they drive up I-59 and get confused because somewhere along the way they learned to associate Lookout Mountain with Chattanooga Tennessee. It is easy to understand this since one of our nation’s most prolific outdoor advertising is for See Rock City and Ruby Falls. These same billboards say Lookout Mountain Tennessee on them, even though Rock City is actually in Georgia.
We have felt for a long time that we had the potential of increasing tourism to our area by finding a way to attract our Chattanooga friends to make a trip further south on Lookout Mountain. The trick is to promote our attractions, shopping, eating and lodging in a way that attracts our potential visitor to a weekend leisurely vacation to our area. Some of the attractive selling points is the fact we are a short inexpensive drive to get out of traffic and into a more leisurely environment of less crowded scenic venues, restaurants, B&B’s, cabins, campgrounds and hotels. We promote via the idea of getting away from it all but not having to travel far to do it.
This year we have a booth at Chattanooga Riverbend Festival. This nine day event is heavily attended and gives us an opportunity to clarify who we are and why patrons should consider us for a vacation.  Our booth at Riverbend is a partnership with Lookout Mountain Parkway Association, DeKalb Tourism and Etowah Tourism. This gives us the opportunity to speak to our visitors at the booth and review all the aspects of our areas. This way we can help them plan their vacation.  We have brochures for Sequoyah Caverns, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Noccalula Falls, Lookout Mountain Parkway, DeSoto State Park, High Falls Park and Bucks Pocket as well as information about our rental cabins, B&B’s, campgrounds, hotels, shopping, restaurants, museums, antiques and flea markets, Worlds Longest Yard Sale and Antique Alley. We cover the arts, music and crafts. The key is getting to talk to our potential visitors and finding out what they like to do and what their specific interests are. At that point we can customize a set of brochures to fit their needs. Now that we have a mobile website many people can have a more detailed look at us while standing there at our booth. Riverbend Festival is currently underway and goes through this Saturday.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

International Travel Update by John Dersham

In recent years tourism has been a bright spot in the economy. During our recession of 2008 and the continued slow economy, tourism has in most areas of the country maintained itself at former numbers and in many areas there has been modest growth. Alabama has showed some growth throughout this period. Due to the success of tourism our federal government has decided to focus on growing the International travel market to the US. The last time the United States had an International travel advertising campaign was 1992. This year a series of very well done TV ads can be seen in 18 countries. Our International travelers tend to stay here longer and spend more money than do tourist traveling within the US. Tourism in the US is a $3.1 Trillion dollar business and it employees 750 million Americans. Tourism jobs cannot be outsourced to another country. Think about it. Our friends that work in the tourism industry here in DeKalb in hotels or at attractions like Sequoyah Caverns, DeSoto State Park or Little River Canyon National Preserve… there is no moving those to China. Gaining more international travel will greatly help our economy. I encourage you to go to the Brand USA website and view these very well done commercials.
In addition to the Obama administration and the National Travel Council there are regional and state tourism departments that are working in conjunction with Brand USA to bring international visitors into the more rural parts of the US. This November, Travel South USA will host its first international travel showcase in Atlanta. This event will bring in tourism departments, travel planners, group tour promoters, hotels and attractions from all over the world to work with travel planners in the US to formulate interesting international trips to the US. We are encouraged by the focus on international travel and feel our area will be a side excursion for international travelers coming to the southeast looking for the more rural “Americana” experience. There is some work being done to offer our National Parks as travel gateways to the more rural areas of the US.
Even without a government sanctioned international travel plan we have still been getting international travelers to our area. In the late winter and early spring we see quite a few people coming through our information center that are snowbirds or they are visiting from the UK, Germany or other middle and northern European countries. We are also getting quite a few people from South America and some from Japan and other Asian countries.