After a few tough years in the tourism industry, the Grand County Tourism Board is experiencing an increase in business.
With a smaller budget than in years past, Grand County tourism has seen an 11 percent increase in lodging tax revenue from 2011 through September. These numbers are close to the strongest since recording began, according to Karen Ruby, principal for Signature in Denver, the Tourism Board's advertising agency.
"We also saw a sizable increase in website visitations and engagement," Ruby said.
In terms of visitation, there are substantial increases and positive developments across the board.
∞ Visits: up 154 percent
∞ Unique visitors: up 194 percent
∞Pageviews: up 107 percent
"This increase can be attributed to the site being better optimized for search, as well as the robust pay-per-click campaign." Ruby said.
Engagement metrics are also showing strong numbers. "Time on site" is close to three minutes on average, and the bounce rate is lower than the tourism industry average. Even though these are all great numbers, new efforts in content marketing in 2013 will improve engagement noticeably in these areas, says Ruby.
"Our goal with the marketing and the website is to send qualified leads to our county chambers and local businesses to hopefully covert the business and make a sale. We are pleased to report we have been sharing the highest number of qualified leads to our tourism partners throughout the year in comparison to years past," Ruby said.
During the summer months there were nearly 13,000 views on the local lodging partners' specials pages and more than 9,500 leads sent to those lodgers. During the same time period, an additional 8,000 qualified leads were forwarded to the chambers.
In addition to the website, the board launched a new mobile application and mobile site in May of 2012 that features executive tours, live weather updates, lodging specials, mobile postcards, restaurants, events and more.
To download and view the mobile site go to www.VisitGrandCounty.com.
In order to keep the site fresh for visitors, please send any revisions or edits to Nancy@Signature-ad.com.
The board is constantly looking for ways to advance its marketing efforts to help improve visitation to the county. After years of research, the GCCTB has entered into an agreement with Jack Rabbit-Book Direct online reservation system to provide direct booking and price comparisons on GCCTB's website, as well as the websites for each of the four chambers in the county (www.VisitGrandCounty.com, www.PlayWinterPark.com, www.GrandLakeChamber.com, www.KremmlingChamber.com, www.GranbyChamber.com).
The system will also be integrated on each of the above entities mobile sites and Facebook pages.
Paul Lewis, Tourism Board president, says Book Direct will be beneficial in several areas.
"The introduction of Book Direct will help increase tourism to the county and help transform the GCCTB's website and all four chamber sites into a state of-the-art travel search engine," Lewis said.
Lewis adds that the new booking system benefits visitors who can use the site to shop and compare, as well as make accommodation reservations directly. For destinations, there is 100 percent accommodation participation. "It's a 'no lodger left behind' mentality," explains Lewis who adds that properties will benefit from the enhanced visitor experience and website functionality that will turn "lookers into bookers."
For the lodging partners, the site represents a no-cost booking solution that is free of fees and commissions. Increased visitor traffic to the website from the DMO site is another bonus. "This is a free online reservation system for accommodations that don't have one and it features the prevailing website rates with no 20-30 percent margins," adds Lewis.
This year's sales efforts included a tour of Grand County wedding venues for 19 members of the Association of Bridal Consultants (ABC) and participation in the November ABC Conference trade show in Denver. Nearly 30 staff members of the Ft. Collins Welcome Center toured Grand County highlights in September, reports Dede Faye of Walden Hallow.
The Tourism Board regularly seeks co-op opportunities, and this year the Chambers represented Grand County activities and lodging at the International Sportsman's Expo, the Denver Snowmobile Expo, and the Denver RV and Boat Show.
In 2013, the Tourism Board will be assisting with critical planning for the important Rural Philanthropy Days conference, to be hosted by Grand County in the fall. This conference is a unique opportunity for non-profits to connect with important beneficiaries from all over Colorado.
Gaylene Ore of Ore Communications reports that 2012 was a productive year for hosting journalists that resulted in subsequent media coverage for the area.
"We hosted 20 writers from England, Colorado, Washington, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Oregon, New York and California representing publications such as Eagles Latitude Magazine, Yorkshire Post, Financial Times, Outside Magazine, Home and Away, Self Magazine, Sunset and USAToday.com," Ore said.
Additional stories appeared in the Delaware Daily Times, ABC 12, Fox News, Ottawa Life Magazine, Cowboys and Indians, Sunset, 5280 Magazine, and YahooNews.
Public relations plans for 2013 include adding another countywide media familiarization trip, hosting activity-based bloggers, and working with Steamboat Springs and Ft. Collins on a Colorado Tourism Office-sponsored press trip.