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june 24, 2019

Effective CVB Tourism Marketing

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Here Are Some Dollar Metrics On An “Outdoor” Positioning

Marketing for Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVB) can offer some of the best ROI for any community. Effective CVB marketing has been a segment focus of Creative Energy for a decade. Building A CVB’s reputation as an outdoor destination for our Johnson City, TN-based CVB offers an exceptional case study.

The Chamber of Commerce of Johnson City, Jonesborough and Washington County, TN’s CVB Division is a good case study. With nearly 130,000 residents in the county, Johnson City, TN is one of three cities encompassing a half-million people in extreme Northeast Tennessee. About 60 miles from Asheville, NC and 75 miles from Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN, the market is within easy reach of tourism meccas with much bigger budgets. The strategy is to differentiate on the region’s strength – abundant beauty.

The CVB leverages numerous historic, outdoor, sports and entertainment opportunities to drive “heads in beds” that provides its funding. Led by veteran tourism expert, Brenda Whitson, her high-performance team is immersed in targeting associations for annual events ranging from trade shows, youth and adult amateur sports tournaments and motorcycle enthusiasts.

Using a hub-and-spoke strategy, the Southern Dozen leverages a dozen pre-planned rides through the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee that begin and end in Johnson City. Using GoPros our agency saddled up riders for the dozen videos depicting the circuits, then branded it the Southern Dozen. In the past nine years, more than 13,000 attendees to motorcycle rallieshas had an economic impact of $6 million. A motorcycle rally in the summer of 2019 will bring 9,000 motorcyclists to the city, with economic impact to the region.

The Southern Dozen campaign earned Best of Show tourism honors from the American Chamber of Commerce and a Graphis Award for our agency. Tennessee’s Department of Tourism is now developing trails across the state following the success of the Southern Dozen.

Youth, adult and collegiate tournaments are equally important in putting heads in beds with the CVB optimizing city and county’s investments in numerous softball and soccer facilities. Aligning a city’s strengths with a CVB strategy is at the heart of success. For Johnson City, few can offer a mountain and a lakeside park, exceptional athletic facilities for sports tournaments and a revitalized downtown that can sustain an entire evening of dining, shopping and nightlife. Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town has maintained the architecture of the 1800s. Small shops dining options mix well with a distillery and the International Storytelling Center.

The decade-long journey of positioning Johnson City and the region as an outdoor destination earned the city the honor of being named as the “best outdoor mid-sized adventure towns” in the nation in 2018 by Blue Ridge Outdoors readers.

Next up for the region is a new mountain bike trail near downtown that will offer bikers a rugged ride just a mile from cold brews in downtown restaurants and bars and a Trek bicycle retail location. Onboarding in early 2021, a new performing arts center and a remodeled grain mill that will rejuvenate a new entertainment district and a link between a nearby East Tennessee State University campus and the downtown.

Money from hotel stays, dining, tourist attractions and drinking in the city have been phenomenal. A State report on 2017 taxes generated in the city and county showed Washington County was among the top 10 counties in the state for visitor spending with $257.5 million in recorded travel expenditures, a 4.7 percent increase over the previous year.

As for local tax receipts, Washington County tourism generated $15.44 million in state taxes and $6.01 million in local taxes. Without this additional revenue, Brenda Whitson says that Washington County households would have to pay more than $409 in additional property taxes each year to make up the difference. The state report also showed approximately 1,950 people in Washington County work in hospitality industry jobs related to tourism. The total payroll of those jobs equals more than $34 million, which grew 5.6 percent compared to last year. “Based on our budget allocated by the city for our portion of the lodging tax, we’re seeing more than a 420 percent return on investment,” Whitson said.

“Based on our budget allocated by the City of Johnson City for our portion of lodging tax paid by our visitors, we are seeing a more than 420 percent increase in return on investment for our community, and that makes a difference in taxes for our locals,” Whitson said.

A recent Chamber of Commerce meeting was a great opportunity to share the good economic news with local leaders. We shared those numbers in a video that was later deployed on the CVBs social networks and it’s obvious that consumers loved the numbers. In just a couple days a small city’s tourism results video tallied nearly 50,000 views. Check out the video for yourself.

A solid CVB strategy based on the strengths of a community aligned with local government has made Johnson City a stellar example of tourism marketing done right to the benefit of all.