Outlines future goals for marketing
At the Convention and Visitors Bureau’s annual marketing overview meeting on Tuesday,
Sept. 18, CVB president and chief executive officer Kim Hufham said New Hanover County’s room occupancy tax collection rate for FY 2011-2012 eclipsed that of the former benchmark year, FY 2007-2008, by 5.65 percent. Furthermore, Hufham said tourism in the county generated $39.18 million in local and state taxes, while expenditures on tourism increased by 6.2 percent from last year to $425.84 million.
Of those funds generated by the ROT, 29 percent is used for beach renourishment, 18 percent for the CVB, Carolina Beach receives 8 percent, Kure Beach receives 4 percent, Wrightsville Beach receives 12 percent and the Wilmington Convention Center receives 29 percent.
Despite the higher collection rate and rebounding tourism industry, Hufham said the CVB would be encountering challenges in the near future. Of those challenges, filling the funding gap left by the federal government’s diminishing support of beach renourishment, shifting to a digitally-driven industry and establishing a more active relationship with industry partners will be the issues the CVB will be most concerned with. Augmenting those challenges is the relatively small budget the CVB has in comparison with that of surrounding communities, Hufham said. The Wilmington and Beaches CVB has an annual operating budget of $1.9 million, while Myrtle Beach, S.C. has one of $23 million; Charleston, S.C. has $11 million and the Crystal Coast has $2.3 million.
However, as the CVB’s executive vice president of marketing Shawn Braden pointed out, the organization is currently -implementing a series of changes to draw more visitors with the budget it does have, which includes the recently-launched Wilmington and Beaches website. Following its launch in February of this year, the site has had 637,868 visits with an average time spent on the site of 6.81 minutes. Braden said the change to the site’s URL address to include Wilmington was based on the fact that Wilmington was the top search keyword for those looking for information about the area and its beaches. In the five months it was operational for FY 2011-2012, the new website sent 180,000 inquiries to the CVB’s industry partner organizations. Due to this statistic, Braden urged vendors, restaurants and hotels to utilize the site for promotions since the level of participation from industry partners is not where the CVB would like.
Moving forward into FY 2012-2013, Braden said key components of the CVB’s marketing strategy would be to increase the amount of visitors to the area in the first two weeks of June and the last two weeks of August; heavily advertise the downtown Wilmington Riverwalk; and openly compete for visitors with the western part of the state during the offseason.
The new advertising campaign for the area beaches highlights certain qualities of those beaches, like the “slightly off-center” atmosphere of Carolina Beach and the family friendly and secluded nature of Kure Beach. Advertisements for Wrightsville Beach will include challenges to the mountains of North Carolina like, “Do you really want to spend another weekend looking at leaves?”
Currently in use by the CVB, Braden said all of these advertisements showcase photographs of iconic images around the area and text that suggests what other activities visitors might enjoy.