Committee pushes for more winter marketing

by Patricia E. Matson
Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Wrightsville Beach Marketing Advisory Committee called for quick action to encourage more tourism in the dead of winter during a meeting Tuesday, Dec. 13. Members voted to spend $3,800 putting together an email blast announcing local events, and encouraged creative partner Clean Design to put more effort into advertising for January and February.

Shawn Braden, executive vice president of marketing for the Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that room occupancy tax numbers weren’t available yet. She told the board that New Hanover County miscalculated the rollover fund from the previous year; it was $73,462 instead of the previously reported $113,311.

When the error was first reported on Nov. 30, CVB president Kim Hufham had explained that for all three beach towns, the county had miscalculated the fund balance amount that was mandated by legislation, so less was left for rollover. However, the rollover was still a huge increase from the previous year’s $2,764, she said.

Clean Design’s Bill Campbell reminded the committee how the fall campaign focused on increasing shoulder-season business with its Drive East message, and the spring campaign planned earlier had a similar message about shaking off winter. However, a lot of summer vacation planning goes on in the spring, so he suggested broadening the scope by adding back the theme of Easy to get here. Easier to stay.

WBMAC member Sue Bulluck said marketing didn’t need to focus on the summer, except to encourage longer stays.

Mary Baggett, co-owner of the Blockade Runner Resort, commented from the audience that November and December was the worst for her in the last five years, despite heavy advertising. She said she’d rather see money spent during the time of year her business needed it.

"We need it right away… It is so critical that we somehow survive the winter," she said.

Member Lisa Weeks said she saw tourism in January through March as event-driven, like the Cold Stroke Classic on
Jan. 21-22 and the East Coast Shag Classic on Feb. 17-18.

Braden said that the discussion needed to be about how to enhance marketing plans with rollover money. She added that she never saw January or February affected by marketing, since it was hard to motivate people to travel then.

Campbell said he didn’t want to leave the vacation-planning business on the table if it was available in the spring, and he advised the committee against putting all of its eggs in one basket.

"Sooner rather than later is where we need to be," Bulluck said, adding that vacation planners might be looking at options in the spring, but most wouldn’t actually make reservations until May. Member Dave Mott agreed.

When Bulluck asked what Clean Design could activate in January, Campbell said online promotions were already encouraging holiday travel, and radio spots could probably be added.

Vice chair Jason St. Clair brought up that the committee already decided to spend $3,800 on local marketing of events, through a website to be set up for the Wrightsville Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Member Pres Davenport suggested starting with email blasts first, and Bulluck agreed that could be done much faster. The committee voted unanimously to spend the money to put together event-oriented e-blasts.

The committee also discussed how to encourage families to visit for spring breaks and how to target marketing at military personnel returning from deployments. In addition, it reviewed progress on the new website, which is expected to launch in January.

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