2012 success sets stage for 2013
Visitors don’t just want a Staycation, they want a vacation near home that feels faraway where they can experience high-caliber shopping, entertainment and sports. The Hamilton County Convention and Visitors Bureau’s, “Only Closer” ad campaign touting the Palladium like Carnegie Hall, Conner Prairie like Gettysburg and charming downtowns like a taste of Europe generated a $25 million economic impact.
That’s one of the key results of 2012, which was filled with big wins and big impact from the Super Bowl in February, to the BMW Championship in September, which brought 143,000 spectators to Crooked Stick Golf Club and was named Tournament of the Year by the PGA Tour. The year was a constant balancing act between marketing current events while at the same time building a foundation for the future.
“In nearly every sector of marketing and event attendance, we’ve seen the numbers continue to grow,” said Brenda Myers, HCCVB executive director. “Tourism is in a great place to continue to have real impact on our local economy.”
Marketing efforts generated 15-percent incremental travel as a result of the “Only Closer” campaign, which appeared in the Fort Wayne, Champaign and Louisville markets and in targeted Chicago suburbs. It was the first time for HCCVB to advertise in Chicago markets, and the strategy paid off. The entire campaign generated 52,000 new visitors. For every dollar spent, it resulted in a $58 return on direct local spending.
Advertising also helped increase online traffic; 18 percent of those who saw the ads went online to get more information about Hamilton County, and 39 percent of those said they’d be interested in planning a visit.
In addition to traditional advertising, online marketing will continue to be an integral part of the marketing plan. More than 75 percent of travel research is done online. HCCVB used Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to increase traffic to the site organically. Overall, organic traffic grew 16 percent, while direct traffic increased 40 percent. In addition, “likes,” on Facebook increased 67 percent over 2011.
By being involved in special events and conferences, Group Sales made over 400 new connections to help increase group travel and also to position Hamilton County as a great place for weddings and reunions. The effort resulted in over 6,400 room night leads to Hamilton County hotels.
Thanks to sporting events, an estimated 1,300 teams competed in Hamilton County in a variety of sports including swimming, baseball, softball, football, basketball and golf. In addition to the top 70 players in men’s golf at the BMW Championship, 132 of the world’s most talented emerging women’s golfers competed for the first-time LPGA My Marsh Classic.
Through relationship-building to attending key sports conferences, the Hamilton County Sports Authority is raising awareness about the high-caliber, championship facilities that are here now, in addition to touting Grand Park, which is set to open in 2014.
New ways to get the word out
When people travel, chances are good they’ll bring along an electronic device. HCCVB sees that as an opportunity to give visitors easier access to attractions, hotels, restaurants and shops. A mobile or MOBI site – introduced in February – will put information at their fingertips. Also new this year is an updated Travel Guide that was combined with the annual Golf Guide.
“People are simplifying, and our goal with both the mobile site and the Travel Guide was to make it as simple as possible to get information about all the key attractions throughout our Eight Great Towns,” said HCCVB Deputy Director Karen Radcliff.
In 2011, more than 188,000 brochures were distributed through a variety of sources, including at bridal and sports conferences, at attractions and through the visitor centers. Used in combination with the new visitor map, which was out in time for the BMW Golf Championship, visitors will get a better sense of all there is to do throughout the county.