6 Ways Visitors’ Bureaus Can Prepare Now for 2013’s Budget Battles

by Joanne Steele on July 1, 2011

Beat up businessmanYou’ve just limped away from budget requests to your governing organization for your 2012 visitors’ bureau budget, and for many of you it didn’t go well. Draconian reductions in spending for tourism marketing is happening from states to hamlets.

  • They thought you were spending in all the wrong places.
  • They blamed you for the fact that visitor numbers for your area was down.
  • They were clueless about all the good things your visitor center has  done this year despite the recession.

Many of you are angry and depressed about the future of your organization. Luckily, because of Internet Marketing, you can still do a good job this year.

You can still afford to use all the FREE opportunities online to market your town. It would be good to focus your meager resources on keeping that website updated. And everything else you do online will work amazingly well to get the word out about your area.

Now is the time to prepare for a better visitors’ bureau marketing budget next fiscal year.

Here’s how:

1. Give your funding source monthly visitor center reports on your activities, starting August 1st.

Many places already report phone calls and visits to their visitors’ bureau office.

Because more people are getting information online and through those mobile devices, AND because your hours have probably been cut, those numbers may be down.

Start reporting online activity. Check and report on the unique visitors (not hits) to your website using Google Analytics.

If you are updating your Facebook Page, your stats will reflect your regular interaction – report the info from Facebook Insights.

Report how many times your town has been mentioned online – you can get this information by setting up and checking your Google Alerts.

Report your online activities – how many updates and new posts you have done to all your online resources – review sites, new updates to your Google Places Page, numbers of new updates to your social media sites.

Visitor centers in small towns are still important. Here’s an article to support that:  Effective Visitor’s Centers. Providing a Small Town Welcome that Increases Business.

Make sure that everyone signs your visitor’s bureau guestbook, and collect their email addresses and comments. Report all that information.

2. Begin with your first visitor center monthly report to educate your funders about what you are doing online and why.

Remind them every time you include a report of an online mention of your town that, unlike a mention of story in print, this was indexed by the search engines and will be available to visitors through their searches FOREVER.

This is hard for newbies to the internet to comprehend. Magazines articles and expensive print advertising, even when it reaches your targeted customer has an exceedingly short lifespan – seconds to weeks in most cases. Then it’s used to wrap garbage, or is recycled.

Here’s a good post on Connect the Dots, by Sheila Scarborough that illustrates the point and gives you some tips on marketing your destination: “6 ways to improve your destination marketing (and why you’re toast if you don’t)” Note the date of this article. It’s two years old, and still available online!

3. Tell them who the Perfect Customer for your town is, and how you are trying to reach them by showing them the benefits of coming to your area.

Marketing to people rather than marketing a menu of attractions is hard for many people to understand. You’ll need to educate your funders that marketing to everyone is marketing to nobody.

If you would like to print and include an article from RuralTourismMarketing.com in each of your monthly visitors’ bureau report packets, you have my complete permission. Just be sure to credit RTMG, and include a link so they can come to the site and read further.

4. Go before your funding board several times a year BEFORE you go to them asking for money.

Show up to personally invite them to special events.

Go in person to report especially good news – a good story in print or online about your town, a successful month or event or donation.

5. In your monthly reports, give indicators about how more money would be used, to prepare them for your increased funding request for the following year.

If you are unable to participate in a regional familiarization trip for travel writers that you have determined would have been valuable, report your desire to have funds to do this the next time it’s available.

If you are unable to afford to update your website, and you feel it is the cause of your poor placement for your important keywords, report that, including what an extra $500 or $1000 would do.

6. Then, in March, 2012, create your proposed visitors’ bureau budget for fiscal year 2013 and have it in the hands of your funding board by the beginning of April.

Get into their preliminary plan, and be ready to lobby for your request for the next several months.

Good luck. I’ll keep providing you with low cost, effective marketing solutions to get you through 2012, and next year, we’ll celebrate your increased budget!

Here’s last years take on this subject. Still relevant. Still available BECAUSE IT’S ONLINE!.

How to Ask For Tax Dollars to Market Your Rural Tourism Destination

And here’s what I said early in this funding cycle. Check out the links, they’re important and relevant.

Funding Your Small Town Tourism Marketing Budget in the Age of Austerity


Photo on Flickr by Joshin Yamada


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