I spent Tuesday afternoon in Covington, Virginia, which no doubt causes some of you to ask, "Where the Hell is that?" I say, just wait and you'll be hearing more about it. Covington is part of the region known as the Alleghany Highlands on Virginia's western border. In 2011, it made a dramatic entrance on the tourism scene in Virginia and in 2012 I believe it's going to become a much talked-about destination. It has the potential to become a favorite getaway spot for people in Virginia, DC, West Virginia and southern Maryland.
• When it launched its first ever tourism initiative in 2011, the Alleghany Highlands began with a comprehensive brand strategy that helped define its positioning in the marketplace and identified its key strengths. They have stayed on message ever since. The visitor guide, website, ad campaign, social media posts and PR efforts are consistent and focused. They all help the traveler remember what is important about the Alleghany Highlands. None of this could have been achieved without a good brand strategy in place.
• The team in charge of promoting the region to visitors is conservative about some things and quite bold about others, but hard-working all the time. The advertising media plan, for example, would be impressive for communities twice the size of the Alleghany Highlands. It includes some proven media (I refuse to call it "old media") like print and out-of-home, as well as new media like banner advertising, pay-per-click and email marketing, and even social media. When you use a broad array of media tools and have a consistent message throughout, that's what I call an integrated campaign.
• Perhaps most important of all, the Alleghany Highlands offers a lot of what the research tells us travelers are looking for. It’s a relaxing, stress-free and safe environment, surrounded by beautiful mountains offering tons of opportunities to hike, bike, paddle, fish or just drive around taking photos. The two downtowns in the Alleghany Highlands – Clifton Forge and Covington – are free of kitschy, touristy places – in other words, they are genuine small towns filled with hospitable folks. Last but not least, it’s easy to reach via interstate or Amtrak.
I don’t make too many predictions, but I am confident of success for tourism in the Alleghany Highlands. They have all the basics in place. Lots to offer visitors + smart and professional creative in their campaign + hard work = Results.