Here at Mikula-Harris we took a little time off from blogging. We have written consistently for our clients — blogs, e-newsletters and other content, but we have enjoyed a bit of a break from posting on our own blog. We’re refreshed and returning to regular posting. And believe me, we have a lot of things on our minds that we want to talk about.
In the coming days, weeks and months, we will:
• Take you behind the scenes on some interesting campaigns and projects
• Comment on important developments and trends in advertising, branding, tourism and more
• Tackle complicated and perhaps controversial topics, including the idea of outsourcing some functions of a tourism program. You may know that we have a unique perspective on this subject.
• Share lessons we have learned over our 30 years in business. Some of those lessons may be surprising to our readers.
• Most likely veer off subject occasionally to tell you about some wonderful people and places. Will our perspective be influenced by whether these places are clients? Maybe, but we’ll be accurate and not embellish the truth.
What you will not find in this space: Politics. Negativity. Meanness.
If you have topics that you’d like to see covered by a member of our team, please let us know. Our years in business and the breadth of our team members’ experiences means we have opinions on issues of branding, marketing, management, technology, communication, the creative process and much more.
Lately, there is not much on the evening news that puts me in a good mood. This brief mention of tourism in Bath County, however, made our entire team happy. This is what we work for.
This segment on WDBJ in Roanoke is just a brief update, but if it were a more in-depth examination of the post-pandemic tourism recovery in Bath County, what else might be included in the report?
It’s true there is pent up demand for travel and a lot of destinations are seeing visitors return. It’s also true that Bath County has amazing lodging properties that all have loyal repeat visitors who are likely itching to return to what they have missed for more than a year. If it seems like Bath County is slightly ahead of some (but not all) destinations, I for one will not be surprised. I don’t believe in coincidences.
During the pandemic when some destinations paused marketing, the county Office of Tourism proceeded with most of its planned advertising. The message was carefully crafted, but the objective was to remain top-of-mind when travel resumed.
The targeted advertising included 1.8 million impressions in print outlets; 3.1 million impressions on online outlets including websites and e-newsletters; 404,000 video impressions, including online pre-roll and streaming TV services.
Over the past 12 months, traffic to DiscoverBath.com was up 50% over the same period a year earlier. That followed a 57% between last year and the year before. Page views have more than doubled within two years.
Bath County tourism marketing was on the rise before the pandemic struck and brought travel to a complete stand still. We were confident at the time that the solid metrics of website traffic, visitor guide requests, newsletter opt-ins and social media followers combined with the decision to continue marketing through the downturn would all lead to a swift and robust recovery. We will not know economic impact numbers for quite a while, but early indicators suggest that we were correct.
The Mikula-Harris team is just getting started on a branding project for the Town of Appomattox, VA. It’s a cool small town located east of Lynchburg. The drive between our office in Vinton and Appomattox is especially wonderful because most of the miles are in Bedford County. Returning from a meeting recently, I was driving west on Route 460. Once past the congestion of Lynchburg, you begin to see the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. As the sun slowly sank on the horizon, I was reminded where the inspiration for the ad campaign “Where Ordinary Ends, Bedford Begins” came from as well as the line of ad copy “To the east and west are bustling cities, but in between is pure bliss.”
The message perfectly hits the nail right on the head for Bedford. We knew instinctively that the branding and creative work we did for Destination Bedford was gold. Now that some time has passed, we’re able to see that it’s helping move the needle. All of the newly branded campaign materials hit the street in early 2020. The website launched in March and traffic grew steadily all through the year. There were three times as many users and page views in April 2021 than during the same period in 2020.
What are the reasons for this success? As with most tourism marketing success stories, it’s not a single magic thing. It’s a combination of things:
• The new website follows all best practices for SEO. Result: Organic Search as a source of traffic is up 490%.
• Social media as a source of traffic is way up because the team at Destination Bedford is working hard at consistently posting quality content.
• The management and marketing team at Destination Bedford is investing its advertising budget in the right places — building brand awareness and generating website traffic.
The future looks bright for tourism growth in Bedford County. In the meantime, the present is pure bliss.