New tourism director gets down to business
While there are a lot of people in the area that feel tourism doesn't have much impact on the local economy, new Carbon County Tourism Bureau Director Shalee Johansen sees it differently.
"We need to involve all local businesses in tourism events and venues," said Johansen on Tuesday morning. "We need to do that."
Johansen, who is originally from American Fork and recently relocated to Carbon County from Wasatch County, sees tourism as the engine of the economy in the area that has been barely tapped. Her experience in marketing venues in the resort industry in the Park City area and background on securing grant money to help promote tourism in the area will be very helpful in bringing people to the community.
"One of the things I think that is most important is that we set up a concierge service for the community," she stated. "I am setting up an electronic system and we will also use the information center at the USU Prehistoric Museum for that."
The system that Johansen imagines will supply answers to tourists' questions about everything from where they can get a pizza to where they can buy auto parts. It is her intention to be sure those who come to town are well taken care of. It is also her intention to see that they come back.
"Look at this file," she said as she walked to the conference room near her office and pointed to a box totally full of single sheet records that denoted people who have been to Carbon County for events before. "We are gathering a data base of people who already know who we are. People who have already been here. We are putting all these names in an electronic data base right now and will be using various methods to contact them and invite them back."
She sees those records as one of the most important pieces of building tourism, because if those people had a good experience in the area and come back they will probably bring others back with them. She intends to draw them back with a series of contacts, including an electronic newsletter that will highlight what is going on and what is available in the area.
Then there is attracting those that have never been here before, or have just passed through.
"I just think if you look at the area, there is literally something for everyone who wants to come here," she said, pointing to a piece of tourism literature that featured photos of people doing everything from motocross to viewing rock art. "We just need to be sure they know about it and will spend some time here."
The philosophy is to get them to do more than stop for gas on the way to Lake Powell or Moab, and get them to look at even just a couple of things in the area like the museum. If they spend even a couple of hours doing that and see what there is to offer in the area, she feels they will come back and spend more time, and maybe with more people.
One of the tasks she has been given is to also bring all the county's venues and activities in the area under one roof when it comes to advertising. The tourism bureau has a board which doles out the money for advertising to various venues. That money has been generated over the years by the Restaurant Tax and the Transient Room Tax on lodging properties. In the past, events would apply for that money and then they would advertise in their own way for the event. Now however, acceptance of applications and the award of funds will be more controlled by the tourism office and events will be cross promoted.
"Obviously some events can be cross promoted better with other events than others," said Johansen. "For instance, doesn't it seem natural for rodeo events to be cross promoted with the Cowboy Town shooting events at the North Springs Shooting Range?"
The county-owned venues will also go under one roof as well. She is working with all the managers of the sites to put together a combined advertising and promotion strategy.
"There is a lot we are going to do, but but basically we want accountability for what is being done to promote our county venues," she said. "We are using a five step plan to do that."
The first step is the building of the data base of previous visitors that was previously mentioned. That is well underway.
The second step is to make sure those who contact the county about event venues get a quick response back from the county system. The specific venue coordinator will handle those with contact being made within 48 hours of a request or contact. The system will be set up so no one will fall between the cracks.
Third is making sure that the venue coordinators help familiarize those that come from out of town with the area and other possibilities for activities. This is where the concierge service (both electronic and at the museum with the guest services coordinator) will come in too, helping those who come here to find what they need when they need it.
Fourth, measurement of what works and what doesn't.
"We want to base our marketing on facts," said Johansen. "We are going to start tracking where people come from and why they come here, and put together statistics on what is working."
The fifth step is to be sure that the county tells people, "Thank you for coming our way." This will include thank you notes (electronic and mail), the quarterly newsletter that they will get once they have come to the area and offering up suggestions to get them to come back.
To do all this Johansen is setting up new goals for the department and will be redesigning the advertising so that a constant, consistent message is sent out to the world. She says a team is better working together than individuals all going their own directions, regardless of how hard they work or how good they do that work.
"Our advertising needs to create a sense of urgency for people to come and see what is here," she concluded.