Thursday, October 30, 2008
Tourism industry switches emphasis
By SUE WATSON
With tourism down due to economic downswings the last few years, more people are choosing to see what’s going on close at home, according to Stephanie Movre, executive director of the Holly Springs Tourism Bureau.
Tourism bureaus are also trying to get as much bang for the buck, she said.
“One thing we are seeing with tourism down is increasing popularity of ‘staycations’ where people travel short trips within 300 miles of home,” Movre said. “A lot of couples are surfing the Internet looking for ideas for a short vacation.”
Movre redesigned the tourism bureau’s website and has subscribed with Google to help attract visitors to the city, she said.
“If they are interested in Faulkner and Oxford, I have it set where Google automatically pulls the tourism bureau up and when someone is looking for a Memphis trip, we pop up,” Movre said.
The subscription costs $50 a month but is paying off in attracting tourists from other locales to Holly Springs, she said. Since she has advertised on Google, more people are showing up in Holly Springs saying they found out about Holly Springs on the Internet, she said.
“We’re getting a lot more inquiries from prospective tourists who are already in the region and that is what we are feeding off,” Movre said. “Tourism offices all promote each other, we have alliances and we know each other. Holly Springs has a lot of friends in the tourism community.”
Movre said her office’s budget doesn’t have money for doing a lot of advertising and the Internet ads are what have been providing the “biggest bang for the buck.”
She redesigned the tourism bureau’s website with the baby boomer in mind.
“It is simple and pleasant with a lot of pictures and images so people can see what Holly Springs looks like on the Internet,” she said.
Senior travelers do not like too much information on a website that causes clutter and distraction and they like large type, Movre said.
“We have gotten a lot of compliments because the website is simple and clear so older visitors can go through it easily,” she said. “I’ve never had complaints from people who have spent their money on a visit.”
Although tourism has decreased day-to-day in Holly Springs, events are drawing lots of traffic from out of town, Movre said. People from the surrounding area are now planning their visits to coincide with events.
The biggest event in terms of turnout in Holly Springs is the annual Hummingbird Festival, second biggest is the Hill Country Picnic and the Pilgrimage is the third event with the largest turnout.
Tourists are interested in history and culture, but they also want to experience history and culture more, Movre said.
“Blues music is huge,” she said. “International travelers come here and music is huge. Nature and birds are a big deal, too.”
When travelers cannot schedule a “staycation” for an event, they often come later on their own, Movre said.
Large bus tours are not being booked to Holly Springs as much as smaller groups who arrive in vans or small buses, she said.
“Our tourists right now are the baby boomers - husbands and wives and girlfriends,” Movre said. “Boomers are not big on doing what their parents did - not tour buses.”
New tours are typically composed of groups of 10 to 15 who arrive in vans or a small bus. They are typically scouts, garden clubs, church groups, and retirement groups, she said.
“Tour operators are not seeing big bus loads interested in being herded on a bus,” she said. “Tourists like to plan their own trips.”
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