Those involved in Columbia County's tourism and hospitality industries received tips Wednesday on how to better promote the county and their respective businesses.
A research study and marketing plan, conducted by Judy Randall of Randall Travel Marketing, was presented to officials and executives June 9. The study was commissioned by the county's Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The study showed that while Columbia County's location on Interstate 20 is beneficial, it fails to distinguish itself from Augusta.
"What you've got going here is an incredible location," Randall said. "You've got 1-20, which is an amazing resource. The trouble is you don't have any sense of place on it."
Randall went on to say that many Columbia County visitors that were polled for the study would like to see more dining and shopping in the area. Though most visitors liked the county's friendly people and small-town atmosphere, they were not fond of traffic, road construction and lack of signs in the area.
She added that the Convention and Visitors Bureau mission should focus on attracting more people to lodge in one of the county's 922 hotel rooms as well as spend more money.
"The main reason we wanted to have this session was for those of you that are here in the industry in Columbia County to know how to put it in play," she said.
After giving the crowd a summary of the study's results, Randall provided helpful advice broken down by each industry.
For a hotel marketing strategy, Randall told executives to opt for a billboard along I-20, to seek inclusion on the state's travel guide and obtain information from current customers. She also suggested they spend a day at a welcome center.
"Whenever we recommend something be done on the brochure, the first thing we say do is go test it at the state welcome center," she said. "Tourism is so homogeneous that if you talked to 30 people over the course of the weekend, you're going to start hearing the same answers."
With regards to those involved with retail and area attractions, Randall said it's crucial to make sure visitors are supplied with exact directions and know what is offered there.
While opportunities for the fine arts continue to grow in the area, Randall advised event coordinators to provide performance details to hotels and ensure ticket availability.
Randall said it's important that tear-off maps and information regarding county businesses be available at county and state visitor centers and area hotels.
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