TOWNSHIP OF VERNON – With the COVID-19 pandemic finally coming to a halt and the urge to travel gripping Americans who otherwise were largely homebound, the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau is looking to improve its county marketing and its many attractions to attract tourists.
In a presentation held Tuesday at Movies at Meadville and to an audience of county officials and stakeholders, the office’s executive director, Victoria Soff, and a team from Bull Moose Marketing explained how they plan to make Crawford County a friendlier tourist destination.
While the visitors’ office had worked with Bull Moose Marketing in the past on an intermittent basis, the office began full contract work with the marketing company earlier this year. Soff said she wanted the office to work with a local marketing company, rather than some of the more distant ones that had been employed in the past.
Through this partnership, the Visitors’ Office hopes to achieve a wide range of goals, from increasing the average total money spent by overnight visitors to $ 7,000 per month to launching a version from its visitor guide to developing a county-wide marketing plan.
“That’s why we brought in Bull Moose,” Soff said. “Because we need to have a clear marketing strategy. We don’t want to just throw things on the wall and hope it sticks. “
As the pandemic draws to a close, people’s desire to get out and travel is on the rise, according to Ron Mattocks, vice president of customer strategy at Bull Moose. Increasingly, people are looking to go farther than normal in their travels, opting for distances of 250 miles or more.
“The big picture here is that the hyper-local vacations are over,” Mattocks said. “People want to go out.”
Crawford County has a number of advantages in trying to capture the attention of these travelers. Bull Moose has identified such things as the county’s heritage tourist spots, its centralized location around major population centers, and the county’s many natural features as potential assets to attract people.
However, the county is also facing difficulties. On the one hand, there is a significant lack of hotel space, with Crawford County having just 19 hotels, according to Bull Moose’s findings. Comparatively, Erie County was identified as having about 123, Mercer County about 65, Venango County about 26, and Warren County about 62.
In addition, one of the main goals of Tuesday’s presentation was to push the idea that the county should form a formalized brand image to attract people. This would highlight the unique aspects of the county and serve as a raffle.
“We can’t stress this enough,” Mattocks said. “We have to have something that we are universally recognized for.”
The heritage and cultural parts of the county could be a major source of tourism with a wide range of benefits. Josh Sherretts, vice president of business development at Bull Moose, said heritage tourism is the “fastest growing tourism segment in the United States.”
Heritage tourists, said Sherretts, spend more on average per trip – about $ 1,319 compared to $ 820 for the average leisure tourist – and go on vacation more often. It is expected that heritage and cultural tourism will increase once the pandemic is completely over.
Going forward, Soff said she plans to have Bull Moose help the Visitors Bureau expand its digital presence and use these platforms for marketing purposes. One of those methods they hope to use is to invite online influencers to the area, showcasing Crawford County features to their fans.
Mattocks said the effort would focus on what he called “nano” and “micro” influencers. These are influencers with audiences between 4,000 and 10,000 and 10,000 to 45,000, respectively.
He said the county was recently visited by one of those nano-influencers, an avid birding and camping enthusiast from Buffalo, New York.
“So it’s something that we could consider repeatable,” Mattocks said. “It’s very inexpensive, but it has a very high impact and a very high outreach.”
Other goals for the future are the improvement of the Visitors’ Office website, aimed at better presenting the county’s amenities and functions.
A video recording of the entire presentation is available on the office’s Facebook page, where it was also streamed live.
Sean P. Ray can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at [email protected]