Above: Chris Jennings, executive vice president of the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce’s Convention and Visitors Bureau
In November, the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce’s Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) unveiled its 2016 Marketing and Media Effectiveness Study.
The study, conducted by H2R Market Research during August, measured the impact of the CVB’s advertising on visitation, travel spending and return on investment.
According to the study, tourism had a $17.4 million economic impact on the county, while the CVB invested $158,000 in paid advertising during the fiscal year. That means for every $1 spent by the CVB on advertising, there was a more than $110 economic impact.
Overall, the CVB’s marketing reached 4.3 million households and resulted in 32,800 incremental trips, the study said.
The county benefitted from youth sports events and the NFL Carolina Panthers training camp, which by itself had a $13.1 million impact during 2016.
In 2017, a spate of events are on the radar, including youth sports events, the return of the Panthers training camp, the new public art project Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light and the annual state Governor’s Conference on Tourism & Travels.
The Spartanburg Chamber will also reveal its strategic visioning plan that is being developed with the help of the Atlanta-based consulting firm Market Street Services that could hone in on other tourism opportunities.
UBJ recently caught up with Chris Jennings, executive vice president of the CVB, to find out more about the organization’s marketing efforts to capitalize on those opportunities during 2017 and beyond.
What is the focus for the CVB’s marketing this year?
From a tourism standpoint, we’re really looking to maximize our marketing. Last year, in addition to print and digital ads, we ran TV ads in Chattanooga and Knoxville, as well as Raleigh. The reason we chose those was those cities are far enough away for an overnight visit. This year, we’re turning our attention to Atlanta. The results of our Media and Marketing study were very positive — increased awareness and intent to visit. If we can tap into some of that same enthusiasm in Georgia, we think we’ll really have something.
What are some things on the horizon for Spartanburg’s tourism sector in 2017?
We heard about a few projects planned that we’re not quite able to talk about yet. What we’ve got to do a little differently is separate ourselves by showing off what we have … like our Made in Spartanburg campaign, which I think is helping with that. … We’re really promoting the recently updated Spartanburg Music Trail and other self-guided tours for downtown and around the county. The newest will be our Grown in Spartanburg Agricultural Trail, due to be revealed in February. And the food scene here is growing and really is amazing. Chef William Cribb [of Cribb’s Kitchen and Willy Taco] was recently named one of the state’s Chef Ambassadors.
Can you share a few insights about marketing?
You have to be strategic in tourism marketing. You can’t just one-off these things. The county’s Tourism Action Plan gave us a great foundation. It identified some key areas — or pillars — to highlight in marketing Spartanburg. I give tremendous credit to the County Council, the city and other major proponents of the plan. When you have a plan and good resources and funding, it makes a big difference. We’re very fortunate as a community to have great marketing partners, or vendors, that have helped us showcase what Spartanburg has to offer. We have had support from the local government, and the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce, as well our advisory board.
What are some challenges ahead?
We want what everyone wants, which is for people to stay longer and spend more. The challenge has been keeping up with the technology. The competition for attracting travelers is fierce. We want to stay ahead of the curve. How can we tap into things like Airbnb, Uber and other things that consumers are plugged into? And we have to balance increased visitation with quality of place. We don’t want to kill the golden goose.
Are there opportunities out there for future growth?
Youth sports will be big. We’re going to continue to evolve to bring more high-value tournaments and events here in addition to baseball and softball, where we have had success. We’ll be looking at soft adventure. … Outdoor recreation is really untapped. We have great natural resources here that are underutilized, and we’re not going to let them stay a secret. … As downtown Spartanburg grows, there will be a lot of opportunities to help us grow the visitor economy throughout the county. There is great enthusiasm and excitement about what’s next. I think the sky is the limit.
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- Q&A with Spartanburg CVB’s Chris Jennings
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