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TDA rebrands, upgrades website

It was almost dizzying watching the rollout of the new marketing campaign during the annual Henderson County Travel and Tourism conference.

“Get ready visitors,” the message rang out. “Covid is history. Come check us out because we’re open for business!"

The kickoff for the February conference was a new 90-second video produced by Paradise Advertising showcasing the county’s attractions — a slick tool in the new “destination marketing” approach that depicts Henderson County as a place you just have to visit. The video wowed the 180 attendees with panoramic shots of Main Street, mountains, waterfalls, music venues, restaurants and wineries. Videos will be used in future marketing promotions all woven with the theme “Gratitude at Altitude,” which is also captured on a brown and white logo.

“We are a friendly place and welcome visitors,” TDA Board Chair Richard Rhodes said. “We believe they will experience gratitude when they are here too.” TDA Executive Director Michelle Owens added: “It’s more than a tagline. It’s TDA’s ethos.”

A hot-off-the-press 50-page Visitors Guide was rolled out as part of the marketing campaign, too. The cover sports a girl and a guy with feet propped on a rock enjoying a mountain view and sharing a bottle of wine. Above the photo is another new tagline — “Find Your Mountain Moments!” The Paradise team pointed out that the publication is titled “Hendersonville” and not “Henderson County” because in the tourism industry, visitors identify with a town or city and seldom a county.

Another part of the marketing rollout was TDA’s upgraded website — The jazzy website redo is totally user friendly with dozens of photo icon links. There are links for outdoor activities, eateries, craft breweries, wineries, scenic drives, the arts, and even one for rainy day activities that guides visitors to arts and craft studios, an aquarium, a pinball museum and of course, all the sipping spots. Creative campaigns may be more digital than print compared to past years, Owens said, because “that’s where the tourists are looking.”

Tracking tourism $$$

A Paradise team partner, research firm named Zartico, gave conference attendees an inside view of “geolocation” marketing. This is the business — probably more of a science — of how TDAs know not just where their visitors are from but how much they are spending and where they are spending it. The secret was revealed to the audience. Among other sources, Zartico follows the data it gets from credit card companies — all legally. Spenders are identified by zip code only. Zartico can drill down to learn more about spending habits such as counting how many visitors to DuPont Forest later dined in Hendersonville. “This is all new but it will help us be smart with our marketing dollars,” Owens said, adding that it will also help TDA’s tourism partners (restaurants, hotels, event venues, etc.) put their own money in the right places.

Recent Henderson County visitor data was shared with conference attendees. The two biggest tourist origin markets are Greenville-Spartanburg (20.6 percent) and Charlotte (14.5 percent). The next three markets combined — Atlanta, Columbia, S.C., and Raleigh-Durham — account for 13.2 percent of county visitors. The average visitor spends $108 per day. Most is spent on food (38.2 percent), then lodging (15.4 percent) and the rest on shopping, transportation and outdoor recreation. Also, 63 percent of visitors stay the night.

Owens has a favorite phrase that guides her marketing philosophy, “Go big or go home.” Translated, it means that the best advertising targets the people where they are the most relaxed. “We have a big ad in the travel magazine Our State,” said Owens. “It’s one of the best places to reach future visitors.”

The last piece of the marketing effort shared at the conference was the Main Street Welcome Center renovation project. The holders full of glossy rack cards won’t be in full view. Instead there will be local artwork and interactive displays. The Center’s interior colors will be accent earth tones designed to engage the senses. “When visitors walk into the new Welcome Center, in two seconds they will have an idea of what Henderson County has to offer,” Owens said. Renovation work begins this spring.

The tourism conference was a showcase of new activities — cool videos, a new Visitors Guide, website upfit, rebranding, high tech marketing and the Welcome Center facelift. Yes, there’s a lot going on with the TDA but Owens shared a possible downside of the effort — overtourism.

“It can be a problem,” she said. “We are looking at a balance in bringing in people to help the economy without adversely changing the community.” Such a balance is a challenge as there are already 2,500 tourism-related jobs in Henderson County. The other side of the coin is that tourist dollars amount to a tax savings of $269 per person each year.