BUCKHANNON — The Upshur County Convention and Visitors Bureau plans to revamp its website as it focuses increasingly on the internet and social media to market the area to out-of-town visitors.
Executive director of the Upshur CVB Laura Meadows said as much when she presented her annual report to Buckhannon City Council and the Upshur County Commission last month.
“Everybody always hears about social media and that’s because it’s incredibly effective, so we put a lot more value, a lot more money and a lot more attention toward social media in the past year,” Meadows told the commission at its July 20 meeting. “We have an active Facebook campaign, we have an active Instagram account and then we’re working this upcoming year to have a more interactive website — we’re going to do an overhaul of our website.”
The CVB’s current website is located at www.visitbuckhannon.org.
Meadows said over the past fiscal year, there have been over 22,500 visits to its websites, including its own as well as the event center’s website at eventcenterwv.com. In addition, the CVB’s Facebook page has received 4,681 “likes,” which increases every day, Meadows said.
“Over the past six years, on average, people are spending a minute and 45 seconds to 2 minutes, and nowadays if you’re spending that much time on a website, you’re actually reading stuff, you’re engaged in the content, you’re there for a reason, and that holds a lot of value,” Meadows said.
Meadows also discussed the way in which the tourism industry’s approach to advertising has changed, moving from traditional block advertisements to space that’s paid for but contains editorial content, such as a sponsored article and photographs.
“It really, truly looks like an article, but it’s paid space for it,” Meadows said.
Meadows additionally discussed dwindling state funding, noting that the Matching Advertising Partnership Program, or MAPP program, previously available through the West Virginia Division of Tourism, will no longer be available due to budgetary issues.
But not all state-funded advertising opportunities have vanished, Meadows added.
“In its place, the state is
going to open up a co-op
opportunity where the state is going to go to Southern Living, for example, and buy a full page ad, which probably costs $25,000, and the state is going to buy out, let’s say five pages, and they’re going to buy down the cost and then come out to all the CVBs and all of the tourism industry people and say, ‘OK, now you can place an ad in here for $1,500,’” Meadows said. “So, it opens up a whole new avenue for us to get to people that we typically wouldn’t be able to and we’re underneath that West Virginia, Wild and Wonderful brand.”
And although agencies have definitely shifted toward digital advertising, print isn’t dead, Meadows said.
“Most interesting, about three years ago, print started to decrease and everybody was focusing on online advertisements and moving away from print,” Meadows said, “but in the past year or so, everybody’s kind of watching all these standards and all these industry changes, and they’ve seen the demand for print increase. What’s come out of it is that people value and tend to trust print media more than they do something they read on the internet.”
The CVB itself is in the middle of changing its signature tagline of “What Small Town Charm is All About” to “Big Time Getaway, Small Town Charm.” In addition, Region VII Planning and Development Council’s GIS mapper is creating a story map for the CVBs of Upshur, Lewis and Randolph counties to reinvigorate the campaign, “33 Things to do Along Route 33.”
“We’re really trying to focus on mountain biking and hiking and biking trails,” Meadows said.
Meadows also said the Event Center at Brushy Fork, which the CVB manages, is flourishing.
“We’ve had some return events like Wesleyan’s Homecoming and have had some big events like the Chamber of Commerce dinner and Wendling’s Food Show,” she said. “We’re focusing on bringing bigger things in that generate hotel/motel tax, which funds the CVB. B-UHS prom was here, and they’re thinking about bringing homecoming.”
Commissioner Sam Nolte commended Meadows on her work.
“In six years, you’ve come a long way,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
Commission president Terry Cutright said, “Personally, I’ve noticed every year, the event center is getting busier and busier.”
Troy “Buddy” Brady thanked Meadows for her work.
“I’d just like to thank you personally for the outstanding job that you do and your presentation every year here,” Brady said. “And anybody can look at that and see you’re doing an outstanding job because the numbers just keep increasing.”
Meadows submitted a financial report, showing expenses totaling $177,722.10 and income adding up to $160,509.82, leaving a net deficit of $17,212.28. Meadows said the deficit was due to the CVB being invoiced in 2016-2017 for some 2015-2016 expenses, specifically the lease payments on the event center.