Tourism Drive Exceeds Expectations

    HOLLAND — Inquiring minds are seeking information about Holland more than any other travel destination connected to the $1 million Michigan’s West Coast tourism campaign, according to early results.

    Would-be travelers seeking information about the region during May via a Web site created through the West Coast campaign clicked through to Holland more often than any other destination or community.

    “Holland is drawing the most results,” said Steve Wilson, president of the Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention and Visitors Bureau that’s spearheading the marketing campaign designed to promote West Michigan as a vacation and convention destination.

    “It shows the very strong role that Holland plays here in West Michigan,” Wilson said last week during a presentation on the campaign to the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Early Bird Breakfast.

    The results come amid the backdrop of a recent decision by the Holland Area CVB, after withdrawing late last year, to re-join the campaign on a limited basis without endorsing it and then reconsidering full participation in 2004.

    While “obviously delighted” that Holland showed so well in the early results among the Web site’s users, Holland Area CVB Executive Director Sally Laukitis notes that the debut of the West Coast campaign coincided with the popular Tulip Time festival in early May, which may have contributed to the results.

    Holland also enjoys strong name and brand recognition that’s bound to steer some of the site’s traffic, she said.

    Reiterating the bureau’s position that accountability and the ability to track the campaign’s results are the key factors that will direct the decision on whether to eventually fully re-join West Coast, Laukitis wants to see far more data from subsequent months. She also wants to check whether Beachtowns, another cooperative campaign to promote shoreline communities in which the bureau participates, yields similar results.

    “It’s like any other advertising campaign. We look at numbers and then we make decisions,” Laukitis said.

    One month into the campaign, which includes targeting the South Bend, Indianapolis and Ft. Wayne markets with television ads, organizers are pleased with the early results and the groundwork that’s been laid, Wilson said.

    Launched in early May, the West Coast Web site generated more than 15,000 user sessions, averaging eight minutes, during the first week of the month alone, Wilson said. The sessions presumably are the result of TV ads promoting the region and directing viewers to the site for more information about attractions.

    “I’d say we’re ahead of where we expected to be,” Wilson said.

    Organizers of West Coast, which seeks to generate $15 million in new business for the region’s tourism industry for every $1 million spent, plan to tweak the campaign as needed and hope in subsequent years to secure the funding required to expand it to beyond the busy summer season and cover spring and fall travel seasons, Wilson said.

    “It’s really a starting point,” he said of the initial efforts for 2003. “Our hope is to stretch this out much longer. We certainly want to build our business going into the spring and the fall.”   

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