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Travel & Tourism

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by Shellie Jones

When it comes to marketing your tourism-related business, knowing your audience and getting their attention can be half the battle.

Whether you're the state's No. 1 tourist attraction or simply a small business with a few go-carts and bumper boats, a valuable opportunity awaits you at the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The CVB can help promote your attraction a variety of ways, often at little or no cost. As the primary marketing organization for Springfield's travel industry, the CVB's goal is to sell our city as a destination to meeting, convention and event planners, leisure travelers, group tours, sporting events and travel agents. The goal: Encourage and increase overnight travel.

The more attractions, events and shopping opportunities we have to offer, the easier we are to sell, particularly to leisure travelers.

Prior to 1976, Springfield's tourism and convention marketing efforts were primarily conducted by Springfield hotels and motels. To coordinate and strengthen these efforts, the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce developed a convention and visitors committee to market Springfield as a meeting/convention and vacation destination.

In 1979, the chamber formed a full-time Convention and Visitors Bureau operating under contract with the city of Springfield. A 2 percent hotel/motel rooms tax ordinance was enacted to fund the bureau's marketing efforts.

In 1989, the bureau became an independent, nonprofit corporation. Although it is no longer part of the chamber, both remain strong allies in the city's efforts to ensure a strong economy and a better quality of life for its citizens.

Though many different types of travelers visit Springfield, research indicates that the typical leisure traveler is over 45 years of age, lower middle class, works in blue collar or farming professions and likes country music.

Many are retired 23.9 percent, according to a 1996 Visitor Profile Study. Their favorite activity while visiting the state appears to be shopping, claims a report by TravelScope. Nearly 40 percent of visitors profiled cited shopping as their top choice, followed by historical and cultural attractions, outdoors, and entertainment.

With a wealth of destinations to choose from, getting tourists to select one city over another can often be a challenge. This is where target marketing comes into play.

With an annual budget of $1.3 million, the bureau cannot afford to place advertising that doesn't pay off.

Rather than focusing on one attraction, the CVB promotes Springfield as a whole through print and television ad campaigns.

Readers and viewers are encouraged to call the bureau's toll-free number to request a free vacation travel packet. Inside is an area visitors guide, coupon booklet and calendar of events listing all the great things to see and do in Springfield. Last year, the bureau received more than 40,000 calls for these packets. Nearly half (47.6 percent) of these callers turned into actual visitors, according to a 1996 Purdue Study. This percentage is "most impressive," the report said.

Thanks to matching advertising co-op dollars from the Missouri Division of Tourism, Springfield has recently appeared in Reader's Digest, Modern Maturity and Midwest Living, as well as on The Nashville Network.

Besides promoting the area through visitor packets, the bureau also maintains a Tourist Information Center at Highway 65 and Battlefield Road. Here visitors can find a wealth of information on attractions, lodging and restaurants in the Springfield area, along with brochures from across the state. Last year, 81,789 visitors stopped by the Tourist Information Center.

From calendar of events listings and brochure placements, to web site links and visitor packet insertions, there are plenty of ways for businesses to attract the attention of today's leisure traveler. Learn more by calling the Springfield CVB, 881-5300.

(Shellie Jones is communications coordinator for the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau.)[[In-content Ad]]

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