Brookings’ city officials will form group to study tourism options

By Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer August 08, 2012 01:43 pm

 

The City of Brookings City Council agrees its top priority in promoting tourism to the area – and providing services to those already here – is to form a stakeholder’s committee to address details of such a program.

The council, which met in a work session Monday afternoon, is considering a variety of ideas to develop its own tourism promotional campaign since the city decided earlier this year not to continue a long-standing tourism program with the Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

 

Ideas percolating to the top include partnering with the Port of Brookings Harbor, developing a visitor center and contracting with different media firms for advertising.

“Number one, we need to have a stakeholder’s committee,” said Mayor Ron Hedenskog. “It’ll slow the process, I’m sure, but a lot of answers will come out of it.”

Such a committee could include five people: City Manager Gary Milliman, two representatives of the lodging industry and one each from food and beverage and retail businesses.

They would determine the audience the city should pursue, the medium by which to attract them and the content of that medium. The board would also have access to an estimated $37,000 annual budget.

The city will discuss the proposed committee at its regular meeting next Monday.

Attracting people is half the answer. Keeping them here is the other.

“We’re not some town in the middle of the Nevada desert,” said Councilor Kelly McClain. “We’ve got people rolling through this town. We are not hurting for people to attract to this town. Where we’re hurting is because they start on one end of town and roll on through.”

That’s where visitor retention would come into play, with more offerings and activities, promotion of existing amenities and improved customer service.

Even though the city and port still plan to create a tourism promotion relationship, some councilors expressed their frustration with “bed tax” revenue being spent to attract people to Brookings, but who often end up spending their money at the port – or in Harbor.

Others indicated it would be impossible to prevent those staying in Brookings from attending events in Harbor – or make them do things only in Brookings.

“The vast majority of people in hotels are doing something in the port,” said Councilor Jake Pieper. “People come for other reasons, and it wasn’t to visit downtown Brookings. We are not getting the raw end of the deal.”

Hedenskog agreed, saying that in the end, it’s probably a wash.

“They’re putting their bucks in there, we’re putting our bucks in here,” he said. “It’s mutual on both sides of the river. At that point, it begins to wash.”

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In other work session discussion, the city council met with Chris Vanderschaff of Apple Box Media Group of Redding, Calif., who outlined his proposal to create video spots depicting local residents explaining why they moved to Brookings.

His idea isn’t geared toward attracting tourists, but new residents. The videos could be posted on YouTube, Facebook, the city’s website and other sites, and geared specifically toward people expressing even a remote interest in relocating to Brookings.

“People come to our community for free on the 101,” McClain said. “We’re doing a terrible job of capturing these people. We need to make the town something that stands out.”

Vanderschaff said video could be shown on television, through all kinds of electronic media, and numerous ways over the Internet. And almost all the time, potential consumers can instantly obtain all the information they need and book reservations, among other activities, instead of trying to get ahold of a person at the other end of a phone line.

The proliferation of QR (quick response) codes – those black and white scannable squares on merchandise and ads – is another way to get people’s attention.

And electronic media doesn’t have deadlines, can be changed at any time, is easier to manage, is less expensive than television advertising and is easy to determine its efficacy, Vanderschaff noted.

Vanderschaff said creators use keywords, tags and codes in video to get the target audience.

“MTV and the middle-school website are not going to work,” he said. “You have to get more on the sites seniors go to.”

Councilors acknowledged the fact that exposing oneself in the vast world of social media can have negative ramifications – especially for a government entity – but agreed the risk might be worth the payoff.

“It’s the way of the future,” McClain said. “And it’s such a small amount of money needed to be smart.”