It’s overall marketing plan for this year calls for the revival of the Haywood County Film Commission. The county had a commission at one time, but it fell by the way side. However, as part of an effort to create entertaining and educational videos about Haywood County to attract tourists, the TDA’s Video Marketing Manager Becky Seymour began working with AdvantageWest, a regional economic development agency, to connect with filmmakers who want to shoot movies in Western North Carolina.
But the fate of AdvantageWest is unknown. The N.C. legislature may eliminate the entity and bring all economic development under the state Department of Commerce, so as a preemptive measure, the TDA decided to bring back the Haywood County Film Commission. Should AdvantageWest shut down, Seymour would become the liaison between the county and filmmakers.
Along with heading the commission, Seymour will be gathering a list of local professionals (builders, makeup artist, caterers, etc.), creating digital profiles of Haywood County locales, and crafting film and television press kits. If the county can snag a movie, it could boost tourism to the area.
Another new push for the tourism agency this year is to increase foot traffic in its visitor centers. The hope is to get people in the door then “wow” them with all the great things to see and do in the area. That could lead to longer visits, and repeat visits in future years.
The TDA began taking a more active role in running visitor centers in the past year —namely bringing the Waynesville and Maggie Valley visitor centers in-house instead of contracting with the chambers of commerce to run them. Now, TDA employees want to revamp the visitor centers to act more like concierge services and include more retail.
The authority wants to turn inquiring phone calls into actual visits by telling people, “Do you want to plan part of your trip now?” said Jason Dailey, who oversees visitor center operations. Visitor center volunteers would be trained to use the itinerary planning software on visitncsmokies.com.
Currently, whoever is working the front desk at a hotel is the first person visitors ask about where they should go and what they should see. But the TDA wants to reach out to lodging owners and encourage them to send tourists to the visitor centers.
“We have definitely been trying to push that a little more,” Dailey said.
The visitor centers will also start offering clothing, plush animals, books on the outdoors and Haywood County, and specially marked “Homegrown in Haywood” products included in the TDA’s new ad campaign by the same name.
One niche tourism segment being targeted this year is road biking. A new brochure highlighting Haywood as a cycling destination was released this year.
As has been the trend for the last several years, the authority is continuing to concentrate on digital marketing and expanding its online presence.
The TDA uses behavioral targeting such as Google’s Pay Per Click program to advertise different attractions in Haywood County to people based on their interests. If someone is often searching bicycling websites or receiving newsletters about biking clubs, an ad showcasing the picturesque road bike routes in the county may pop up and pique the person’s interest.
“It’s doing stuff like that where we can stalk people online,” said Ashley Rice, the TDA’s marketing manager.