The art and science of marketing includes product development, pricing, and promotion, all with targeted customers in mind. The stakeholders involved in the creation of the SPT Scenic Byway have the opportunity to link existing attractions and facilities, and to conceive and build whatever may be lacking to create a complex of attractions and services that as a whole or separately can attract and satisfy a broad range of consumers.
One of the goals must be not only to satisfy, but also to exceed expectations, to delight the customer. Planning for phased, controlled quality development through investment is key to achieving the goal.
The final measure of marketing effectiveness is net sales— new and repeat visitors to the scenic byway. If they come, they will spend money. The longer they stay, the more they spend. The better and more extensive the attractions, the longer they will stay. The creation of strategies that affect the number and type of visitors in the most cost-effective way is called strategic marketing.
The basic formula for marketing any product involves determining
The same principles apply in selling ideas, which is the task at hand for proponents of the SPT Alliance. The successful internal marketing of concepts to alliance members and the scenic byway communities can make the entire enterprise more successful for everyone in a shorter time frame.
Who—what markets—does the SPT Alliance want to cultivate? This is the time to decide whom to invite, and begin creating facilities to serve them.
From our evaluations of current and potential visitors as discussed in Chapter 7, we can look at information about several different types of visitors – scenic byways drivers; heritage and cultural tourists; ecotourists and outdoor recreation tourists; and regional residents and their guests.
Several studies have been compiled on who drives scenic byways, why, and their spending behavior. A 1995 study of byway visitors in Iowa found most visitors were in-state retirees who spent an average of $104 per auto per day.(1) The 1999 study of Kansas scenic byway users indicates that most of their travelers are Baby Boomers (age 45-65) and still employed, and the average size of their party was four, which spent a total of approximately $50 per party.(2)
Pleasure Drivers are the broadest, most obvious market likely to be interested in the scenic byway. According to the results of the “Outdoor Recreation in America” report, pleasure drivers are above average in terms of being satisfied with their family life, friends, career choices, success, health and fitness, quality of leisure activities, and life in general. They also recorded average satisfaction levels with the amount and quality of recreational activities available to them. In short, they are happy people, and tend to react to experiences positively.
Pleasure drivers are very likely to seek road experiences that will satisfy their desires for aesthetics, drama (evocation of history and nostalgia), cultural adventure, and entertainment. Once they become aware of scenic byways, they sometimes and perhaps even often choose a byway over other more direct routes.
For drivers studied in the 1999 Kansas Scenic Byway Visitor’s study, respondents with less than a high school degree were far more likely to use the scenic byway merely as a means to a destination (to visit friends and family) than those respondents with high education levels. People with less education were less likely to indicate their trips were for pleasure driving and more likely to say they were there for viewing the scenery. The only difference may be semantic.
The proportion indicating they were traveling the byway to do something as a family tended to increase as the amount of education increased.(3)
The most popular reasons cited for using scenic byways in a Kansas study were visiting family/friends, viewing scenery, pleasure driving, and visiting historic sites. Other activities cited were shopping, taking photos, to see wildlife, viewing scenery, and visiting museums.
In the 1994 study of Iowa’s four pilot byway routes, 66% of the visitors said the small towns on the route intrigued them, 59% enjoyed shopping, and 77% enjoyed the scenic views. The Iowa scenic byway drivers spent one-third of their total on shopping for gifts and crafts. About a quarter of their total expenditures went for lodging, and just slightly less (23%) was spent on meals and snacks.
Judging from information gathered in these two studies, most drivers on midwestern scenic byways were there largely for the scenery. Two thirds of them also patronized the small towns on the routes, and more than half were interested in historic attractions. The interest in family experiences increased with their level of education.
Cultural adventurers desire a distinctly different experience from their usual lifestyle. They will include enthusiasts and scholars focusing on specific aspects of culture and history as well as serious seekers of music, art, crafts and performing arts experiences. But they also include many more visitors who have varying degrees of interest in history and local culture, and want to experience and learn more about the area heritage as a part of their vacation experience. Both of these categories include “heritage tourists,” the focus of a recent Travel Industry of America study. Data from this report indicates that heritage tourists stay longer and spend more than general tourists.
Use commercial lodging 56% of trips 42% of trips
Go shopping on trips 45% 33%
Average spending per trip $615 $425 all US travelers
Heritage tourists represent an upscale market of consumers. The kinds of amenities they desire are often what keeps tourism dollars in the local economy. For instance, the heritage tourist is more likely to stay overnight in a town's own charming bed-and-breakfast inn rather than the franchise hotel near the interstate. In addition, the typical heritage tourist requires minimal infrastructure, and they are more sensitive to the need to support local heritage sites. Cultural Resource specialist Gail Dexter Lord emphasizes trends in heritage tourism such as growing influence of the internet and special events, increase in younger and more diverse cultural tourists, and growing popularity of short “get-away” trips in today’s busy modern life. She adds “opportunities must be considered in the context of expectations held by the cultural tourist; for example, a desire for -- and expectation of -- experiences rather than objects, authenticity rather than fabrication, and the desire to contribute to a sustainable environment.” (5)
A Lou Harris poll in the early 1990s found that "visiting cultural, historical and archeological treasures” was a significant motivation in less than a third of travelers in the 1980s, but in the 90s it had increased to over half. “To understand culture” as a travel motive increased from less than half to over 88%. This indicates a change in goals from "escapism" to "enrichment" as a primary goal for tourism. (6)
Heritage tourists are correlated with higher education levels, an older population with higher disposable income (peak of interest in the 45 to 65 age groups), and an increase in the role of women, with a stronger interest in cultural activities, in controlling income and making family travel decisions.
In attracting and planning for cultural tourists we need to consider these trends:
Ecotourism is travel by environmentally minded tourists who focus on nature and conservation. Just as many heritage tourists value the local culture, ecotourists value conservation of the natural environment and sustained well being of local residents. Related groups include more traditional outdoorsmen and outdoor recreationists. These outdoor tourism groups include:
All of these groups are well represented in the Byway area, with major ski resorts in the same and adjoining counties, vast well-established hiking, hunting and fishing lands on the Monongahela National Forest as well as wilderness areas, and a number of specific adventure activities available in the area such as hiking and mountain bike trails, canoeing, rafting, rock climbing, and caving.
According to a US Travel Data Center study, 8 million American adults have taken one ecotourism trip and almost three million are likely to do so in the next three years. The amount spent by such travelers increases, according to this study, by 15% each year.(7) In a recent study of ecotourism, Pamela Wight found that 77% of the consumers surveyed had already taken a vacation involving nature activities, and of the remaining almost all indicated an interest in such travel. Outdoor tourists were frequent travelers, with high education and income levels, but the trend was also spreading to more diverse markets. Top-ranked activities included casual walking, wildlife viewing, hiking, and water-based activities, with experienced ecotourists being more interested in specific adventure activities, and also more likely to take longer and off-season trips than novices. While many, depending on the activity, would do some camping, there was also interest in mid-range hotel/motels, and especially in more intimate, adventure-type accommodations such as cabins, inns, and bed-and-breakfasts.(8)
Volumes of information on these various travel markets are available through many sources. (See Bibliography) The Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) is an excellent place to begin research, followed by associations, specialty publications, and government bulletins such as statistical abstracts of the U.S. Census Bureau. Sources such as D.K. Shiftlett & Associates, which routinely survey the American public to determine travel behavior, provide valuable current information at premium prices. Research should be an important item in the travel marketing budget, as knowledge will be the foundation of any successful marketing program.
For these groups, the Byway is primarily the means to get where they need to go, and the scenic qualities will be a byproduct perhaps less important than convenience and safety of travel. But they will still be a large potential source of visitation to sites and attractions, as an important side-benefit of the local economy. They will also be large consumers of restaurants and staple businesses that will also serve visitors. A resident who is well-informed about the local history, attractions, and services can be a significant avenue to reach visiting friends and family, and a major resource for successful and ultimately extensive word-of-mouth advertising.
Travelers on the Staunton -- Parkersburg Turnpike Scenic Byway will differ somewhat from those in other areas, but the general characteristics of visitors interested in pleasure and scenic driving, heritage and cultural experiences, ecotourism and outdoor recreation can help us understand what attracts and pleases visitors. West Virginia’s fortunate central location on the populous Eastern Seaboard, and the Staunton -- Parkersburg Turnpike’s proximity to major Interstate highways place the Byway in an excellent position to capture a certain segment of market share based on location alone.
Businesses oriented toward travel and tourism along the SPT Scenic Byway can expect a wide variety of visitors, ranging from people merely using the road to reach a destination, to people who have chosen the road in quest of aesthetic pleasure, cultural, and outdoor experience. This latter group and its several subsets are the real market that will expect services and attractions, and will also yield the highest return on marketing investment.
Potential visitors will be attracted by their expectations of the Byway:
As we can see from the previous discussion, most of these broad markets according to activity preference need to be considered in the marketing mix. The Byway will attract:
In addition, paying special attention to niche markets of specific interests can attract significant numbers of highly motivated and satisfied visitors with often considerably less marketing costs than targeting the general public. Some of the specific niche markets have already been mentioned, such as
One critical point to consider is that many visitors will come to the area for a particular primary motivation, but the satisfaction and duration of their stay can often be improved by also offering them a variety of experiences. Particularly for the pleasure drivers, for “getaway” travelers wanting to get maximum experience in minimum time, and for families and groups with a variety of interests represented, the multiple types of resources and attractions offered by the Byway will be a major bonus.
The SPT Byway is in an ideal geographic position to tap the major metropolitan areas that circle the State of West Virginia. Our relatively near location will appeal to those from nearby cities with limited vacation time to spend. Scenically, it can deliver the experience most drivers will expect. Culturally it offers a different world, typified by relative openness of the people, a spirit of neighborliness not often cultivated in city environments, and a slower pace that can be perceived either as a relief or maddening, depending on the receiver. It is a world many urban adults nostalgically associate with earlier times.
Information from the DKS&A report and statistics from the Randolph County Visitors & Convention Bureau indicate Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania as the top five states of origin of visitors to Pocahontas and Randolph Counties. The next five most likely were Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, New York State, and New Jersey.
Because the scenic byway is a driver’s market, it makes sense to pay particular attention to potential visitors who can easily reach it. Travelers who use Interstates 81, 79, 77, 68 and 64, include concentrated numbers of visitors from metropolitan areas such as Washington D.C./Baltimore, Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Richmond/Charlottesville/Staunton, Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania, and Columbus/Akron/Cleveland.
Communication is everything, and everything communicates; logos, quality of stationery, quality of brochures. The quality of thought and intent in simple news releases. The quality of photographs, their content, and the creation and maintenance of information channels.
The world as we know it is dominated by marketing, which is dominated by information. Consumers are increasingly sophisticated, and sometimes increasingly cynical. Marketers must be psychologists, entertainers, teachers and persuaders, anticipating what their targeted markets think, will think, and might think, and plan accordingly.
Successful marketers are aware of why and how decisions to buy are made. Their marketing communications plans are devised to reach decision-makers and affect their decisions. With so many possible marketing avenues and a limited budget, strategically targeted marketing is essential.
For the past 30 years, West Virginia has been roiling in change. While it continues to lose population and jobs in its traditional economic base of extractive industries, an influx of entrepreneurial energy has formed the foundation of a new tourism industry mostly comprised of small bootstrapping retail and service businesses (excepting ski resorts, which require major capital investment).
While the overwhelming majority of America’s World War II generation and their children, the Baby Boomers, may have established opinions of what West Virginia is and who West Virginians are primed by images portrayed in the media, Generations X and Y are more familiar with the state in terms of what it offers in outdoor recreation. Today’s marketers of West Virginia and its various regions must take care not to inadvertently infect new generations of tourists with old stereotypes. A good defense against that possibility is awareness of West Virginia’s strengths and weaknesses, its opportunities and threats to realizing its potential. Excellence in design, which includes planning and execution, is central to successful marketing. It will result in the continuing re-creation of West Virginia’s image, which in turn will result in more visitations.
Once a body of promotable products have been developed and/or packaged—attractions, events and merchandise—they may be launched through a program of marketing communications.
Mass Communications Media
Networking and Alliance Building
The gatekeepers of public opinion—newspaper editors and staff, magazine editors and writers, and broadcasters—are deluged with information from promoters of all kinds. They are the arbiters and sometimes the creators of public opinion. How does one place one’s information before them and get noticed? Some answers:
Current marketing theory emphasizes the primary importance of media relations, or getting the word out to the community. Once product awareness is created, advertising strengthens and maintains market share.
A fun idea, an unusual twist on an old hat, or information that indicates or fits into a trend—that’s what it takes to get the attention of the media. The best ideas usually come from the material at hand, but the obvious is too often ignored or unrecognized in its own community. The unique life, work and history of a region will suggest its own events, festivals, and crafts.
News releases, press kits, and carefully planned events that include guest media are the basic elements of media relations. Video news releases and other technologies can increase the reach of messages. Knowledge of local, regional and national media and their various beats contributes to success in media relations.
Advertising in newspapers and magazines pays the media’s bills. It pays for the space in which editors, art directors, staff writers, photographers and freelancers entertain and inform readers, and it pays for the infrastructure to deliver the media. Although it is not often openly “traded” for editorial coverage, it does draw attention to the advertiser not only when it comes to the targeted market, but often within the ranks of the media as well. Advertising dollars should be leveraged in tandem with a media relations program to augment marketing communications. It allows the advertiser to use the purchased space as often and in any way he chooses. Developers of advertising should understand how and when to create image, and what and how to promote to various market segments. Advertisers with small budgets can carefully allocate dollars to maximize coverage.
Television advertising can be very expensive, but careful buys that include cable can make it affordable. Professional production drives the cost of TV up, but for mass audiences such as pleasure drivers, the return on investment may be worth it. Television programs are good for creating image, and could be used to help spread the word about the Staunton to Parkersburg Turnpike, especially if highly visual material is supplied to producers.
Radio advertising can be extremely effective. Radio is an entertaining companion for many drivers, office workers, laborers, and listeners in a recreation mode. Used properly, it can create a lasting subliminal impression. Radio stations are often creative when it comes to lively and entertaining promotions. Local stations are often cooperative in promoting local activities and events, especially when combined with an advertising campaign. Very few commercial stations provide in-depth programming, but talk shows are good local vehicles for calling attention to issues and events. Underwriting programming on public radio is a very effective image-creating vehicle, targeting well-educated, discerning listeners. Audio or video interpretive programming created for use as interpretive materials for the Turnpike or individual sites can, if of high quality and broad-based appeal, also be broadcast on public radio or television programming
Increased use of the Internet for marketing outreach is a major trend. Clever and energetic netizens can use the web to reach millions of niche enthusiasts and arrange for information to surface in hundreds of search engines. The web has proven to be one of the most effective vehicles for travel and tourism information and sales, and is admirably suited for reaching niche markets. This is particularly important for heritage tourists because of the intersection of Internet users with the high education demographics of cultural tourists. A web-page presence is also readily developed at considerably less investment than required for many other types of media.
Clear, easy to access information is the foremost ingredient. Heritage tourism promoters need quality websites reflecting experience, authenticity, and convenience, and with clear links to state and local tourism websites.
Reaching the crucial niche markets will take imagination and attention to detail more than high cost. The many special interest groups that may revolve around attractions on the Staunton -- Parkersburg Turnpike will likely publish newsletters, hold meetings and conventions, and plan outings. Targeting the most active of these niches with written material, ads, letters, as well as with personal contacts, could result in excellent return on investment. Use of the Internet can be particularly useful here, with creative linkages to bring the SPT Byway to the attention of niche interest enthusiasts.
Part of the marketing budget must be allocated toward membership in key organizations and associations, or toward sponsorship of partnering personnel to belong and attend conventions and meetings. Some of these organizations might include
The WV Hospitality and Travel Association
The Travel Industry Association (TIA)
The WV Preservation Alliance
National Scenic Byways organization
Valuable networking opportunities include the annual meetings of these organizations, where important issues and trends are discussed, professional development seminars are presented, and information is shared. Opportunities to host facets of organizations such as The Society of American Travel Writers and Outdoor Writers of America should be explored.
Opportunities to support and participate in the programs of the Pocahontas County Tourism Commission, the Randolph County Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Planning and Development Council, the Richie County Historical Society, the County Commission of Richie County, the Wood County Historical Society, the City of Parkersburg, the Wirt County Genealogical and Historical Society, and the Wirt County Development Authority should be enthusiastically embraced. Domestic and international writers’ tours, representation at the conventions of the American Bus Association and the National Tour Bus Association are only part of what these agencies and organizations have to offer. Such partnerships are an exciting win-win both for the Tourism promotion agencies who benefit from the Byway’s many coordinated attractions, and in offering the Byway opportunities for exposure in high-cost but important marketing venues such as writer’s tours, trade shows, and magazine advertising.
Excellent relationships with local promoters such as convention and visitors bureaus is also of paramount importance because they are conduits of news and information about the region as well. They will provide information about the scenic byway to thousands of inquirers, from wholesalers such as receptive operators to retail consumers who respond to their advertising campaigns. Information about the byway should be included in all appropriate publications and presentations of the CVBs.
The West Virginia Division of Tourism is in constant communication with local, regional and national press, disseminating news and information, and devising promotional programs. Personnel there welcome news and information from various entities throughout the state. The photography unit supplies excellent professional photography to such publications as West Virginia, Wild & Wonderful, the official state tourism guide, and to many important media outlets. The Staunton to Parkersburg Turnpike Alliance should see that the Photo Division maintains current stock of properties and attractions along the route, and attractive photos of the road itself in various seasons. The service is supported through state taxes. Photos from the state tourism division may be duplicated and used at no charge.
The coordinates of marketing communications are frequency, the number of times the audience gets the message, and reach, where the message goes. The marketing director’s job is to understand the dynamics of communication and devise a plan that uses a mix of all the methods mentioned above to create awareness and increase use of the Staunton to Parkersburg Turnpike Scenic Byway.
A plan for one year should be begun six to nine months before the year begins, and should include budgets; names of publications and dates of issues; types of message, and frequency.
In West Virginia, where tourism promotion is usually relegated to public agencies, promotion and advertising budgets are often an afterthought, and sometimes non-existent for individual properties. Owners and managers are often suspicious of advertising vehicles and schemes. The small amounts they often reserve or grudgingly pay on an ad hoc basis are not adequate to place them in competitive positions within the marketplace.
Two standard methods are used to determine a promotion and advertising budget. The task method simply tallies the cost of tasks required to attain marketing objectives. How much will advertising campaigns in the Washington Post cost? How much will production and space for an ad in the annual West Virginia Wild & Wonderful cost? What’s the cost of current directories and research materials for competent media relations? What are the costs involved in mounting a media relations program? Neophytes may blanche at the combined cost of a year’s promotion and advertising, but success in the contemporary American marketplace is determined by sophisticated marketing, which includes consistent investment in promotion.
The second budgeting method is mechanical. The total promotion budget is determined by a percentage of gross sales. Most businesses that subscribe to professional marketing methods start with a standard formula of allocating three to four percent of the total gross sales figure to promotion. Thus, if the Staunton to Parkersburg Turnpike projects gross sales at $1,397,000, the promotion and advertising budget would come to $55,880 (four percent of the total). Of course, gross sales on the SPT would not accrue to one agency, but would be spread throughout many businesses and services. The question of how to raise $55,880 would pose prospects for innovative cooperation among the many businesses along the turnpike. Carefully constructed public/private partnerships are key to creating vehicles for cooperative promotion.
In an enterprise that relies on inter-community cooperation such as the Staunton to Parkersburg Turnpike Scenic Byway, consistent communication among stakeholders must be institutionalized. Mechanisms that build and measure consensus are essential. Businesses, agencies that serve businesses, public interest groups, and political structures that represent various communities are among the market segments that must serve and be served.
Leadership is often a function of personal persuasiveness and commitment. To create a new tourism entity, especially one that must innovate new systems to form alliances and compete in the greater regional marketplace, will require the same kind of marketing skills required to introduce a new product into any marketplace. The product in this case is an idea. The idea must be presented concretely, with its benefits clearly stated, and its goals and objectives outlined in a simple format. The prospectus then must be “sold” to the constituents. The initial selling process is highly personalized, in the form of one-to-one meetings with business owners, community meetings, dissemination of news and information through newspapers, radio, television, letters and newsletters, and entertaining and informative programs presented in schools, clubs and organizations.
These specific activities are organized as Community Relations, and are an essential component of success for tourism growth on the SPT.
Activities of a community relations director or coordinator include
The task of community relations coordinator can easily provide the interface between each local area and the larger Turnpike efforts. Each section should have a designated and competent community relations coordinator who makes the local contacts, builds constituency and local participation, and delivers the services which the larger Byway organization can provide.
For the most part, West Virginia is a working class state, with working class tastes and aspirations. Some aspects of its proud rural heritage can be extremely attractive and invigorating, but the potential of cultural clash exists on the threshold of tourism marketing. Tastes in food and food presentation, and ideas of what constitutes standard, substandard and luxury accommodations are two areas where cultural differences surface quickly.
While West Virginia’s national image is improving as its reputation for first-rate outdoor recreation grows, the lingering perception of the state as impoverished and culturally backward may be reinforced and intensified by the presence of dilapidated buildings along the highway, communities that appear shabby and unkempt, facilities that are substandard or lacking in professional presentation, food and products that don’t appeal to contemporary palettes, and a populace including service personnel that is unaware of its fascinating and unique history.
The cultural habits of limited expectations and aspirations coupled with limited exposure to other cultures even within the United States could pose some difficulties in planning for growth and cross-cultural communication.
Continuing education will be an important aspect of internal marketing. Workshops on quality craft production, promotion and sales, training of personnel who deal with the public about local sites and history, and introduction and cross promotion of new trends in hospitality can hasten development of a profitable, popular tourism attraction in the Scenic Byway.
On the other side, by focusing promotion towards visitors who are attracted to historical uniqueness and local culture, and by presenting the culture with respect in all of our marketing and interpretation, visitors will be appreciative of the differences they encounter and will value and return the friendliness that they find. By paying attention to encouraging harmonious relations between tourists and local residents, tourism will be seen in a much more positive light in the communities, and will create more positive experiences for the visitors as well.
(1)“A Look at Iowa Scenic Byways Program,” Davidson-Peterson Associates and David L. Dahlquist Associates for the Iowa Department of Economic Development, Division of Tourism, 1995.
(2)“Visitor Survey: Economic Impact of Kansas Scenic Byway Designation on the Flint Hills Scenic Byway Communities,” Kansas Scenic Byways Program, Kansas Department of Transportation, Bucher, Willis & Ratliff Corporation, May 1999.
(3)“Visitor Survey: Economic Impact of Kansas Scenic Byway Designation,” May 1999, p. 22
(4)Coal Heritage Trail Corridor Management Plan, P.B. Booker Associates Inc., 1998, citing TIA research, p. 99
(5)Keynote Presentation Wisconsin Heritage Tourism Conference Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin September 17, 1999, http://www.lord.ca/thepower.htm, updated 2/02/00
(6)Lou Harris early 1990s – from tourinfo files?
(7)Technical Information Bulletin.
(8)North American Ecotourists: Market Profile and Trip Characteristics by Pamela A. Wight, Journal of Travel Research, Spring 1996; North American Ecotourism Markets: Motivations, Preferences, and Destinations by Pamela A. Wight, Journal of Travel Research, Summer 1996