By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
The EBCI Destination Marketing Program and the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce met at the Fairfield Inn in Cherokee for breakfast and a time of sharing tourism marketing strategies on Tuesday, April 19. Amy Parker, Chamber executive director, welcomed the gathering of Cherokee business owners and members of the Chamber to the event. Parker also introduced John Tissue, Cherokee Historical Association (CHA) executive director, who provided a success story with regard to the effectiveness of the Chamber’s website in driving traffic to the CHA website.
Parker announced a new program called “Cherokee Pride” which will be an award program for businesses who provide great customer service. Any tourism-related business on the Qualla Boundary that collects either levy or privilege tax is eligible, and winners will be featured on the Visit Cherokee Facebook page. Categories are lodging, restaurants, and retail with a winner in each category each month.
She also announced that the new Chamber visitor guide has been printed and is available for distribution.
Then, Tonya Carroll, Destination Marketing manager, welcomed everyone and introduced the EBCI Secretary of Commerce Dr. Mickey Duvall who shared his work so far on behalf of EBCI economic development and his hopes to enhance Cherokee for tourism growth. He emphasized that while the Commerce Department will be aggressively seeking new business for Cherokee, that he is also committed to the protection and support of existing businesses.
Carroll then began the presentation, which included guest speakers from the Tribe’s public relations contractor, the firm that handles social media for Destination Marketing and the agency that directs the marketing strategy for tourism, Element Advertising. All provided statistics and rationales behind the tactics used by the Tribe to highlight the offerings of Cherokee and entice people to stay and play in Cherokee.
She explained that the key metrics for Cherokee tourism are levy trend, privilege tax trend and lodging performance. According to Carroll, tribal levy increased in 2015 versus 2014 by 9.08 percent and collections were just over $12 million. Lodging performance which is gauged by occupancy, saw a 2 percent increase.
Kathleen McCafferty, from JB Media Group, spoke concerning online marketing. EBCI tourism has been partnering with this company since 2012. The company’s scope of work includes search engine marketing, social media account management and creates blog content.
Susanne Metcalf, an independent contractor, handles Destination Marketing’s public relations efforts. She monitors and generates public relations stories that support the marketing efforts. She writes press releases, creates media advisories, gathers stories and shares those that will have a positive impact on visitation.
Rob Young, Media Director of Element Advertising, stated that agency’s purpose is to “utilize Cherokee’s valuable advertising resources –money – to reach the right consumers in the right places so that we can drive traffic to Cherokee’s website and then they can find your websites”. In addition to driving Cherokee’s cultural business, Young said that non-cultural business like restaurant, shop and accommodation visitation are all part of the mix in achieving goals for increased visitation.
Jack Becker, Element brand strategist, creative director and copy writer, stated that one of the unique opportunities of creating marketing materials for Cherokee is balancing the concepts of a fun, adventure destination with showing reverence to a 13,000+ years-old culture. He shared some examples of the media materials, imagery and audio, that are currently being used to entice visitors to Cherokee.