Tourism Council Meeting Minutes
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
117 S. Main St.
Woodstock, Virginia 22664
Members Present: Jenna French, Bill Schumacher, Katie Mercer, Coe Sherrard, Michelle Bixler, Dan Harshman, Nadini Patel.
Media Present: Nathan Budryck, Northern Virginia Daily.
Guests Present: Melissa Price, Jessica Sager, Morgan Brill, Brandy with Go Blue Ridge travel, Willie Meadows.
Call to Order: The meeting was called to order by Coe at 12:05 p.m. and a quorum was established.
Approval of Minutes: Bill made a motion to approve the December minutes as presented, Katie Mercer seconded the motion and all approved.
Ms. French distributed the year to date financial report and pointed out line items with significant changes in December. Line item 3180, Contractual Services included our brochure renewal at the Virginia Welcome Centers and brochure distribution along I-81. 3600, Advertising included ads in blue Ridge Outdoors and Virginia.org, Shenandoah Living and Recreation News. 5530, Travel & Lodging included expenses for attending the VA-1 Tourism Conference and $321 under 5810, Dues and Memberships was for membership in the New Market Chamber of Commerce and Celebrate Shenandoah.
Dan made a motion to approve the financial report as presented, Coe seconded the motion and all approved.
Ms. French handed out the County Tourism stats and again pointed out a substantial increase in the amount of traffic to our website this year versus last year. She sited a substantial increase in the number of leads from Georgia, Florida and Texas where Southern Living is distributed and credited our ad for helping boost traffic in this area. Ms. French also pointed out that we had the #1 Click Through Rate (CTR) on Virginia.org for the month of December at .7% and continue to have the highest CTR so far in January with 1.5%.
Top pages viewed on the website include the home page, events, request a visitor guide, outdoor recreation and things to do.
Top referrals came from Virginia.org, Facebook, and our other URLs VisitShenandoahCounty.com and ShenandoahTravel.org as well as the Caverns.
- Shenandoah Spirits Trail: French said that they are looking to reprint the maps since regionally, we are down to approximately 3000 of the 15,000 originally ordered. At this time, the reprint will not include any additional localities. The committee has decided to let the program become established and work out any kinks before expanding to other communities. Ms. French also shared that they plan to print more after the start of the new fiscal year when they will once again have more funding to allocate towards the program but want to make sure we don’t run out of maps before then. Participants in the Spirits Trail were also surveyed to see what types of meetings they would like to hold moving forward. There was a strong request for marketing workshops and social media education.
- Regional Efforts: French shared that the group now refers to itself as the Shenandoah Valley Tourism Partnership (SVTP). SVTP will be holding a media event to officially launch the new brand, marketing campaign and website in March. Following the launch, they will begin working on a strategic plan as to how to sustain their efforts moving forward. JMU may be offering these services to the group. Ms. French also informed the group that she received an email from Senator Tim Kaine’s office expressing interest in our regional marketing efforts. She also informed council that the Shenandoah Valley Tourism Partnership hopes to attend International Pow Wow in DC this May.
- Video Series- Jenna and Kary have reviewed 2 draft videos at this point and are very excited about how they are turning out. The videographer agreed to reshoot on short sequence of video that was in question and is working on final edits now.
- New Website- Jenna presented Council with the development site for the new website. She discussed how the new site is driven more by photos and imagery which she felt was important after reviewing visitor surveys last year indicating that scenery is one of the top reasons people visit Shenandoah County. French pointed out the new booking engine on the site and demonstrated how it would work. Ms. Mercer asked if the results page could indicate which town each property is located in and Ms. French agreed to look into this. *Since the meeting, Ms. French discovered that the towns DO appear on the results page! Ms. French also shared how events would be searchable by theme, date and other options. The new site also offers greater visibility for the towns. Jenna will send a link to the development site to Council following the meeting so that they can look around on their own.
- Farm2Fork Affair- French said that invitations have now gone out for producers and consumers and passed copies around for the group to see. She is now calling potential participants to follow up and answer any questions. The deadline for producers to RSVP is Monday, 1/23. Consumers have until February to respond.
- WWI & WWII Commission- French indicated that they will have the Virginia Profiles of Honor Tour at this year’s Heritage Day in April which will be held in Woodstock. Ms. Mercer asked to receive more information on this event once details are confirmed so that she can post it to the town website.
- FY18 Budget- French held her initial budget meeting with administration last week and said that she presented Coe’s letter concerning the proposed budget at that time. Ms. French also thanked Coe and other members of Council for supporting the request for more tourism funding as part of the County Budget. She then invited anyone who wishes to speak to attend the public hearing on April 6 at WW Robinson. Mr. Sherrard shared that they were successful several years ago in getting funding for the part time position after several business leaders came out to speak on behalf of the importance of tourism in the community and encouraged others to do so. Mr. Meadows also shared his support for additional funding and expressed the discrepancy between our locality’s funding compared to other surrounding localities, especially Page County.
Election of Chair and Co-Chair- Ms. French shared that current Tourism Council Chair, Brittany Clem has accepted a position with the City of Harrisonburg, thus resigning from her current role in tourism council. Mr. Sherrard shared that he would fill the role of chair through the end of the year if no one else was able or willing but expressed time constraints and encouraged others to step up. He then opened the floor for nominations. Bill Schumacher was nominated for Chair but declined based on time constraints and other commitments. Katie Mercer was nominated to serve as co-chair. With no other nominations for chair, Mr. Schumacher moved that Mr. Sherrard finish the fiscal year as chair and that Katie Mercer serve as co-chair. There was no discussion and all voted in favor of the motion. *Katie has since been informed of this decision and graciously accepted her new position.
Announcements: Council went around the table providing updates on each industry and town.
Having no further business to discuss, the Shenandoah County Tourism Council adjourned at 1:30 p.m.
Director of Tourism & Marketing, Shenandoah County Tourism