May 2017 Tourism Council Meeting

Woodstock Cafe
117 S. Main St.
Woodstock, Virginia 22664

Members Present:  Bobe Luce, Katie Mercer, Amber Dennison, Coe Sherrard, Dan Harshman, Brad Foster, Michelle Bixler, Dick Neese, Jenna French

Media Present:  Northern Virginia Daily

Guests Present:  Melissa Price, Stephanie Zayhowski, Jessica Sager, Morgan Brill, and Kary Haun

Call to Order:  The meeting was called to order by Coe at 12:05 p.m. and a quorum was established.

Approval of Minutes:  Dan made a motion to approve the April minutes as presented, Coe seconded the motion and all approved.

Financial Report: 

Ms. French presented the financial report through May 31, 2017 and pointed out the following:

  • 3160, Professional Services- Have another $12,000 being reappropriated into this line item from the VTC grant
  • 3180, Contractual Services- under budget since we expensed out some of this with leftover FY16 funds. (SVTP Contribution)

Another $5000 for SVTP Funds to come out this fiscal year.

  • 3500, Printing- includes $1200 for World Wars Brochure,

also under budget since we had planned to provide $5000 towards the reprint of the Artisan Trail brochure but that was covered through the trail budget.

  • 3600, Advertising- $15,000 includes Wash Post, Virginia.org, Southern Living, Shenandoah Living, Rec News, ABC Richmond, Facebook,

Expected expenses for June include TripAdvisor, SpotX, Blue Ridge Outdoors, Virginia.org, Nova Mag,

Ms. French also pointed out that we are waiting on another $12,000 from the $50,000 VTC Marketing Leverage Grant to be reappropriated back into our budget which should bring us close to zero for leftover funds in FY17.

Michelle Bixler made a motion to approve the financial report as presented and Dan Harshman seconded the motion.  All approved.

Director’s Report:

Ms. French presented the Director’s Report pointing out that overall website visitation is in line or greater than in previous years.  She also pointed out that although organic traffic to our website remains level, with people finding us by searching more specifically for Shenandoah County, we are no longer appearing on first page results when people search for the Shenandoah Valley.

Ms. French also informed the group that their videos on SpotX have had a .11% click through rate with 62% of people watching the video through to completion which is above the industry average.

Ms. French also filled council in on the top marketing campaigns for April, May and all of 2017 pointing to Roots Rated as the top performing ad for the year followed by Washington Post and Virginia.org.

Although Ms. French did not have a copy of the overall Google analytics report and leads, she agreed to share them via email when she returned to the office.

Old Business:   

Ms. French thanked everyone who was able to attend the launch of the Shenandoah Valley Tourism Partnership in May and shared that we participated in International Pow Wow and two international FAM trips; one including travel writers and another of tour buyers.  She also let council know of the plans to hire a PR Firm and invest in Search Engine Optimization in FY18.

Ms. French updated council that they in the process of finalizing the copy for the WWI WWII brochure and hope to have that printed this fall.

Ms. French mentioned that they cancelled the Fields of Gold marketing workshop due to lack of attendance but will schedule another meet & greet as soon as a new director is hired for the program.

Ms. French shared that they have applied for 2 grants to assist with marketing for the Shenandoah Spirits Trail and will also be expanding the trail in FY18 to include Clarke, Warren and Page Counties.  They plan to hold another trail meet & greet and marketing workshop this fall to distribute the newly revised maps and posters. 

New Business

Ms. French asked Council for their opinion on ad pricing for the upcoming visitor guide reprint and proposed raising the rate of a ¼ page ad from $100 to $150.  Doing so would incentivize the purchase larger ads but still remain affordable for small businesses.  Coe Sherrard suggested we go after more ad sales this year to help increase revenue and Ms. French agreed that her and Kary would pursue this more now that they have a larger staff in the office.

Ms. French also asked Council for their opinion on hiring an outside firm to assist in search Engine Optimization following the earlier discussion about the poor performance in organic search on Google.  Ms. French shared that although they hadn’t budgeted for this expense, she hopes to use leftover grant funds to go towards this effort and would also apply for a fall grant as well to hopefully offset the costs.  Council agreed that this was important topic to pursue and asked if we could roll the proposal into the regional proposal through SVTP to save money.

Ms. French also proposed a strategic planning session for the July Tourism Council meeting to discuss new ideas and goals to continue carrying forward the strong momentum of this past year.  Council agreed to move the July meeting to the County Government Center for the July meeting.  The time and date will remain the same.

Ms. French shared that they have 5 writers signed up for the MATPRA post-FAM and also shared the itinerary with the group.  Discussion was had to incorporate Edinburg’s Ole Time Festival into the plans for Sunday and a possibly dinner at Siblings Rivalry Brewery in Strasburg followed by a walking tour of the murals by Staufferstadt Arts on Saturday evening. Ms. French will make adjustments to the itinerary accordingly.

Finally, Ms. French asked anyone selling spaces for the Route 11 Yard Crawl to inform her so that she can make sure they are included on the website.

Announcements:  Council went around the table providing updates on each industry and town.

Adjournment: 

Having no further business to discuss, the Shenandoah County Tourism Council adjourned at 1:15 p.m.

Respectfully Submitted,

Jenna French,

Director of Tourism & Marketing, Shenandoah County Tourism