Cabarrus Tourism Update: Strong Return on Investment for Local Tourism Industry

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(April 1, 2009) – Cabarrus, NC – The Cabarrus County Convention & Visitors Bureau is moving forward full speed with programs geared to fill hotel rooms in spite of the economic downturn.

“What we have done with these programs,” explains CCVB President and CEO DeSales Wagster, “is to select markets where we can get the most return on investment for our marketing dollars. We have considered our area’s assets and overlaid them with current tourism trends and visitor behaviors to determine where we can be most impactful. The programs we are implementing will not only be short-term targets, but will also reap long-term benefits.”

RECESSION PROOF MARKETS
Youth Sports. Research indicates families, even when times are difficult, continue to budget for family travel to their children’s regional and national sports tournaments. In recent years, the CCVB has pursued an aggressive sports marketing program to attract these events. In 2009 alone, over 60 sports events will bring visitors to Cabarrus County and generate an estimated $20 million in direct visitor spending. However, more sports facilities are needed if this market is to grow to its full potential, according to a recent study commissioned by the CCVB. To address the need for more facilities, the Tourism Authority Board at its February retreat formed a new Sports Development Committee, chaired by Deputy County Manager Mike Downs, to determine the feasibility building new sports facilities. The CCVB board also set aside funds to help fund facilities that promise strong return on investment for the local tourism industry.

Military. Military personnel are another recession-proof market. Cabarrus County’s proximity to mid-Atlantic military bases and the military’s general enthusiasm for NASCAR mean another very promising market for our local tourism industry. To reach this market, the CCVB is building relationships with ITT (Information, Tickets & Travel) offices at military bases. Staff recently attended travel trade shows at Seymour Johnson AFB, Ft. Bragg, Pope AFB and Camp LaJeune. Currently in the works is a SpeedLeave.com program that includes cost-saving Vacation Packages focusing on attractions that appeal to the military market, including driving school at Charlotte Motor Speedway and zMAX Dragway, golf packages at Rocky River Golf Club, shopping packages for Concord Mills and downtown Concord, and family fun packages at Great Wolf Lodge, NASCAR SpeedPark and more.

Purpose-Driven Travel. Another market that holds up well during tough economic times is purpose-driven travel. In fact, weddings and family reunions are increasingly popular as families pull together to face hardships. Curriculum-driven itineraries for students also fare well. These markets, overlaid with Cabarrus County’s affordability and location within a two-hour flight or one-hour drive of over 60 percent of the US population, make purpose-driven travel another promising market for Cabarrus tourism. To attract these markets, the CCVB is attending regional bridal shows, placing ads that reach newly engaged couples and reunion and student travel planners and developing curriculum-driven itineraries.

MARKETING PROGRAMS
Interactive Marketing. Tourism industry research now indicates that 77 percent of travelers consult online reviews when they travel plan, and 83 percent use the internet to research and purchase travel. To address the popularity of this advanced technology that pervades the tourism industry marketplace, the CCVB is taking advantage of new low- or no-cost online opportunities in networking, social media, and other user-generated online tools including blogs, wikis, audio and video podcasts, PDAs and Ipods, as well as websites such as YouTube, Facebook, Tripadvisor, MyTravelGuide and Travelblog. Additionally, and the CCVB is aligning its online marketing program to take full advantage of new marketing opportunities at VisitNC.com’s redesigned website.

FastTrack Discount Program. To make our destination even more affordable to visitors, the CCVB will provide visitor discounts for goods and services at local businesses through a FastTrack discount card program. The FastTrack card can be tailored to specific markets, e.g., a special FastTrack SpeedLeave.com card is already in the works for the military market. A list of discounted goods and merchandise will be available online, and up-to-date printouts of discounts will be available at meetings, conventions and sports events. The primary focus of the program initially will be visitors; however, eventually the FastTrack program could be expanded to include distribution to local residents.

Vacation Packages. In today’s market, to cut vacation costs, consumers seek discounted vacation packages that combine lodging with discounts on dining, shopping and attractions. Family Fun packages, Shop ‘N Stay packages, Golf packages and Motorsports packages are currently featured at VisitCabarrus.com. Packages will also be developed around major events at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Cabarrus Arena and other area event venues.

Extend-Your-Stay Programs. Traditional methods of classifying travelers are becoming less relevant as consumers adjust travel plans to align with changing, complex lifestyles. Research shows that over half of business travelers extend at least one business trip for leisure vacation time, and almost half of them had a friend or family join them. Great Wolf Lodge addresses this trend by offering both a family-friendly indoor waterpark setting and meeting and conference rooms. Through vacation packages, FastTrack discount cards and other marketing initiatives, the CCVB encourages business and convention travelers to extend their business stays into leisure vacation time.

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