The 2022 marketing plan approved earlier this week by the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission continues a strategy developed during the pandemic that relies primarily on digital advertising, instead of more traditional advertising that involved placing TV ads. in the main food markets.
Traditionally, these markets have been based on travel times to Hot Springs from areas such as Dallas, Shreveport, Louisiana, Springfield, Mo., and state markets such as Northwest Arkansas. A few years ago, Visit Hot Springs, the convention and visitors bureau managed by the commission, began to branch out, internally, to “expand its network,” according to Bill Solleder, chief marketing officer.
“So the net is just further away,” Solleder said in an interview at The Sentinel-Record offices after the committee meeting. “Again, you know, I’m going to say it a million times… we can turn New Orleans on or off whenever we want. We can turn Nashville on or off when we want.”
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The commission-operated visitor center, which keeps track of which states visitors say they are from, also noted a change. “Of course, almost everything is from Texas. But we’re seeing more and more people coming from further afield,” Solleder said.
“And I think it works. Austin just did a really good article on their TV channel… on Hot Springs, you know, maybe it’s because we’re starting to get the message a little bit deeper,” did he declare.
“Television production is at its peak. Again, we can do something for the expensive television; it’s expensive. And then… we don’t know what the message will be. So now we’ve made this spot and we might not be able to use it. “
CJRW, the Little Rock agency with which the commission contracts to place its advertising, will have a budget of $ 468,918 in 2022, which includes a new website that represents $ 85,000 of the budget; approximately $ 20,000 of this amount has already been paid.
Some of the other items in CJRW’s budget include notice boards, radio, and an annual vacation guide.
“Again, you’ll watch the only item aired on there’s no dollar, because it’s free through the state,” he said as part of a co-op program of Arkansas tourism.
In contrast, the internal marketing budget is $ 153,000. These costs include the production of videos and blogs, YouTube advertising, and an influencer campaign.
The “extra advertising programs,” which total $ 277,100, include special events like the St. Patrick’s Day Parade at $ 65,000, the Bass Fishing League Tournament at $ 100,000, and The Weekend of Hot Springs baseball at $ 50,000.
“Events, for us, are advertising,” Solleder said.
“It’s a lot less, I mean, a lot less but so much more. Because we do it every day, there’s content coming out every day.”
Solleder, when asked about the perception that the ad was taken out because less money is spent on it, replied, “I’m saying we can spend our money wisely. “
“I believe the combination of all of these things is winning. We win; it happens. But I believe that this coin here, the internal budget, which is less, includes so much more – I mean, so much more. content every day where we work there, we talk to people every day … every day and then just general ads that show up, you know, digitally or on TV or whatever, ”Solleder said.
“You know the big question on TV is who’s watching? Where can we advertise? Hulu? You know, we did a little bit of Hulu. Perhaps the only place I see real value in broadcast TV advertising is in the news. … I don’t have a television. I have streaming services, and none of them advertise. So where can I reach people? “
The proof of this success, according to Solleder, lies in the numbers for last year and the current year.
In 2021, visits to the commission’s websites totaled 1,191,864 – 77% were first-time new visitors.
The $ 664,993 the commission reported in September on collections of the 3% sales tax it levies on prepared meals and accommodation in the city – seen as the key tourism metric in the spa town – topped the previous September by 14.30%, or $ 83,196, the newspaper reported last month.
The $ 6,224,718 of sales tax collected in the first three quarters is over 2020 by 34.62%, or $ 1,600,717.
The first nine months of collection exceeded the first three quarters of the 2019 pre-pandemic period by 14.44%, or $ 785,484, and the first three quarters of 2018 by 24.38%, or $ 1,220,208.
“It’s basically the same formula, although we gave a little more money to the internal budget, we actually, with the websites included, we gave more money to CJRW this year than we did. did last year. So we’re not really cutting the budget, it’s actually more than last year as we move forward and try to navigate whatever lies ahead, ”he said .
“Again, we can change in the blink of an eye. We can add and take away.”
Key to the 2022 program will be its ability to pivot, and pivot quickly, especially if a variant of the virus emerges that changes the landscape again, according to Solleder.
“We can keep messaging internally and we can just keep changing it, you know, and… it’s not as expensive as if we were going to the agency or a big production team. so what’s going on. Yeah, that’s crazy, “he said.
A key part of the 2022 plan is a reimagining of the hotsprings.org website operated by the commission. In addition to the information available on meetings and conventions, attractions, restaurants and accommodation, the website will offer in 2022 organized itineraries, according to their individual interests.
“Late 2019, early 2020, we had an issue with hotsprings.org (website). Basically the bones of it are out of date. We have a security issue with it, so we had to quickly like CJRW had for come in, do a little bit of work just for a bit like Band-Aid together to make sure it was secure. And at that point, they were like “You need a new new new website. It’s been a while. It’s just an old platform, ”he said.
“We’re really excited about this one. So we show them organized routes and give them the opportunity to create their own routes. “
For example, someone coming for a day trip might click on a choice menu ranging from Oaklawn to mountain biking or just dining.
“Then we suggest routes that they can consult. Ditto for weekend trips and… across the board for seasonal trips. It’s something they can print or download and keep and add to their phones while they plan their vacation, ”he said.
“I think giving the user a chance to enjoy seeing what there is to do, and we have a lot to do. I think it’s appealing. I think it will help attract people.”
Visitors can also customize their itinerary.
“What kind of traveler am I? Well, I can come in with my girlfriend, so I’m a love bird, we’re going out to eat, so I’m a foodie. And I’m a naturalist. This will be important. because it’s going to be about being outside. So they click on those three things. The website then gives them a route that they can go to and it will suggest things for them to do, “Solleder mentioned.
“What you can do is a lot like a social network, is you can like things all over the website. you go along. Really cool, interactive piece on the website, ”he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to clarify that 77% represent new first-time visitors to the website.