The West Jefferson Tourism Development Authority voted to amend their budget at their February meeting on Thursday, Feb. 21, and discussed web development and cost-effective advertising strategies for drawing more tourists to the town this season.
The TDA’s budget was amended to reflect occupancy taxes paid by Hampton Inn, which was given a court order in January to pay back taxes to the county, despite having filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2011.
Town Manager Brantley Price said that Hampton Inn had paid some of their tax debt, one third of which was allotted to the TDA, adding $10,051 of revenue to the budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2012-13.
With an amended budget of $13,502, various advertising options for promoting the town were considered.
A $4,560 WBTV.com advertising package, which includes an e-mail campaign to 20,000 upper-middle-income homes in N.C. metro areas, was put on hold pending work being done to the town’s website, www.visitwestjefferson.org
Web designer Kim Hadley has been contracted by the TDA in an effort to upgrade West Jefferson’s Web presence with a new template, improved mobile web browsing and regular updates. New features will be added to the site, including streaming video from rooftop cameras capturing a panoramic view of daily life in West Jefferson.
The need for greater social media presence was also discussed. Price said the TDA had stayed away from Facebook until now, but that, given proper user controls and oversight, a page for the town should be set up and maintained.
The TDA voted to join the North Carolina High Country Host partnership, the cooperative marketing group promoting the High Country region through pooled capital invested by members.
Billboards were also discussed, with ideal placement being the chief concern. Tourism Development Authority member Vivian Miller said that billboards in neighboring communities, like Boone and Blowing Rock, were less effective for being nearby.
Tourists visiting those destinations were more likely to day-trip to Ashe County, she said. “Our mission is to get people to spend the night.”
Billboards should be placed far enough away to bring in more over-night guests, Miller said, and are more effective when two or three are spaced along the main approaches to the area. She suggested Charleston as a likely spot for an expanded billboard campaign.
The TDA opted to spend $627.50 to print 10,000 rack cards for distribution around the state.
The next TDA meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. March 21, at West Jefferson Town Hall.