Jan 13, 2011 Ami Olson Uncategorized
Everyone needs a cheerleader, someone to stand in their corner and shine a spotlight on their best features.
For the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County, that person is Danica Bryant, who leads the team responsible for showing the area in its most positive light, particularly when a travel writer is assigned a story that brings them to Syracuse.
Last year, a different travel writer visited Syracuse nearly every month; sometimes, more often. And when hundreds or thousands of readers will form an opinion of Syracuse based on one person’s experience, it’s important to leave one amazing first impression.
That’s a lot of pressure.
“Our goal is to put heads in beds in Onondaga County,” Bryant said of the Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau, funded solely through a room-occupancy tax built into hotel and motel room fees.
Bryant is the communications manager in the SCVB’s marketing department, and while handling travel writers is just one of her many tasks, it’s an important one.
When a travel writer chooses to focus on Syracuse for an assignment, it’s up to Bryant and the SCVB to show them what we are all about.
That involves a lot of homework. When a writer reaches out to the SCVB for resources, Bryant first finds out exactly what the writer wants to focus on: outdoor adventure, farm to table foods, history… whatever.
Then Bryant creates an itinerary for the writer, detailing every aspect of their visit to Syracuse, including what they will do for their assignment, and what they’ll do for fun.
In the summer, she helped Julie Zimmerman organize a horseback riding trip at Highland Falls for an adventure travel article, but since Zimmerman was interested in the local food scene, they hit the downtown eateries, too.
“It comes down to building a relationship with the writer,” Bryant said.
Sometimes, those relationships are formed with entire communities. Bryant said in her three years at the SCVB, she has traveled often to Ottawa, Ontario to promote Onondaga County as a destination.
And it’s worked. Staffers at one television station have visited Syracuse five or six times to shop, Bryant said, and they keep coming back.
Syracuse’s relationship with Ottawa was strengthened last year when the SCVB hosted freelance writer, blogger and photographer Andrea Tomkins and her family for a weekend.
“We all had a lot of fun in Syracuse,” Tomkins said. “It was a wonderful opportunity to explore a city we’d never visited before.”
Their trip, which included a trip to the MOST, Rosamond Gifford Zoo and Dinosaur Barbeque, gave them a good feel for the city, she said. On her blog, Tomkins said she was curious about Syracuse, where her husband had often traveled for early-spring golf trips, and that her “perfect long weekend getaway” would involve taking her daughters, ages 9 and 11, back to the MOST, then a solo shopping trip at Carousel Center.
That blog post led to a contest for a trip to Syracuse, which brought another Canadian family to ‘Cuse for a weekend.
“It does work, when people come here and write about it,” Bryant said.
Branding the region
The success of this system relies heavily on the SCVB’s relationship with local businesses, too.
Through industry partners — mostly hotels, restaurants and attractions throughout the greater Syracuse area who are willing to play host — the SCVB is typically able to offer amenities for free to travel writers.
“It’s mostly free for them, but it’s invaluable for us because they’re writing an article and they’re a credible source, versus us buying advertising,” Bryant said.
Though advertising is a useful investment, too. In 2009, the SCVB hired Pickney Hugo Group to calculate how much the $357,000 spent on advertising the year prior had generated in revenue through tourism.
The study determined 36,000 trips were booked to Syracuse as a result of the marketing campaign, and $4.2 million was spent by visitors in Syracuse.
In 2010 the SCVB partnered for the first time with Finger Lakes Tourism Promotion Agencies to hire New York City-based public relations firm Quinn and Co. to help promote the region to travel writers.
“They help us secure these travel writers and journalists, many from New York City, and we have an organized itinerary,” Bryant said.
“It’s an organized effort” to promote the region as a whole destination; since travelers generally don’t plan trips based on county and city boundaries, promoting the region is a win-win.
“We’re working as a team to ultimately brand the region, and we all benefit,” Bryant said.
The SCVB’s home on the web is more than a resource for tourists and out-of-towners — locals can find an extensive events calendar at visitsyracuse.org.
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