Column: Summer tourism and marketing Delta County

ESCANABA — Summer 2018 has been a great opportunity for Delta County to embrace tourists and welcome new and returning guests to this beautiful waterfront community. With the return of the National Trappers Convention and an array of events throughout the area, the summer season brought thousands of visitors here. Add a record-breaking year of attendance at the U.P. State Fair and the summer of 2018 is shaping up to be a great year for local businesses that are bolstered by out of town customers.

Visit Escanaba markets many events and attractions throughout the year, but I want to share some specific insights about our efforts to recruit more out of town guests during fair week that you may find interesting. As the Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) for Delta County, the fair is a key opportunity for Visit Escanaba to make sure every room in the area is booked. While establishing new events and attractions is critical, building up our current summer events to maximize traffic is also an important part of our marketing strategy. We want every room filled Monday through Sunday during fair week and we are taking steps to achieve that goal.

Our organization reached digital screens with 2.7 million impressions promoting the U.P. State Fair leading up to fair week. Every month we run banner ads on a variety of web sites that our target audience visits and a significant portion of those ads were devoted to the U.P. State Fair in July and August. Those impressions came from: Michigan (lower and upper), Wisconsin (focus on Green Bay, Madison, and Milwaukee), Minnesota (focus on Twin Cities and Duluth) and the greater Chicagoland area in Illinois. These areas showed a high level of interest in our fair ads.

We saw a lot of interest in the U.P. State Fair on social media as well. A lot of people shared videos and pictures of themselves at the fair. Nearly 400,000 people saw the Fair Facebook event alone, with more than that number seeing fair posts throughout the week on a variety of social media platforms.

The Fair Authority Management Team and Visit Escanaba took steps to improve the digital capabilities at the fair in 2018. One of the key improvements was Michigan Broadband Service providing secure internet infrastructure in buildings and on the midway at the fair. Reliable internet helped fair vendors provide great service to their customers that used credit cards to make purchases. Verizon also upped their local capacity to make sure people could share their photos on social media with their phones while they were at the fair. It is important people can get online with their phones at the fair because they are much less likely to share the photos of the fair after they leave, and we miss out on a lot of organic marketing if they do not share these pictures. Taking steps like these to maximizing customer satisfaction will ensure our guests return year after year.

Visit Escanaba also did a virtual tour of the fairgrounds while the fair was going on, which will help market the fair and recruit more large events to the fairgrounds in the future. You will be able to see this virtual tour on Google and other websites soon.

This approach to optimize the online presence of the fair aligns with our organization’s strategy to focus on digital marketing to attract tourists to the area. Future projects include updating our regional presence on Google for points of interest to travelers. Up to date business listings are also very important for a travel destination.

Have you looked at your business’s Google listing lately? If you haven’t, now is the perfect time to Google your business and see how the listing looks. You should also claim your listing if you haven’t already. This gives you the opportunity to update inaccurate information and post new pictures that will attract customers. It is important for our area to show visitors accurate information about what they will find when they are here. The more businesses and organizations that claim their listings and maintain the information, the more attractive we are as an area to visitors.

Summer of 2018 brought many visitors to our area to enjoy this very special part of the Upper Peninsula. While 2018 is looking like a great year for tourism, we can see there is room for growth in the future. We are very excited to work with you to look for ways to improve our current offerings and bring new attractions and infrastructure to Delta County that will push our community to the next level of prosperity.

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Robert Micheau is executive director of Visit Escanaba