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CVC tourism: the digital paradigm

Last week’s Independent explored the savings Clarence Valley Council (CVC) expects to make as a result of dissolving the Clarence River Tourism Association and taking charge of delivering tourism services in the Clarence Valley. This week’s focus is on the management and marketing of tourism in the Clarence region. The council began reorganising its delivery of tourism services on July 1, 2014, the outcome of which aims to “fully integrate tourism and visitor services [into CVC’s operations], rather than contracting out to a third party”. The council’s Strategic & Economic Planning manager David Morrison provided an emailed response to the Independent’s question: How has/is CVC measure/ing the effectiveness in its change to the delivery of tourism services in a cost benefit ratio sense – eg: outcomes measured against expenditure over the past three years? Mr Morrison said CVC is facilitating four “distinct components: destination management (as covered in last week’s story: Clarence Valley tourism: on the savings trail), destination marketing, visitor information and industry development and engagement. He indicated that the data provided, when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of ‘destination marketing’ “may not be in the sense of a true ‘cost benefit analysis’, as comprehensive data is not readily available”. “Nevertheless, Council has commenced monitoring of recent social media and digital campaigns to gauge its reach and effectiveness and will continue to further develop routine measurement as the dispersed delivery model is fully rolled out in the coming years,” Mr Morrison said. “A simplistic measure is to monitor the number of visitors and visitor nights over a period of time, the trend being the relevant factor, rather than individual figures, to measure overall effectiveness. “Data routinely issued by Tourism Research Australia is the industry standard approach and is reported in Council’s bi-annual economic and tourism monitors.” From September 2014 to December 2016, Mr Morrison said that visitor numbers increased by 29 per cent – an increase of 242,000 visitors – to a total of 1.1 million people. “Similarly, visitor nights for the same period have trended upwards by 312K to 2.1M, or a 17 per cent increase,” Mr Morrison said. “By comparison, visitation at the two information centres [at Maclean and South Grafton] has shown a steady decline since 2000, with a decrease of about 40 per cent over that time.” A recent four-week social media campaign in “April/May reached 68,000 customers, of which 14,500 actively engaged by liking, sharing or the like”, Mr Morrison said. “That campaign had a direct cost of about $100. In comparison, on average, we would expect about 9,000 walk-ins [over the same time] to the two information centres and, of those, about one third or 2,700 would have been actively seeking local information….” He said a similar two-week campaign promoting Jacaranda reached 29,900 people, of which 15,900 engaged with the marketing, for a cost of about $300. “The added advantage with this campaign is that the marketing can be targeted directly at a very specific target market which we believe will be most interested; in this case people who had shown previous interest on social media in the Toowoomba Flower Show,” he said. To provide some context when compared to print media, Mr Morrison cited the costs of newspaper and magazine advertisements “in the order of $350” for a circulation of “say 13,000” newspapers and a “cost of up to $11,000” for an advertisement or advertorial in a lifestyle magazine. However, he qualified these numbers with: “There is of course no way of measuring exactly how many people actually saw or ‘engaged’ with the message. “It is accepted that the above examples are not perfect measures, however, they help provide an overall picture of the effectiveness of the strategies, especially in terms of reaching our audience. “[And], they indicate, on our earliest experiences, that the … digital and social media formats provide an opportunity for greater reach and engagement … at a very much reduced cost…. “We will continue to monitor this as we further develop campaigns and strategies.” See story “Tourism initiative seeks participants” on page 6. Next week the Independent takes a look at how visitor information services will be delivered within the valley and the council’s industry development and engagement activities. As well as this, the Independent will explore the dissenting view of former CRTA manager, Bill Day.