As the Designated Marketing Organization (DMO) for our local community, we are dedicated to the continual promotion of Hilton Head Island as a top destination for past, present, and future visitors. As we like to say in our marketing to communities 50 miles and beyond, we are “America’s Favorite Island.” This proud reputation is well-deserved and one we all earned together.
How a crisis impacts visitors planning a visit to Hilton Head Island:
Collaborating with local business leaders on a daily basis, we strategically target and attract potential visitors through various digital channels including social media, digital advertising, search engine optimization, special events, and affiliate marketing. Careful management of plans and budgets allows our destination to remain top-of-mind for travelers; however, there is not much room for shifts in the volume of visitors. Unfortunately, large shifts in the volume of visitors have occurred each fall for the past three years on Hilton Head Island.
We’re fortunate to have such a beautiful location to share with the world, but the public – our potential visitors staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants and visiting our local stores and businesses – might now associate Hilton Head Island with unpredictable weather. They also may fear that areas of the Island are not as they should be. These ideas in turn negatively impact potential vacationers when deciding whether or not to choose Hilton Head Island as their vacation destination. This year alone, coupled with the impacts from Hurricane Irma and Matthew years prior, the Island saw numerous cancellations and an abrupt slowdown of future bookings in our hotels, homes, and villas. Restaurants suffered, golf tee times were canceled and in general, the Island’s tourist-based economy suffered.
The graph below shows drops in website traffic at key intervals that align exactly with the natural weather issues we’ve seen over the past few years. Website traffic is a key way in which we estimate and plan for physical visitation and bookings, and the dips are concerning.
Graph 1: Fall 2016, 2017 and 2018 website visitation as impacted by national coverage of crisis events. Source: VERB Interactive / Google Analytics.
Maintaining long-term health and sustainability of tourism post-crisis:
With efforts supported by funds earmarked for exactly this kind of need, and as deemed necessary by elected officials of the Town of Hilton Head Island, the Crisis Marketing Fund allows for the investment in efforts to show potential visitors that “we are open for business” and ready to welcome visitors to Hilton Head Island. Funds provide an extended reach to potential visitors, allow for the sharing of the positive business story of the Island, and provide encouragement via digital outlets to visitors in cultivating the idea to consider Hilton Head Island as a vacation destination. In turn, this supports the economy of the entire island by driving guests back to the hotels, restaurants, properties, retailers, businesses, and attractions.
The details of the funding can be seen in the table below. There will be a holistic, digital approach which will help to raise the positive sentiment of the Island as a tourist destination among the general public. Each segment is currently working in tandem to tackle the negative sentiment head-on.
The overall goal of digital efforts:
The overall goal of the digital efforts afforded by the Crisis Marketing Fund is to drive traffic and increase conversions to the top-performing pages of HiltonHeadIsland.org – the official visitor website of Hilton Head Island. Balancing the need for traffic and conversions, the DMO will also work heavily on the upper funnel to build leads and capture visitor interest. Campaign performance across outlets and platforms will be carefully monitored to optimize those which are working the hardest to produce optimal results. By providing support to key areas of visitor focus on the HiltonHeadIsland.org website, the DMO is ensuring that the Island’s “open for business” message is spread across various verticals of the local economy which will capture those seeking a vacation on Hilton Head Island based on their own affinity for culinary, sports and experiential reasons.