Better use of the Web, social media and branding key to tourism success

By David F. Rooney

All of the players in Revelstoke’s burgeoning tourism sector have to get their messages straight, says the author of a new report on tourism commissioned by the City and the Chamber of Commerce.

Likening the different messages sent out by different marketers to “a roulette wheel,” John Heshka, an assistant professor at Thompson Rivers University, told a public meeting regarding tourism development that people are over-saturated with choices and messages. Tourism-oriented companies , the Chamber, the Revelstoke Accommodation Association and the City need to decide what key messages they should use to target potential visitors.

They also need to decide how they are going to deliver it. For instance, there is signage on the highway “but if the consumer has to think about it  — it’s too late” — they will keep on driving, Heshka said..

And then there is the World Wide Web and so-called social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Heshka noted that there are a large number of individual websites devoted to Revelstoke, all of them touting different tourism products and services and saying different things about the community.

“In order for these media to work you have to have something to communicate,” he said.

And what is communicated should be a fairly uniform message delivered in a uniform way. That’s not the case at the moment, something Community Economic Development Director Alan Mason noted.

“You’re quite right,” he told Heshka. “There are confused messages out there.”

There is some movement towards a more coherent and uniform message. The Revelstoke Accommodation Association recently unveiled a series of images and logos it hopes will be adopted for a branding campaign and John Devitt, executive director of the Chamber, said there is movement towards a establishment of a tourism Web portal for the community. A portal is an over-arching site that brings together individual company sites — hotels, tour operators and so on — that can be synchronized to they deliver the same message about local tourism.

Even then, Revelstoke needs to decide what its message is going to be. Is it an adventure tourism mecca? A magnet for winter tourism? Summer tourism? All of the above? And, then, what about the shoulder seasons, spring and fall? People so come here in those seasons and we offer them few activities.

As for Facebook and Twitter, Heshka noted that the Chamber’s Facebook site has about 28 fans. Whistler’s has 29,000.

He also Revelstoke needs a uniform theme. Are we an “authentic” community? And if we are, what does that really mean? Revelstoke needs to decide how it wants the world to perceive it and then set about marketing itself effectively as a place that is truly distinct from its competitors.

On a final note he said that some point the community needs to stop talking about strategy and start doing what needs to be done.

If you’d like a copy of the 162-page report please contact the Chamber of Commerce at 250-837-5345.