Tahlequah Daily Press

August 26, 2013

Digital media helping draw visitors

By SEAN ROWLEY
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — srowley@tahlequahdailypress.com

When asking people to spend leisure time in Tahlequah and Cherokee County, digital media platforms h ave become indispensable.

The Tahlequah Main Street Association has employed Google display ads and YouTube videos to promote the Red Fern Festival outside of this area.

“Digital media and communication is very important to Main Street and tourism,” said Drew Haley, director of the Tahlequah Main Street Association. “It allows us to reach a large audience outside of Tahlequah at a low price. It also has numbers. You can see how many people view the videos.”

Digital media is helping boost interest in the state, too.

Google Inc. recently announced the results of a month-long digital marketing study in conjunction with the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. TravelOK.com, the official Oklahoma tourism site, used Google’s YouTube TrueView advertisements with the department’s 2013 spring media campaign.

The study’s goals were to evaluate TrueView’s opportunity to drive economic impact, identify the most effective media mix, and increase website visitation and pages viewed per visitor. OTRD budgeted for YouTube TrueView advertisements in chosen markets.

TravelOK.com moved into the top spot among state tourism department sites based on visitation during April 2013. The TrueView campaign pushed Oklahoma ahead of even Hawaii, which spends $83 million per year on advertising and promotion - eight times Oklahoma’s budget.

“The site is attractive and well-designed,” said Kate Kelly, tourism director for the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce. “It has beautiful photos and helps inform people about our part of the state.”

Haley added that TravelOK.com “gets 18,000 visitors a day.”

The site offers online services that allow the Chamber, tourism board and Main Street Association to tell visitors about local events.

“We have already put in our events for 2014,” Kelly said. “We always send accompanying photos. The OTRD also has a fulfillment center online. When we get visitor guides, we drop them in there, which saves us postage and mailing time. Then they can stock visitors centers around the state with our guides. People traveling on Interstate 35 can read about Tahlequah.”

Discussing Cherokee County’s biggest tourism draws, Kelly said the recreational attractions are obvious, but often seasonal.

“Of course, there is the Illinois River and Lake Tenkiller,” she said. “However, when taking the entire year into account, I would say the biggest interests of visitors to this area are Cherokee history and culture.”

Kelly said digital platforms ease the passage of information to potential visitors to northeast Oklahoma.

“It is very easy to point people in the right direction,” she said. “If someone is interested in Cherokee lineage, they can be told about the Heritage Center, where there is a Cherokee genealogist on staff.”

Whatever the method of communication, whether digital or traditional, Kelly said it is important to impart enthusiasm.

“Tahlequah is a great place to promote, and I love living here,” she said. “If you are sincere about how much you love this area, it shows through and it is easy to convey that to others.”

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