Destination Marketing: Promote Outdoors

Destination Marketing:

Promote Great Outdoors

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

DMCOC’s Cassandra Harrington with schematic of first post-COVID promotion. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

COOPERSTOWN – DMCOC is looking at the doughnut, not the hole.

And the doughnut, for now, is the great outdoors, says Cassandra Harrington, executive director of the Destination Marketing Corp. of Otsego County.

In an interview Friday, May 15, Harrington said DMCOC, which contracts with Otsego County to put “heads in beds” to generate occupancy tax, had met with her board of directors the day before and it was awaiting final visuals from PaperKite, the advertising agency, to launch a program on June 1, when

Phase Two arrives and shops can open.

There is some urgency to begin promotions again.

In 2018, tourism brought in $206 million to Otsego County. Of that, $101 million was spent on payroll, funding 7,426 jobs, mostly gone this year.

In March 2019, county hotels billed $948,312; this March, it was $483,269, and there was a 46.4 drop in occupancy. “Mind you, that’s with a half-month of normalcy,” Harrington said.

With all of Cooperstown’s main draws cancelled, delayed or on hold – from Cooperstown Dreams Park to Derek Jeter’s Hall of Fame Induction – and much other activity limited by Governor Cuomo’s PAUSE, DMCOC is looking at what’s left.

“I don’t have a lot of good news,” said Harrington. “I have optimism.”

Which is: “outdoor assets,” state parks, lakes, the river. “Picnic at Lakefront Park, kayak the Susquehanna, swim in Otsego Lake, enjoy the beach at Gilbert Lake,” said Harrington.

These are all activities conducive to social distancing, so an infection-sensitive population is more likely to respond to the promotion.

Otsego County Chamber President Barbara Ann Heegan said she’s working with Harrington on the county’s Economic Development Task Force – Harrington chairs it – to ensure Oneonta, with its parks, the Susquehanna Greenway and hiking opportunities, fully participates.

“People are going to be travelling closer to home; they’re penned in and they want to get out,” Harrington said, so the marketing footprint, usually the Northeast, the nation and the world, is now within 150 miles from the flagpole at Main and Pioneer.

That includes the east end of Rochester, most of the rest of Upstate, dipping down toward Scranton, Pa. It does not include plague-stricken New York City.

The promotions will be rolled out on Instagram and the “This Is Cooperstown” Facebook page, where the Paperkite video had been posted as of Tuesday. The DMCOC video features “brand promoters,” people here and around the country talking about how they can’t wait to visit their favorite attractions.

For now, “all spending is on pause,” said Harrington, but beginning June 1, paid social promotion and retargeting will resume, which will place ads on websites, the leading ones which typically include accuweather.com, weather.com, Fox News, nyt.com, CNN, USA Today and Pandora.

The ads will be swapped out with other regional attractions – the Adirondacks,
for instance – in the hope people interested in one Upstate attraction will be interested in others.

What distinguishes Otsego County in potential visitors’ minds? the DMCOC asked. Baseball, or course. “It’s a national attraction,” Harrington said.

So the theme is “Cooperstown On Deck,” a batting line-up. “Texts are emerging to match who’s open at what time,” she said.

For instance, if COVID-19 infections remain in check, Phase Four – it pretty much opens up the whole economy, subject to social distancing and other cautionary steps – will arrive in late June.

The DMCOC – it is chaired by Ken Meifert, the Hall of Fame vice president – is looking to July 1 as a “pretty good target date” for some of the museums to open. (The Clark Sports Center, part of the Clark family interests, has already announced it is looking to open at that time.)

“If museums need less people,” given the precautionary measures, “we may have to be careful about how much we can promote,” said Harrington.

In the fall, there will be another push to bring people from around the region to see the foliage.


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