Packaging Tourism

Packaging Tourism

Hospitality Pros Capitalizing on Creative Combinations

In an era when whole families engage with handheld devices at the expense of good old-fashioned dinner table conversation, it’s a challenge to get anyone’s attention. Texts, tweets, and magnetic online forums like Facebook increasingly dominate the battle for a sliver of consumer mindshare. That makes devising a marketing (or ‘communications’ if you prefer) strategy with irresistible offers all the more important for those in the hospitality business. These days, clever lodging operators are reaching out beyond their properties, packaging hospitality with everything from local eateries to opportunities for Northwest-style adventure.

Kara Wilson Anglin, marketing director for Wilson Ranches Retreat in appropriately named Fossil, often spreads the word about her family’s bed and breakfast on horseback. Anglin, who gets around in a wheelchair when she isn’t driving cattle or herding guests through the hills, is hard to track down, even when she isn’t home on the range. A diehard believer in the broadest sense of service, she participates in everything from the Oregon Governor’s Conference on Tourism to ORLA’s Annual Convention while juggling responsibilities as an Eastern Oregon Visitors Association Board Member and as an Oregon Tourism Commissioner.

For the energetic marketer, the key to creating opportunities for the retreat and the community is staying plugged into and even sparking opportunities. “We volunteer excessively for the DMO (destination marketing organization), which is the John Day River Territory (Sherman, Gilliam, Wheeler and Grant counties),” she notes, adding that the organization was formed through Travel Oregon’s Rural Tourism Studio.

“Travel Oregon developed a Rural Tourism Studio program to assist rural communities in tourism development,” she explains. “For our region, we were interested in focusing on Agritourism, product development, and any way to support our tourism businesses.” That includes promoting the area to target niches.

One of the desirable demographics identified for the region is motorcycle tourists. “We opened on March 12th, 2000, and that first summer, we had a huge motorcycle group stay with us,” recalls Nancy Wilson (Anglin’s mother), who launched Wilson Ranches Retreat with her cowboy/husband Phil. “Now, there are three big motorcycle groups that come. They take the whole house, and they have done amazing marketing for us just by word of mouth to all the organizations they belong to. This is a great motorcycle country!”

In fact, the region has become so popular with this lucrative niche (and many others), that a local company prints special motorcycle maps for Central and Eastern Oregon as well as Eastern Washington. “That’s one of the few things that we do print advertising in, and it comes back tenfold,” says Wilson. Of course, Wilson Ranches Retreat is branded on the map. “There’s been I don’t know how many new people that are motorcyclists that are coming through,” she adds. A few in this adventuresome crowd are repeat customers with whom the family has developed such tight bonds with that they’ve entrusted them to represent the retreat at regional trade shows geared to fellow bikers. That takes the value of good customer relations to a whole different level.

Relationship marketing recently played the starring role in promoting The Heathman Hotel in Portland. “I was notified by a guest, back in fall of 2011, about this book 50 Shades of Grey, recalls General Manager Chris Erickson of the bestselling trilogy. “I read a little bit about it, and it was a bit risqué, you might say. It’s not just your basic romance. It takes it to a different level, and that’s why this book is so unusual and no one really expected this book to be a cultural identifier of 2012.”

Conveniently, the historic Heathman Hotel is where this romantic tryst takes place. “We are actually mentioned 16 times in the book,” confesses Erickson. “It’s unusual to have a hotel mentioned once or twice in a book, but you might consider us an actual character in the book. They describe everything about our hotel, and 99 percent of it is highly accurate, down to the headboards.” Erickson skimmed through pages (not exactly his cup of tea, he notes) before sequestering the books in a drawer, out of sight, out of mind. continue →