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Brunswick County Tourism Development Authority members say they want to better utilize their Web site to provide more personalized attention to potential visitors. They want to make sure visitors remember the Brunswick islands when they plan their vacations.
TDA members took the first step toward meeting that goal at last Wednesday’s meeting, voting unanimously to begin the process of obtaining new software, a new employee and a new way of responding to inquiries beginning July 1.
It won’t take much financial maneuvering, according to TDA executive director Mitzi York. The authority will not renew its yearly, $80,000 contract with Brunswick Electric Membership Corp., to answer telephones and mail out information to people seeking information about vacations on the Brunswick islands.
This fiscal year, the authority will spend about $30,000 to invest in the needed software. Smith Advertising will start designing advanced database software for the TDA Web site that will allow an employee to gather information on Web site visitors’ areas of interest, noting what pages they spend the most time on.
For instance, if someone spends time navigating the golf pages, that person will receive occasional e-mails of upcoming golf events and deals on golf vacations.
Next fiscal year, the $80,000, or possibly less, York said, will be used for a new staffer, who will oversee telephone and mail responses and gather data on people who visit the ncbrunswickislands.com Web site. That staffer would then send visitors information on upcoming events they might be interested in.
York will bring a proposed job description to the authority for approval at the March meeting.
“We have a lot of people inquire about the area—more than 70,000 people per year,” York explained. “In the current process, we send them a fulfillment piece, but there’s not a lot of follow-up contact.
“We know there’s a lot of competition out there, and we want to be able to build relationships and stay in touch with people,” she said.
The new employee will also keep the Web site updated and work with the authority’s other databases, York said.
She told authority members Wednesday that when the TDA originally made a deal with BEMC to use its call center about 10 years ago, authority members expected the amount of calls seeking travel information to increase every year.
The radical change in the way the public obtains information—now primarily via the Internet—was not expected, York said.
Authority member Randy Jones, who serves on the committee that recommended the change, said the new technology makes it easier to provide more personalized service so potential visitors remember the Brunswick islands when planning their vacations.
“That individual attention will set us apart,” Jones said.
Todd Smith of Smith Advertising said the new services would most likely lead to a higher conversion rate—the percentage of people seeking information about the area who actually take vacations here.
Last year’s conversion rate was about 43 percent, according to a survey commissioned by the TDA.
TDA Chairman Kemp Causey said once the program is put into place, it would put Brunswick County ahead of most other tourism entities.
“I haven’t found any other TDA that does this,” he said. “We will be ahead of the game.”
Authority member Glenda Browning agreed that technology is the key to the TDA’s future, with so many people using the Internet for all their planning.
“For the TDA to do a better job long-term, we’d better utilize technology,” she said.