Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.
Originally published: August 2017
Talking Tourism: A fresh look for visitcookcounty.com | by Kjersti Vick
If you have not been to visitcookcounty.com recently, I suggest you take a few minutes to do so. Throughout the summer the Visit Cook County team, led by marketing partners Giant Voices of Duluth, reimagined our website.
The process of redesigning a website is both exhilarating and arduous. How do you make something both informative AND visually compelling? Our process of discovery began by virtually traveling the globe evaluating the websites of similar DMO and travel organizations. Not only did it add a few destinations to our own travel bucket lists but this research provided us with a firsthand look at content from the perspective of a visitor. What features do other organizations offer, how much information is too much, and how to describe our unique value proposition in a place as geographically diverse as Cook County? After 12 countries, 8 states and several regional destination websites our objective became clear. We had the information people are looking for, what we needed was a better way to find it. On the refreshed website, you will still find much of the same great content such as Northern Lights viewing tips, a complete calendar of events, comprehensive lodging directory, and the coveted Grand Marais Harbor Cam but you will also be able to easily discover new adventures and Hot Deals thanks to more intuitive navigation. One of the most exciting new features is the Trip Planner which allows users to add events, local businesses and interests to a customizable trip itinerary that can easily be printed or emailed to travel companions.
Along with the enhanced usability is an increased opportunity for local businesses to extend their reach on our website. A revamped Hot Deals feature that appears on the bottom of most content pages is one of the exciting new marketing opportunities available. Visit Cook County is funded primarily through the collection of lodging tax paid by the visitor to the lodging entity; the remainder is collected through grants as well as sponsorships. Any establishment that collects and submits lodging tax is eligible to receive a complimentary listing. Retail, dining, and other businesses may be listed on our website and annual Visitor Guide by becoming a stakeholder member. Any businesses who wish to know more about new marketing opportunities with Visit Cook County should contact Maggie Barnard at Maggie@visitcookcounty.com.
The new visitcookcounty.com officially launched on August 9. In this short timeframe, we are already seeing an increase in traffic and user engagement. The number of 2017 Visitor Guide downloads have increased by 15% and signups for our monthly e-newsletter by 40% and we are just getting started!
Our reach goes well beyond our website with a robust marketing and public relations outreach plan, we reach thousands of potential visitors daily. Using a multidimensional marketing approach that includes strategic billboard placement, targeted emailers, and social media to name a few, we are retargeting our audience with multiple touchpoints keeping the Visit Cook County brand top-of-mind. Driving visitors to our website is a major component of enhancing the tourism experience. Through the website, we will ensure that those visitors have accurate information, fun ideas, and exposure to all seasons and locations in Schroeder, Tofte, Lutsen, Grand Marais, the Gunflint Trail, and Grand Portage. In the past few years, we’ve seen significant growth in lodging tax in addition to the general sense of increased traffic we all see on our daily commutes. It is clear, what we are doing is working and that is exciting.