BRADENTON — The local tourism industry has had plenty to deal with so far this year.
There’s been the continuing recession, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and then a change in leadership at the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Given all this, the realigned tourism bureau Wednesday hosted the first of what is to be several regular educational workshops for local tourism-related businesses.
“We hope this educational component is powerful to you all,” said Elliott Falcione, the bureau’s interim director.
At the meeting, about 20 local tourism professionals got insight on how to fine tune their marketing and sales strategies via partnerships with major media or online travel firms.
One strategy the tourism bureau is looking to help local businesses with is search engine marketing.
The tourism bureau said it will help about seven to 10 local tourism businesses fund their search engine marketing efforts through a co-op program with Madden Media.
As part of the co-op, which will start in October, the tourism bureau will provide a 100 percent funding match to help businesses cover a $500 monthly rate to have Madden Media help drive traffic to businesses’ websites using research-driven keywords.
As part of the co-op program, when a consumer is directed to click on a hotelier or business’ website via Google AdWords, the business’ website will also include a banner advertisement of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitor Bureau website.
Howard Tietjen, eTravel brand manager for Madden Media, said a co-branded URL allows both the tourism business and the tourism bureau to simultaneously reach a consumer that has already taken an interest in vacationing in Manatee County.
“This will help drive good quality traffic to your website,” Tietjen said.
Veteran hotelier Barbara Rodocker, who owns Bradenton Beach resorts BridgeWalk and Silver Surf, said she was intrigued by the co-op program in which the tourism bureau will help foot the bill.
“We’re always looking at what’s out there that might be advantageous to us,” said Rodocker, who added she expects the educational workshops to be a strong asset for local tourism businesses.
“I’m glad to see the number of people here that showed up, but there are a lot more people who should be here,” Rodocker said. “I’m happy to see the CVB offering this opportunity.”
Falcione, who succeeded retiring director Larry White in July, started the tourism industry meetings to introduce himself to local tourism professionals and address concerns related to the oil spill.
With the crisis of the oil spill less at the forefront, now the meetings will be geared to helping tourism-related businesses improve their market share.
“What we really need to do is get a feel for how you’re marketing your product,” Falcione said. “Once we get a feel for where there may be some deficiencies, we can help you better market your product.”