Humboldt Rural Tourism Summit

Humboldt Rural Tourism Summit

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[ Music ] >> Hi, everybody. My name is Anika Slattery [phonetic], and this is the Humboldt Rural Tourism Summit. I would like to thank everybody for coming, my amazing speakers for giving their time to do these awesome presentations. One second.

Let me pull up my schedule. Okay, so this meeting will run 'til around 1:30-ish. If you need to take the time to go take -- to get up and stretch, take a break, or anything you need to do, feel free. We also are going to have a couple speakers.

So, it would be great if everyone could keep their mics muted for the meantime. there will be time for interactive discussions and question and answer sessions. Does that sound good to everybody? Awesome. Awesome. And now, can everybody hear me okay? Yeah, [inaudible], awesome.

Okay. Well, before we begin, I would like to take the time to acknowledge that here in Humboldt County, we are not -- that we are unwelcome guests in the land who have been tended to -- who -- this land has been tended to by the Wiyot people, who have lived here since time and immemorable. If you would like to learn a little bit more about some things that you can do for the Wiyot people, there's something called the Honor Tax, and it's made by the Seventh Generation Indian Fund of Humboldt County. I will put that link in the chat. But for now, I would just like to acknowledge that before that -- we begin and continue.

Now we can continue on. And our first speaker is the amazing Tammy East [phonetic] from the Alabama Mountain and Lakes Tourism Association. I'm going to stop sharing my screen. And Tammy, you can take it away.

>> Let me see here. Share. Can you see this? >> Yes. >> Blow it up and let me start. All right. Can you see it? All right.

>> Yes. Thank you. >> All right, I'm going to talk to you today on natural and cultural tourism. And I think it's interesting, you know, Alabama is a long way from California, but I have to share with y'all a short story. I travel a lot internationally, and I go to Toronto, Canada every year. And for some reason, I booked Toronto, California, and I wound up -- or Ontario, California, and I wound up going, what? It's 72 degrees there, in January? This could not be, so I have to share that with you about my fun trip to California.

So, anyhow, so I think what's important is you understand why natural and cultural tourism. And I put this presentation together before COVID ever hit. So, now if you can imagine the way our numbers are climbing as far as people getting out, but just to give you kind of a definition of what we feel is the tourism industry has changed from the traditional long-awaited, long-planned, annual family summer vacation to a form of leisure, family bonding that occurs around, you know, visiting places that are not normal to their neighborhood. And so, when we look at the different things such as adventure tourism, culinary, religious, and I'm going to show you some examples of these that we've put together for our North Alabama area, but to note that natural and cultural heritage tourism is one of the fastest growing specialty markets in the tourism industry today. So, how does the segment stacked up? And we use Mandela research for this, and again, this was prior to COVID.

So, as we know, when we look at 64%, we have people attending historical reenactments, which we know this now is probably changing because of the way our world is changing when it comes to a lot of our diversity and a lot of our historical markers are being removed and such like that. But this kind of gives you a sense of like historical places, tending an art and craft fair festival, visiting a national state park, and then, of course, the urban neighborhoods. So, one of the things that we created for North Alabama when we learned this research was we created what's called the Hallelujah Trail of Sacred Places. And we took, within our 16 counties, to be a part of this, you would have to submit to us a property that was at least 100 years old, that's standing on the original site, that still hold services today, and are accessible to the public. And so, from this, we birthed the Hallelujah Trail, and this is what it looks like.

So, it's a driving tour that people can take. We market this in many different ways. One of the things -- one of the ways, I just got back last weekend from a huge -- it's called Women of Joy, where 10,000 women come together to hear different speakers on religion. And we bring these -- this brochure there, and we pick up a lot of folks. We also give them each a marker.

So, this is the trail marker that's at each of these locations, and as you can see, it's a diverse arrangement of churches. The number 19, it's out in the middle of a forest, and it's still holding church today, with the clay floors. And just -- it's just so interesting. We even have shared this with like Auburn University, who has a huge architectural firm because it also enlightens them on the architecture. So, not only just thinking about it as the Hallelujah as far as the cultural heritage, but then also thinking about it from the landscape. We also gave each of our communities -- you know, it's hard when you're looking at a county and you're trying to pick two.

So, we gave each of our counties $1,000 grant that they could take the rest of their places and create niches for those areas. So, out of the Hallelujah birthed the Rock of Ages, Amen Trail, so lots of things that came about creating this overall Hallelujah. The other thing that we've been working on is the natural beauty. And you'll see behind me, this is a place that is in Red Bay, Alabama. Some of you may have heard of Tiffin Motors if you do RV travel.

They are actually made in red Bay, Alabama, very small community. But this is one of the birding trails that my picture is behind. So, speaking of trails, one of the things that I encourage communities to do is to look at your assets and see what you have. In our area, these were the focal points that we found that were very important to our community. So, what we did was we've created a Barbecue Trail, something in the south is really known for. The Wine Trail, yes, the Wine Trail is amazing.

And when people come to our one wineries, and then they'll say, hey, where's a good place to eat? So, my wineries are telling them get on the Barbeque Trail. The Craft Beer Trail, a huge movement in Huntsville, Alabama, which you may have heard of NASA, the US Space and Rocket Center. They took an old school, and it needed to be closed down. They needed to build a bigger school. So, they turned campus 805 and they remade a school into a huge brewery.

There's axe throwing. There's a speakeasy. So, thinking about outside the box things that you can do. So, a lot of our craft beer breweries, they're actually ex either rocket scientists that love this as a hobby. So, it's nice to go back to your school and drink you some of their craft beer. Of course, the Hallelujah, the Civil War Trail, the Alabama Bass Trail, we run entire fishing component for the state.

And it's -- I encourage you, if y'all have bass fishing in your area or you're looking at maybe considering doing some like that, it's the Alabama Bass Trail. The Birding Trail, the Train trail, and then our Motorcycle Trail's in the most beautiful -- and I could see this happening in the redwood area, I mean, just some beautiful trails. So, I'll take you and let you understand some things that we engage with folks as we began our trails.

You know, one of the things that we learned was, one factor, especially looking at a biking trail and looking at an activity that occurs on a human scale at the speed of which the cyclists go, they take in those surroundings. So, what we have done is create like rails to trails, to where there's a restaurant or a place that they could go to, you know, pump their tire. I don't know if y'all have heard of Belle Chevre. Belle Chevre is a wonderful cheese that is made in Alabama, and she has a shop there. And so, they've set it up where you can put your bike stands, come in, have you some goat cheese ice cream, or just, you know, have something to drink while you're there. So, again, looking at and discovering all those opportunities when you're looking at trails, what can enhance the trail? Trails are popular.

Creating trails usually are low costs for admission. They grow awareness of the nature and historical heritage to Alabama. They're also health conscience, and I think that this is very important that when you're looking at applying for grants that you always add that part of health conscious, when you're getting people out.

This piece here is just a walking trail that is done throughout our state, to where you go and to look at old homes, different Antebellum surroundings. And then you've got a tour guide that is sharing, you know what took place so many years ago. Another great place that we look for information is through this outdoor foundation. And I thought it was interesting that nearly half, 49.4% of Americans take advantage of the nation's outdoor opportunity. And the study is based on an online survey that they received over 40,000 Americans, ages six and older, and it covered 114 different activities, including trails. And so, as we looked at some of the significance, like the one -- it's a case study in North Carolina with the northern Outer Banks.

And when they surveyed the cyclists, I thought it was interesting that they earn more than $100,000 annually, 87% earn $50,000 or more, and 40% have a Master's or doctoral degree, and 33 -- or 38% reported completion of a college degree. And why is this important? Well, it's important because they have the means. So, when they're buying these bikes, and when they're looking for these opportunities, opportunities could mean they're going to spend in your community as long as you keep abreast of where the trail is headed. And making sure -- we've seen some that have put in like pop up stores, just small stores within the community that people can get either something to drink, something to eat, or just having a place for them to go use the restroom. This is one that I love to talk about. We didn't even have to build a single waterfall, but we were named the 2019 Governor's Conference Tourism Award winner for the Best Thing Campaign.

My daughter is an occupational therapist, and she did her internship in Greenville, South Carolina. And a counterpart of mine runs what's called Up Country, which is around the eight county Regional Tourism Organization. And I asked him, I said, you know what is like your number one piece of collateral that you give out to your visitors. And he said, it's our Waterfall Trail.

So, I went back, took his trail, and identified some of our trails that were easy access, that can be brought on by the public to use. And so, we created 13 magical selfie locations; Made by Nature is what we call it. And so, what this has done for us, we've been able to get this out to our communities.

It has been -- with COVID I have to share this story. We push it out so much, and we created an ambassador club. And this is something I encourage you to look at, and I'll share with you in a moment how you can do this. Because your ambassadors can be the best thing going for you to get your story out, and they actually just work for swag. So, anyhow, we also created these other trails, like I mentioned, the Barbecue, the Motorcycle, the Train, the Birding, and we've added a couple more. We are in the middle of doing a North Alabama Mural Trail.

We identified 162 murals that we'll showcasing. We had the University of Georgia students actually take the project on and kind of give us a whole marketing piece, and so it turned out beautifully. But to give you a little case study on our Wine Trail, our Wine Trail, we have six locations, and this is the pass for it. And what we did is we created, for each of the wineries, a stamp that -- so no one could just mark off. So, they all have a stamp.

And so, when the people visit, we've given them like pull up displays, so that they can see if I go into this one wine trail that there is a whole trail being completed. And I think it's interesting because the data comes back to us, so we measure how many we get. We're averaging now about 150 a month, that they've completed the trail. And here was a response, and this is old data, we get them all the time, but I love the one in the middle. It says I'd like to tell you that we combined your wine and waterfalls.

So, they've heard of both of our trails, and we had four days together. So, what does that mean for tourism? That means they spent the night. Although, I think they tried to kill this 64-year-old on some of the trails, we had a blast, and we passed it on to our friends. You certainly have a gem with this tour. Thanks again. So, it's kind of like, we started out with a paper trail, and now we've added an online version.

It's an app, but it's an online app, and it's on our website. If you go under trails, wine's the first one to pop up, and you can see that. The other thing we were able to do with our trails was, in Alabama, let's say you from California wanted to come to our winery, and you wanted to buy a wine, and you wanted to ship it. Well, our laws read you couldn't ship the wine, and so this made it difficult. They were losing sales. They could do a wine event and have tasting, but yet if somebody liked it, you could not buy it there at the tasting.

You had to go back to the site. So, what we did was ask six questions to our wineries. And one was how many -- how much wine do you produce? So, they all collectively gave us their data, and then I turned it into a piece. I also wanted to know where their roots were from. Why did you choose Alabama to come in and create your wine? And so, you can see here that our six wineries, one is from Hungary, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Switzerland.

And we've kind of given you a timeline of when they opened and what awards they've won and some of the ways in which they are pairing their wines. And why is this important? Well, I'll tell you why. So, this next slide is the piece that we show that over 50,000 gallons of wine is produced each year. Together, they have 210 acres.

And what we did was we brought in the senator about -- that represented that area. I shared with him the story. Our organization was able to pull together a motor coach that brought representatives from Alabama to come tour the six wineries. And while we were on the bus, we shared with them the obstacles they were facing.

And so, what happened, that senator passed the legislation. He actually passed three pieces of legislation, and they all passed. So, one, if you come to see us, we can sell you the wine, and we can ship it to you. Two, if we do a taste testing, we can do -- sell you the wine there. And the other one dealt with giving incentives to our wineries. So, when you look at tourism, it's not just about creating the niche.

It's layering it in many components, and to bring that advocacy component in is huge, so you never forget what you're doing. Now I want to talk about the ambassadors. In my organization, we have six employees, two of which, they work and they get brochure distribution. So, all my members, my 500-plus members, they are delivering brochures and putting them in different racks so that guests in a hotel or a restaurant or whatever can find all the great things that are going on in our area. We have one social media person, and it's difficult to reach your hand around one county versus 16.

And so, we've created our North Alabama Ambassador program. And if you want to see what that looks like, you can go to, go under the plan section, and find the ambassadors.

These are the 22 ambassadors, and what they do is they literally are already out in these communities, and they're sharing through Instagram, through Facebook. They're doing blogs for us, the beauty of North Alabama. It has raised our playing field tremendously. We've had the ambassador event in for three years.

There is a way in which I measure because I love to measure thing. Here's some more of the ambassadors, and I want you to look at Zenovia Stephens [assumed spelling]. She is the only African American that we have it. One thing we've learned is, for diversity there is not a lot of African Americans that are doing this. So, when Zenovia was chosen to be a part of this, Kelly Ripa was doing a story during the pandemic on trails. And she was wanting to use diversity, and she googled and found Zenovia.

And Zenovia went on the Kelly Ripa Show and shared our story about North Alabama. So, when you're looking at ambassadors, make sure you're creating people that can be of all ethnic places of people so that your story can be told. So, the way in which we measure, there's a report called KLEAR, K-L-E-A-R. Meltwater is a PR firm that we use that when we're sending out press releases, we can zoom in, and it identifies people that may be dealing with cultural and heritage, that may be dealing with music.

But we're able to put all of our ambassadors in this, and through their posts -- so this was July 1st through July 31st. This shared with us 128 posts were made by these people that are working for us for free. We have 38.8% engagement.

The reach was 137, and the estimate measured value was 110,000. So, again, an easy way -- and when I say we paid them swag, we give them logo T-shirts. We give them -- I just -- for tourism, it's National Tourism Week, I just sent them each a $25 gift card with a letter saying thank you.

And it's these little things that they do, I mean, they'll wear the shirt in front of the waterfall as they're hash tagging us. They'll put the coffee cup there. They're making blogs for us. So, it's just a wonderful thing that I encourage you all to do.

I'm not going to -- this here, I'm just going to say look at your partners. We are a part of the Tennessee Valley region, so TVA, which supplies our power, and you might want to look at that for your own place. A lot of times they want to give back to communities. And so, they actually bought a National Geographic site, that my company, we run, and we do the social media for that National Geographic site. So, it's called the Tennessee River Valley Geo Tourism.

You can look at it. And I wanted to share with you a case study. This is something that I started, and I had a -- I love this.

In your communities, a lot of times you'll see things that need to be improved. And when you came into Decatur, Alabama, when I used to be the tourism director for that one particular city and county, we had the beautiful Tennessee River. And we had an eyesore, and this was the eyesore.

It's the Ingles Shipyard Company. It was built back in 1942, and then it packed up and moved because someone, what I call, dangled a carrot over Mississippi and said come to -- come see us. So, they left us with an eyesore in our gateway. And for years, it sat here, and we finally decided, you know, one of our assets is the river. We need to do something.

Well, what could that be? So, what we did is we started working with a local architect, and we said can you do this for free? We want to do a pitch to our city and to our county. We don't know if it's going to play out, but if you can help us design this. Well, I'm not a fisherman. So, what I did was went to Bassmasters.

Bassmasters is one of your leading in the industry. They fish all over the US, and they even do international fishing. And I asked Trip Weldon, if you could build the dynasty of what you would consider one of the best places to -- you know, he said I do a 10 boat round. That way 10 people can get in at one time, lots of parking, lots of lighting, and so this is what we came up with. So, how did I pitch it to the city? Well, within Decatur, there at the time were only 10 hotels, and this is your good, your bad, and your ugly. Okay? We had some Marriotts, and then you had some that were like written by the day.

But we asked them if they could self-impose $1 fee? Well, they asked for $2. I mean, you know, go figure. You know, you ask -- you're trying to give them something, and they're -- they want more, but that's fine. We said, okay, we can do that. And what we would like for you to do, we know you're going to the bond market to borrow money. Borrow the money that we need to build this, and we will repay it.

And we had kind of figured out what those 10 hotels, based on the 75% occupancy they would run at the time, based on the rate, it would bring in around 395,000 a year. So, if they borrowed the 3.2 million that I needed to initially get started, I could well pay it over. And so, in that plan, we asked that they put it in a separate fund, not a general fund, but in a Tourism Product Development Fund to be used for tourism product development, and that's what they did. I will tell you today that that fund is bringing in $795,000 because it's added new product in our market. So, this is what it looks like.

This here happens to be our Alabama Bass Trail Fishing Tournament that we run through my office that brings in 250 boats, 500 anglers. We only fish in the state. We do 10 tournaments a year, but the people are coming from 12 different states.

And I have to tell you, we do have someone from California that fishes with us. So, it's an amazing thing, but this is exactly the plan. And we did bid -- when we -- that architect did win the bid to do this.

So, I just want to show you that. We saw that it was such a success that three years later, as we're measuring the success of not only the events that were taking place in the green space, we needed a kind of a pavilion. So, we built a 37,000-square-foot, open air pavilion, kind of almost like a bit of a mini Bassmasters, and it's right next to it. We do around 300 events a year in this. It is just a blank place. It's just a concrete floor.

The actual windows rise up. You can sit around 2,500 people in there. So, it just -- it's done a great thing, but I love sharing that. We also use some of the funding to do signage, signage that we needed to identify around our town. And what I love to say is success breeds success because as we were planning this, and something I may not have mentioned to you, that eyesore was next to a water treatment plant.

So, it smelled, so who's going to go there? Okay? So, we build this, and then we get a $8 million home to suites. So, again, by our hospitality industry and what we consider a rural area that took the initiative to see our assets and to build upon them and go ask our political being to do this for us. In the end, I went through three administrations from beginning to the end to complete this project. But in the end, we completed it, and we have a wall, on the wall where we've listed all the groups, all the mayors.

The one thing that I tell people when I do this story is let tourism -- let that Tourism Bureau be the one that leads the charge because your municipal people are going to change. They're going to change every four years. So, always have, whether it be the city manager -- I prefer the tourism folks because typically they stay around. But again, that is just a little presentation that I share on the natural cultural tourism and that it is an important part of economic development.

>> Thank you so much. That was amazing. We can now open up the floor for any question and answer sessions that you guys want to take part of.

And then I did see a question in the chat. Let me hold -- let me see if I can bring that up. [ Inaudible ] Question from Annalise, how'd you create your app? >> We use a company that's called Bandwango, and they are absolutely amazing. They don't want you to call it an app. It's a web base.

We are able to set coordinates, like for our wineries. There's a coordinate you can set up. So, when you check into a place, it knows that you're in the area. You can check mark, and at the end, it can send you an email that says, X person has completed this. I encourage you to look at how you can sign up for it. When you go to our wineries, we've got one set up for it.

Our Waterfall Trail, we've got one set up for it. So, when you buy into Bandwango, you use multiple platforms, like our mural trail. Our state of Alabama is actually bought into it, and they are using it for the international market, to be able to go in and put, let's say, events. Like if there's a theater and they're selling tickets, they have a way that it can be done on that site as well.

It's inventory base. We have [inaudible] that uses it if you've got a group coming in. And they'll set up like five restaurants that you could dine at and different places you could shop.

So, when you download the app, it could be called the NASA Girls Getaway app, and so it's used multiple times. You get great analytics, and it's a great way to share. So, it's online, web based, and it has been amazing. >> Annalise also asked, How do you spell that? >> It's B-A-N-D-W-A-N-G-O. Yep. >> Great. Awesome.

Does anyone else have any other questions? The floor is yours. Take it. We have plenty of time. >> Is this for me? >> It's for anybody -- for anybody who wants to ask you any more -- any more questions.

I would actually like to add to that, it was really interesting about the trails that you've done. [Inaudible] is actually in the midst of making its own [inaudible] wayfinding project, and we're doing -- charting all these different trails around the area. And they're going to have these awesome interpretive signage, and you can scan a code and get all this great information. It's really interesting how the two things kind of sync up and everything, super cool. >> The one thing I was going to say, I didn't finish my story, was with our waterfall trails during COVID, we really pushed out socially to come visit our waterfalls. And what happened was when people got out of their homes, a lot of times they didn't realize how to take care of the environment the way the normal users do.

And so, one of our ambassadors said, you need to stop promoting these waterfowl trails. I'm like, why? And he said, because, you know, the litter and just, you know, how that can lead into -- you know, let's just say someone's a diabetic, and they did an injection and, you know, it went out into the -- you know, a raccoon took it and got it in the waterways. You know, so we wound up partnering with Leave No Trace.

And so, Leave No Trace. of course, when I called them I said, now look. It's COVID. We've lost a lot of business due to, you know, our tourism industry.

People are not staying in hotels, and I think they've quoted me like $20,000. I'm like, okay, that is too much. But we went back to our power plant, to our electric company, and they gave us a $5,000 grant. So, we were able to put that -- so if you go on to our website,, we have a We Cares page. And under the We Cares, we have in there under advocacy the Leave No Trace and the principles and the website that is there. And so, I encourage you, if you are doing things, to always remember that what you create, you need to have kind of a give back to go along.

I think it just means a lot when you -- when you do that. >> I -- Tammy, this is Julie. I'd love to ask you a question that I know has come up with a few people. Humboldt is quite a big county, but we're only one county.

How do you -- do you have a committee of all your county representatives? Is everybody on the same page? Because we definitely have a lot of things going on in Humboldt. Things are quite disparate and not always clearly communicated. >> I have a 16-member board, but I have a non-member executive committee. And the way we are broke out is we meet quarterly as a region, and we rotate our meetings around.

So, I would say to you, if you're Humboldt and you've got a lot of towns, if you haven't got a board or maybe one person for each of the towns is a part of, and then to ask them the questions. What is it you have for your community? What is it you want to see? And then you start identifying what I call those segments, and then you create a -- plan a work around it. And I can share with -- is it Anika? Anika.

>> Anika, yes. >> Anika, I can share with her our program of work. So, we do have some workshops that we do, where we'll bring in folks, and I'll ask them at the end of the year -- I always share with them a survey.

I used to work for Marriott, and I used to build hotels for a group of doctors. That's where I got my start in the tourism industry, and Marriott was really big on interviewing its employees. So, make sure, number one, that they were getting the needs they needed, but also that their managers knew them.

So, I took that into my roles at the end of the year. I always send out to my partners a survey, and whether we had a great year or a bad year, I share it with them. And then I say to them, we're working on our budget for next year. Tell me what thing you would like to see done. That way those people you have that are those naysayers, you've given them that opportunity, and then you can look into it.

And I've learned that's how it works very well with us, and then we create that. And then at those meetings that I have, I continue to go over, you know, hey, this came out of the discussion that we had at year end and when we asked for y'all's, you know, opinions on things. But I really have no issues. We try to help them out in so many ways. They know that they can come to me if they have a project or if they need help. And that's one of the things we work very closely with the Alabama legislature.

I am not paid by the state. We are independently, the way we were formed 58 years ago. We are -- and I can share with you how we are funded because it might help you. We get a lodging tax in my 16 counties, which is a 1% added on. So, out of the 67 counties in Alabama, my 16 collect a 5% state tax.

Everybody else collects four. That 1%, half comes to my organization and the other half goes to the counties. So, that could be a creative way, and I could share that information with you, that you might want to pitch to your counties. [Inaudible] could get a, you know, a portion of that.

So, if you get half and then each of them get half of what's made up, it works relatively well. I'll give you an example. Huntsville, which is my largest county in Madison, their half is $868,000 a year, and I get the other half. And I'm basically just using this to help market the whole region, and I found the best way for me to market is through trails. It keeps people here longer. It keeps people cross -- what I call cross pollinating across areas.

It takes rural communities that don't have a lodging, that cannot bring in those assets such as lodging. But if I can help create a trail that's going to be four days, people stay, then guess what? That helps my overall impact. >> Yes, Becky? >> Yeah.

>> Hi, Becky Reese, Cruise Planners. I find that one of the hardest things is convincing the powers that be of the importance of signage to let people know where to go and where to get to the activities. How important was that to this -- to the success of your sites? >> Okay, this is what I did.

I had went to Dahlonega, Georgia, where they have a wonderful marketing college, and I actually teach the second-year students. And I'm going to Dahlonega and going, look at their signage. We need this.

So, I came back, just like I did with the architect, and I went to a sign company. And I said, I need us to have a work session, and we need to identify where we need signage. So, we brought in kind of a board. It had lodging partners. It had industry partners.

It had, you know, not just -- you never want the same people in the room. You need diversity. And so, we started mapping out -- and I use Dahlonega as an example because I love the way theirs looked.

And so, we put together where they should go, what it would look like, and then I planted the Senator from Alabama, he's a local senator, and brought him to my tourism board. At the time, we were getting surveys back, and our surveyor continues like, you need signage. I didn't know where we were going. And so, he said at that meeting, is there something I can do for y'all? You know, I've got some money here.

I said, yes, hang on just a minute, and I pulled out the signage plan, and it also had a price tag to it, and so that's how we got it. So, always tell people be ready, and there's people out there right now that will do that. I would say go ahead. If signage is what you need and you need it for your whole community, start bringing those people in, identify, what are the places we need to identify? What will it look like? Bring in the sign company or a company that does design work, let them give you the price tag, and then you've got it ready to roll. If you're not ready to roll and somebody asks the question, how can I help you? Then you got to wait and get it done.

>> And secondly, my husband would never forgive me if I didn't say, hey. His family's from down Mobile. >> Right. Hey and we are the home to Mardi Gras. It is not New Orleans. >> I know. That was -- my husband was talking about this a little bit ago and love your big shrimp, and I've learned how to properly fry them.

>> Good, good. Yeah. Mobile, it's -- you know, it's funny. It's not my area, but David Clark, the manager there, runs Mobile, one of my dear friends. So, you know, when people say, Tammy, you're North Alabama, but at the end of the day, we're tourism, and we work together because we have to stick together in order to make things work, so. >> I think we have time for one more.

>> Okay. >> That's Greg Foster? Yes. >> All right, good. Yes. Hi, I'm Greg Foster. I'm the Executive Director of the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission.

But more importantly, in my opinion, I coordinate a group called Fly Humboldt. So, we're a new air service development, and we have attracted to new airlines and three new destinations. And so, I'm wondering if -- you work closely with, you mentioned Huntsville, and I know your airport director there, Rick. >> Yes, Rick Tucker, he's a great guy.

>> Yeah, yeah, yeah, in fact, I think I'll see him in Florida in June. But I'm just wondering how closely you work -- or have you worked with the airports in terms of terminal advertising, working with the airlines, get people in, that sort of thing? >> Yeah. We work very close with them. We -- one of the things that when they're wanting a new airline to come in, they need data, and that's where we come in to help them. Sometimes, again, like I said, you can get so embraced and your own -- what you do that you don't see what outside does. A perfect example was we were wanting direct flights from Huntsville to New York, and this was several years ago. And Barbie, who works for Rick, was like, Tammy, can you help me? And I said, well, yes, [inaudible] in America, which is based out of New York, I just had one of the Japanese guys say, look, if you can get us a direct flight from here to New York, it'll sure help us getting back to, you know, Osaka, where their headquarters was.

And so, just -- she didn't realize that. The other thing we've done is been able to help promote. Like they can give like a free ticket. Well, I can take it, and I can promote it on like Rick and Bubba, which is a syndicated show where we're kind of talking about, you know, hey, check out this and check out Allegiant Air that's coming. So, we really help in that regards. He's a member of ours.

We have a membership. It's $150 a year. We're also working right now on a project that you'll find very interesting. As people are waiting to go travel, get on a airline, we have a group. It's called the Singing River Trail. It's right now in the incubator stage, but it's six of our counties.

And Rick has a portion at the airport, and it's nonuse. He cannot use this plan. So, he's given it to the Singing River Trail, which will help do some connectivity for our visitors that are, you know, maybe waiting 'til their flight comes in. If it's delayed, it gives them an opportunity to get out and do some walking. So, again, that's just a few ways in which we've helped with the airlines.

And as you know, Huntsville, we are one of the high -- we were worried at one time that, you know, we might lose our airport-- >> Yeah. >> Because of the way the studies come in, and we were one of the highest. But again, we are -- it's a beautiful, I mean, a beautiful airport, so yeah.

>> Well, I'll have to come visit. My son was there -- down there a couple years ago for the NASA Rocket Competition [inaudible]. >> Yes. >> He loved that area. He thought it was fun, but-- >> Good.

>> Anyway, all right. Thank you. >> Thank you. >> Thank you so much, Tammy, for your invaluable presentation. We're now going to be moving on into -- we're going to do a little Breakout Room activity.

So, let me just share my screen and we'll get that going. Tammy, do you need to take off? >> Yes, I got to -- I got to do another Zoom call with Economic Development [inaudible]. Thank y'all so much. >> Thank you so much for coming [inaudible]. >> All right, thank you.

>> [Inaudible] and happy travels. >> All right. Bye-bye. >> Bye. Wow. That was great. Awesome. Okay, so we're going to move on

and do a little Breakout Room activity first and let me just share my screen real fast. Present, there we go. Okay, guys, we're going to do a little Breakout Room activity.

I hope that all of you are familiar with a SWOT analysis. So, that is strengths -- or the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and my gosh, I'm blanking on the last one, threats. There we go.

Sorry. We're going to be focusing on the strengths and opportunities of Humboldt tourism. So, I believe that there should be a link in the chat in there to two interactive Word Clouds.

So, they're going to ask you, what are some opportunities of Humboldt tourism? And what are some strengths of Humboldt tourism? Just feel free to fill in your thoughts and ideas, and that's going to take about five minutes, and then we can all come back together. And then we're going to just kind of look at everything and see what we all came up with. Yay, successful. Awesome. We got everyone back?

Okay, cool. Yay. Great. Thank you so much, everyone, for participating in that. I would love to take a look at what everybody came up with. Let me share my screen.

All right, our -- some of our strengths, natural beauty, beaches, redwoods, dog-friendly hiking, economic development, definitely, affordable activities. I often think that there -- when people say, like there's nothing to do up in Humboldt. There's no -- there's so much to do.

You just have to look really hard sometimes. You just have to look around. There's so -- and I feel like there's so many new places popping up, and I feel so lucky that I've gotten the chance to experience this place and call this place home for the past four years. All right, let's look at the opportunities, murals, yeah. Public transportation, that's a really great feature, especially for students where the public transport is free, pretty awesome. I know I saw the -- I saw the -- learning from indigenous peoples, definitely.

I'd love to have that more incorporated into the main extreme tourism aspects of Humboldt County. I also saw something about the upcoming -- the sky bridge or the sky -- the sky -- the canopy walk in the Sequoia Zoo. I'm so excited for that to start. It looks amazing. My gosh, I feel like we've been waiting on this for like so long.

I remember seeing -- going to a whole -- I remember going to the park when I was in like my sophomore year. And they were like, yeah, we're building this. Yes. It's going to be so cool.

Okay. I'm going to stop sharing. Okay. All right. Thank you to everyone who participated into that activity.

We're next going to -- so we were originally going to have Nikki Brown [assumed spelling], who is the Director of Economic Development [inaudible] -- for -- I'm sorry, for Cisco Economic Development. She was unable to make it today. So, we're going to bump up Julie Benbow, who is the Director of Visit the Redwoods. So, Julie, whenever you are ready to take off, go right ahead. >> Whoa. Wait, I just -- I'm just getting myself organized,

which may take quite a lot of time. Okay, thank you, everybody for coming today. And thank you to Tammy, although she's not here, for a great presentation, and Anika for putting this together.

It's -- so tourism, yes, is recognized as an important economic driver for many communities, and this is both rural and Metropolitan. And the Bureau has been around for more than forty years working to promote Humboldt County. And before COVID, the Bureau was reviewing its past marketing strategies and objectives.

But this past year has really forced us to identify who is traveling and why and to reimagine our marketing strategy. And as you can see, from this short list of things that we have, this is -- marketing and now is much more than getting heads in beds, which is the main focus of the Humboldt Lodging Alliances, which is great. But the Bureau's role is to promote all the assets and activities that visitors are looking to enjoy and ensure that all the regions throughout Humboldt thrive in today's increasingly competitive tourism landscape. So, the Bureau's responsibility is to give the smallest stakeholder communities leverage against the competing counties by representing them in the national and international tourism market.

And one of the things is that, you know, we say we're home with the tallest trees and everything, but actually, if you are driving up or down 101 and you go through del Norte and Mendocino, we all have quite lovely coastline and beaches and trees. I prefer ours. But so, the Bureau is now focusing on, as Tammy said, what do we do to get our people staying longer? What do the visitors want to do? And what do the visitors not know that they want to do yet? So, and tourism cannot solve the civic infrastructure challenges that affect Humboldt, but it can be a strong partner in moving the county through pandemic recovery and into a sustainable future by doing what we do best, which is working with industry partners to tell world travelers about the wonders of Humboldt. So, the Bureau's mission is to reach beyond the county line to attract and connect with potential visitors from across the nation and the world. And to do this, we work with national and international media to ensure that Humboldt's assets are promoted on all the traditional print media and electronic media platforms but much more.

So, recently, we've been working with influencers to get in front of the Gen Xers and Zers and having quite a bit of luck with that. So, this is a very different presentation than Tammy's. In 2019, travel related spending in Humboldt was just under half a billion dollars. By the way, these numbers are from the Dean Runyan and Associates report that they do for Visit California every year. So, revenues increased every year, for the last 10 years from the 2010, 377 million in revenue to 219 to 484 million, which netted the county $42 million in tax revenue.

And in January 2020, we were predicting a 10% increase based on the growth of the past 10 years, and then the pandemic hit. I'm sorry. I'm just trying to-- The initial numbers for direct tourism spending in 2020 as of today is 285 million, which is a decrease of 34.4%, which is significantly lower even than 2010's revenue. In January 2020 to March the 16th, our visitor tourism numbers were average.

But then from mid-March through April and May, travel was nonexistent, and the county was closed to visitors and hotels. And accommodations were only allowed to open and with many restrictions on June the 19th. Boy, does that seem like a long time ago. However, historically, actually, accommodations don't generate the most travel income. It's the food service industry that brings in the most revenue.

And in 2020, this sector was decimated and suffered over a 47% decrease. And as we know, even as of today, it hasn't really been able to return to full service. So, initially, attending all these travel webinars and things at the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of international tourism and financial organizations were making predictions on when we would return to normal. But no one knew the extent of the pandemic, or its long-term, economic, social, and psychological impacts on us all, and I guess we will still wait to see those outcomes. Of all the pandemic phrases, and I love this, that have been part of our daily lexicon, you know, including pivot and resilience, consumer travel sentiment became an important data point for us.

And here in Humboldt, well, funnily enough, it was the resident sentiment that was actually more important than the consumer traveler. As a rural county with a modest healthcare system, you know, the residents were really outspoken about visitors coming and perhaps bringing and spreading COVID and the impact it would have on our healthcare system. So, the Bureau put all our destination marketing endeavors on hold and put the focus on visitors to stay home and stay safe. And for the residents, the messaging was around mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing, and staying home.

And as you can see from this slide, Rodney the banana slug was all over it literally. However, this pause allowed us to develop weekly Facebook posts featuring many different aspects of life in Humboldt. This -- these have included a postcard from Humboldt, Humboldt Couch Adventures, which are videos, Humboldt Moments of Zen, and the Humboldt Bucket List. And on all our posts, we used at least two hashtags, one being heavenly Humboldt and the other being the keep Humboldt healthy. The results of these efforts was we had a 334% increase in traffic to our Instagram and Facebook, and we have about 58 -- 57-58,000 followers, which was a great improvement over the years before.

And talking about traffic, as we all know for the past months, and into the future, the primary visitor is driving. They're driving an average distance of between three and 500 miles and staying for three or four or more days. We also saw an significant increase in RVs and camping, and this is a trend which will continue this year. With a significant investment by Visit California, who are our state tourism organization, they they've just promoted a road trip campaign. And Humboldt is leveraging the content with a lot of local stories that they promote on all their platforms.

However, and this is a nod to Greg, with the increase in flights and added destinations coming in the very near future, Humboldt will be easily accessible from Phoenix, Burbank, Denver, adding to the daily San Francisco and Los Angeles flights, which, as Greg has just said, may bring as many as 14,000 visitors over the next three or four months. And a get away from the heat and the crowds and coming to Humboldt County could be a game changer. So, in June, the Bureau will launch a Be Cool in Humboldt campaign.

And we're going to be targeting it at Phoenix, Los Angeles, Redding, Sacramento, and Chico. The Bureau's messaging will include letting people know that they are welcome and invited and also to travel safely. And I'm currently working with the regions in Humboldt to ensure that their marketing needs and campaigns and their content resonates with the tourists and developed some more or less of the trails and the highlights and our strength as a rural community. Moving on. So, who is visiting Humboldt, and why are they coming here? So, unmarried Millennials, 26 to 35s, the unmarried Gen Xers who are 36-49 are the core consumers, and their main interest, and they're pushing the travel trail trends, include wellness, which includes, you know, outdoor adventure, health, hiking. They're interested in all the products that we farm here and produce here, the craft drinks, the organic food.

Millennial parents, who are very socially conscious are taking more trips than any other generation, an average of three a year. And right now, they want to be with their kids out in nature. One of the other big markets that we've seen increasing are women travelers, whether it's solo or in groups, and they are a big economic driver in this.

And of course, we can't talk about marketing without acknowledging that the Baby Boomers still are a significant secondary target. Currently, the Bureau's sending out an estimated 800 copies of our map and guide each month, and we're responding daily to calls and email requests for information. And of course, we are always providing help for people who want the perfect Redwood wedding. Today, we're getting a much clearer view of the post-COVID tourism landscape. With many people already vaccinated, data shows a distinct rise in optimism, resulting in increased travel planning, and also booking for the next month.

And the primary groups are including parents traveling with children and our Millennials. And another trend that we've seen have been young tech professionals moving out of cities to work remotely, whether or not they'll actually make rural counties like Humboldt their permanent home is yet to be seen. However, as we all know, house values have increased in Humboldt. And the real estate market is very, very active.

So, we can't do this on our own, and collaboration is the main ingredient to successful marketing. Humboldt is a member of the North Coast Tourism Council. We're a destination marketing partnership between del Norte, Humboldt, Mendo, and Lake. And branded North of Ordinary, this group has increased traffic significantly on all our North of Ordinary platforms over the past month and has been a really successful collaboration, allowing us in Humboldt to leverage our marketing investments. Visit California are great partners. As mentioned previously, we're working with them and participating in their road trip campaigns.

And one of the things this does is it puts Humboldt in front of thousands of people who know the brand, Visit California. And the things about California that Visit California have done to establish, like it being the Golden State, and everybody's beautiful, and we're all fabulously healthy and having fun, those are the branding points that we up here in Humboldt are riding on their strengths. I'm continuing to host media visits and attend virtual travel and trade and media expos. And although attending trade and consumer events is a large part of our normal marketing strategy, I don't think this year we have any plans to attend in-person shows, and the international shows are definitely not in our future, as obviously international travel is going to take a little more -- a little more time to bounce back. In April, we had three amazing articles about Humboldt. Conde Nast Traveler, who I had worked with last year, put out a fabulous article called "Ancient Redwoods, Empty Beaches, and Foraged Fine Dining" on California's North Coast.

The group ON, O-N, who are professional photographers, did -- was -- is one of the most beautiful posts called "Walking Among the Giants". And Backpackers, which is a huge organization, just released "Beaches, Bears, and Redwoods: The Ultimate Guide to California's Lost Coast Trail". So, I serve on the Cal Travel Cannabis Marketing Committee and on the board of the California Adventure District. And before I end, I want to say a word about cannabis. There is a huge and fast growing interest in cannabis tourism, everything from visiting farms to enjoying dinners -- paired dinners.

And Humboldt is very much a trailblazer, apart from having one of the most famous Humboldt brands, which is going to end up being marketed with Appalachians, we have two venues opening soon in the county. As you probably know Papa and Barkley are opening an innovative cannabis retail addition to their manufacturing plant in Eureka. And it will feature a curated dispensary, a tasting room, a luxury day spa, an outdoor food truck, and a consumption lounge. And later on in the year, our friends, who have just purchased the Scotia Hotel, will be opening is as a wellness resort with consumption areas. So, Humboldt is really stepping forwards with this, and cannabis itself is poised to become a major tourism asset and revenue producer.

So, in conclusion, tourism is an integral part of the long-term solution to post-COVID economic recovery. But no longer is tourism a goal in itself, and it can't be. The reality is tourism contributes to building better destinations and experience for locals and visitors alike. The new role for destination marketing and management aligns tourism, community, and economic development.

And it's a shift from promoting communities to building communities, and the quality of life for residents equals the quality of experience for visitors. So, thank you all for your time. I am happy to answer any questions, and I'm always open to hearing everybody's comments and ideas. Thank you. >> Thank you so much, Julie.

That was awesome. I do see some questions in the chat. Cerillo [phonetic] had asked -- let's see. Cerillo had asked, any data for driving from which states, CA or Oregon? I don't know if Cerillo wants to elaborate a little bit more on that, but-- >> Heck, yeah. I'll just share. Julie, I would love more data from understanding the tourism market.

So, are they -- the ones who are driving into our area, how many are from Oregon? How many are from different parts of California and Nevada? Is there a breakdown. and where is that data kept? >> Thank you. That's a really good question.

So, and it's a bit like asking how long is a piece of string? A lot of our data is what is known as anecdotal, which means it's not data. We do know from some of the parks, especially the Humboldt State Park, and the Redwood Parks, when they have camping, they tend to take better details, but there's no one source for that information. We do know there's -- especially a June, July, and August last year, there were a lot of RVs coming from a long way away people, from Florida and the East Coast, especially from at the beginning, areas that didn't have any restrictions.

And they came to California and a lot of them were quite annoyed because we were still tightening up, if you remember, on our restrictions. So, we're still seeing vehicles coming. We see a lot from Washington and Oregon, and they're doing what we presume is the Pacific Coast Trail. We have quite a lot from Utah and as far away as Wisconsin. But mainly, it has been internal California, and, you know, we think that that especially with Visit California doing so much promotion, and that will remain maybe for the drive market. But we are expecting a lot of families.

Parents are going to stick their kids in the car and drive them on a big adventure. And the two things that parents want is somewhere for the kids to be able to connect with nature, and then somewhere to take them to calm them down when they're bored with looking at 300-foot trees. And yes, with Greg's comment, the Bureau is just about to enter into an agreement with a geo fencing company that will be able to track people's cell phone data, which we all have, unfortunately. >> So, may I day something about that question Cerillo had? When I was up in the Reverend National Park, one of the fellows up there that has been working for a long time, he said they come -- everybody comes in in a progression. So, first you have -- and depending when the schools are out, and so you have this movement that comes in from the East Coast, Midwest, and the West Coast to visit the redwoods just with their families. And it's almost -- he said you can almost clockwork -- put it in a clockwork to see what it is and how they come.

So, I just -- he used to run the Aleutian Goose Festival. So, I know him through [inaudible] days. But I just thought that was an interesting way that they could just figure out how long, how many hours, how many days weeks, it would take them to get there. That might be something that someone would like to track.

>> Thank you, Alex. >> Yes, thank you so much. I've got another-- >> Anika, can I just make one other comment? I know that the numbers -- you know, we said that we're down 40%. I have to say that Humboldt and Mendocino are pretty much on a similar track. And they are down equally as we are, but in the third quarter in San Francisco sales tax was down 70%. So, and I don't know if Greg and some of the others on this call will agree with me but being a rural county has had its benefits for us.

And we didn't tank as badly as we thought we were going to. And although as I said, you know, obviously our arts and entertainment, which is huge, you think of all the festivals, and the amazing events that we put on, and we haven't had any income from that, but neither have we been able to support the people who put those on. And I think it's really important that now we can move into having these that, you know, we embrace them so that next year, we're going to have all these fantastic things in person again.

>> Yeah, and Julie's right. We had some jurisdictions that actually came up in their sales tax over the previous year. And you know, I was a doom and gloom person early on, and fortunately, most of the cities, you know, planned for the worst and got much better. And I think we had two great marketing advantages last year.

One was this big map that the state puts out, and the LA Times put it out of all the purple and red counties, except for up in this little corner, there's this little yellow county. And we were, we were one or two steps even better than Mendocino in terms of COVID. So, people were coming here because we were open, and then the other great graphic was the smoke map of California.

And again, you have this entire -- I mean, we had some bad days here, obviously, but you had this entire state enter this giant cloud of smoke, and then you can see this little half circle of green up on the North Coast. And so, I suspect that drove a lot of people here, and as Julie mentioned, you know, we had RVs on the side of the site of, you know, highways and all that just parking and coming here. So, we had a pretty good summer. >> I was interested to hear Tammy talking about the development of trails and feel, not smug, really, but that we are actually doing this already. And I think Humboldt County residents have a really great grasp of the wealth of things that go on here, all the way from our farmers markets, you know, to having a bike trail and things like this. So, you know, I'm very much focused on introducing all these things in a very tempered way to tourists because we don't want what happened at Yellowstone in August last year.

They had to close the park because there was so many people there, and also, there were so many people who were camping for the first time, you know, who were lighting fires in the wrong places. And I mean, a lot of this comes with traveling respectfully, and it's not just respect for Mother Earth, but it's also respect for each other. And that's really a strong thing, and I think we're doing a relatively good job of it. >> All right.

I had a couple more questions in the chat for you, Julie, if that's okay. Let's see. Where'd you go? My gosh. I love how much is going on in the chat.

I'm so glad you guys are getting so much out of this because I sure am. Okay. Well, okay, Cerillo also asked Julie, how -- is there anything that we can do to help the redwoods? And then also, another one, it was -- Ashley asked, are the Instagram and Facebook handles for the Bureau Visit Humboldt? >> No. And in fact, they will on my -- you know what?

I will put them in the chat, and I will also put in the chat links to these three amazing articles. It's interesting seeing what people from outside pick up when they come here. So, I will do that right now if I can work out how to do that and chew gum at the same time. >> I'm seeing something about the about Northern Lights. Is that is that a festival that happens up here that I was not aware of? >> Yes, I believe it takes -- it's in the southern part -- near Richardson Grove. >> [Inaudible] probably not a [inaudible] or a EDM fan.

That's a big [Inaudible] -- big one down there at Cooks Valley. >> Here's Leanne in southern Humboldt, and I'm going to get up on my soapbox, Anika. With all due respect, the county does not stop at Fortuna. Sorry. I like -- I have to --

it's my job to get on my Southern Humboldt soapbox regularly to advocate for the amazing things that we have going on down here at this end of the county. And to answer your question directly, Northern Nights is a relatively new festival. I think it's been going on about five years now. And as Greg says, it is kind of a raver, dance club, musical scenes in the redwoods right at the county line.

The property actually straddles both Humboldt and Mendocino County. And if I'm to believe rumors, we should be looking for some festivals happening this summer down there too. So, yeah, there's a lot down here [inaudible]. So, please, I will remind you regularly that we're here. >> Please do.

Please do. Please continue to do that. My gosh, that's awesome. I had no idea about that.

I think that -- where was -- there was one other question. Okay. Looks like I have a question from -- question, do [ Inaudible ] collaborate with the ZWH offer? >> Yeah, that's me. >> Okay. Thank you so much. >> Julie, you heard me just real briefly this morning. >> Yes, hi, Maggie.

>> I really want to reach out to you. It's -- you've been on my list. I really appreciate what you've described in your approach and that it really is the, you know, more progressive way is it's not just promotion. It's also community building and economic development hand in hand with you. And in that mix are your environmental organizations because the visitor sentiment of the target populations that are coming up here because of our natural beauty and wellness and everything, those are our people.

And we -- you know, I have heard from folks, not frequently, but there is a thing that we can now make our websites so appealing and so inviting and so beautiful as HSU does, that sometimes when new faculty or students arrive, or visitors come to the county, they're a bit disappoin

2021-09-26 11:11

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