The Chamber’s tourism arm, Visit North Central Massachusetts (VNCM), has developed its annual marketing plan to promote the region. As a result of the pandemic, VNCM plans to strategically shift its marketing resources in FY2021 to focus on helping our regional economy recover quickly and effectively from the disruption. The restaurants, retailers, hoteliers, farms and attractions that comprise our local visitor industry have been among the hardest hit by the disruption caused by this health crisis and will take the longest to recover. Marketing strategies in FY2021 will focus on Shop/Eat/Stay/Explore Local promotional efforts that encourage companies and residents to support local businesses during the recovery. Marketing efforts will also target the regional drive market within a 250-mile radius, including key markets like Boston, Southern Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island highlighting our advantages and safety. Data and research from our economic development planning process suggests that we are well positioned to potentially benefit from the new environment and changing consumer demands, given our rural character, affordability and agricultural heritage. The plan was approved by the Board of Directors and submitted to the Mass Office of Travel and Tourism as part of our annual tourism grant submission. We also presented it to members during the Summer to gather input. It was well received by both MOTT and our members, however we are still waiting on state tourism funding in the state budget.
As part of this marketing/recovery plan, we focused our efforts in Q1 with updating our VisitNorthCentral.com website and social media platforms for the “new normal” including developing new locally focused content, developing new messaging, optimizing our site for new searches and utilizing digital and social media channels to promote, connect and engage with consumers. Messaging and themes have been centered around re-opening and supporting our businesses. “When it Matters Most” is being utilized as an overarching theme. It is important that our target audience understands why “spending local” is now more important than ever. Member-focused contests and promotions have also been utilized to drive engagement with messaging focused on the attributes of the region that appeal most to visitors, such as our safety as rural region and abundance of family-oriented activities. As we move into the traditionally busy Fall season and Q2, we plan to ramp up our paid digital advertising to promote the region and local businesses. We plan to focus primarily on digital media for now as it provides the greatest flexibility and allows us to adapt quickly if needed. As we move into the Spring, we will start to leverage some print advertising. Our media buys will be dependent on the final receipt of our grant funding from the state.
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 crisis, VNCM’s participation in several travel shows were cancelled including the Discover New England Summit in Maine, the Dream Destinations Showcase in Western Mass, and a major bridal expo in September. We will resume these business development activities that play an important role in promoting the region to groups once it is safe to do so.