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Branding Southwest coast regional tourism

Tourism operators attended a pre-tourism strategy luncheon meeting presented by Tourism Southwest last Monday, June 19 in Port aux Basques. A follow up luncheon will be held in October. – René J. Roy / Wreckhouse Press

By Jaymie L. White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter – with files from René J. Roy

PORT AUX BASQUES — A Tourism Southwest luncheon took place on Jun. 19 at Hotel-Port aux Basques, which not only celebrated numerous businesses and organizations within the tourism sector, but also acted as an information session. “We have one of these at the beginning of our tourism season, and hopefully we’ll get a little bit of insight from any of you that want to get up and talk a little bit about your business,” said Cathy Lomond with Tourism Southwest. “We do one in the fall, so after your summer, we can bring you all back together and find out the good, the bad and the ugly of our season and that sort of thing.” Mark Felix, Product Development Officer with Tourism Southwest, led the presentation on the organization, who they are and what they do. “Tourism Southwest is branding the Southwest coast. That’s our new brand. We just finished the marketing strategy last year and our thing is ‘your secret adventure awaits.’ That’s our, sort of, by-line, and if any one of you that’s in tourism want to use that, there’s no copyright, said Felix. “The board is nine levy collectors in Southwest Newfoundland that voluntarily charge a 3 per cent levy, and then that levy goes in a trust fund to the credit union in Codroy Valley, and then Tourism Southwest takes that funds and markets the region to promote it. That’s the concept. The vision is that we need all of you. Tourism Southwest is just one organization. We need all of you in tourism to work together to build a stronger industry for this area, and that’s what we hope to do by having these sessions at the beginning of our season.” The follow up session will be held in October. “(In October) we will update you with what’s going on and we also want to hear from you what you’re doing and what your issues are because it might change some of the things that we’re doing. So your secret adventure awaits, our brand, that’s what we want to brand ourselves as, uncomplicated, natural and genuine,” said Felix. “That’s what we’re hoping you’re going to do, use all this stuff from our marketing strategy that we did last year, so we all get the same brand and we’re all promoting the same thing.” This year, the annual budget for Tourism Southwest is $123,000. “This year it’s a little higher because we’re doing a whole new website for the Southwest coast. This amount is what our organization is spending to promote this region and the Stephenville area as well. We go to trade shows. We had people in Calgary, Montreal, Toronto, St. John’s and we also do one in the province. I represented tourism in the Southwest down at the Expo in St. John’s. It’s a good opportunity to get people that are already here as stay vacationers,” said Felix. “They come to Gros Morne, but when they see the videos of this area, they want to come here. So I say that we’ll just add a couple of days onto your Gros Morne trip or on your way over to the mainland. It’s an easy sell when you’re in St. John’s.” There are multiple methods Tourism Southwest uses in order to attract tourists to the region. “We do three Downhome (magazine) ads and that’s just a lure ad to bring people in to encourage them to stay in the area, and we recently got into videos because that’s the new thing,” said Felix. “So we’re spending a lot of money in videos. We’re hoping when it’s finalized we’re going to have it on a Google site, and anyone who wants to can take that and put it on their Facebook page or their website to promote their own business.” The goal for Tourism Southwest is to have numerous, short, 15 second ads for Facebook as well. “Our goal is to have 15 to 20 of these videos done this summer. That’s the goal. We’re in draft form right now and we’re at about 10. So by, hopefully, the middle of July, and our goal is to have one of these posted per week on our Tourism Southwest Facebook page,” said Felix. “There’s no copyright on any of this stuff. In order to promote tourism, we need to work together. That’s why we come together before the tourism season and that’s why we’ll come together in October at the end of the season to find out how things went. What did we see? Do we see a lot of people from Quebec? Okay, then we should continue going to the Montreal trade show. If we don’t see anybody from Quebec, then probably we shouldn’t go there. We should go somewhere else. So that’s the kind of feedback we look for in the fall.” There’s also a development product fund initiative. “The biggest development coming to this area is going to be the Starlight Trail,” said Felix. “We’ve been putting money aside to give Starlight Trail a chance to put, hopefully, a destination trail that will match anything in Gros Morne.” There were also numerous presentations and awards handed out this season. The Stephenville Historical Society was awarded the non-profit tourism award. A certificate of recognition and a one-time grant of $1,000.00 was awarded to Rose Blanche Lighthouse Committee in recognition of outstanding volunteer efforts, and a $500.00 cheque was presented to George Anderson, Chairperson of the Codroy Valley Come Home Year Committee. The overall aim of Tourism Southwest is to ensure that when people make trips to the province, that they don’t miss the sights the Southwest coast has to offer. “When they’re coming here, instead of rushing off to Gros Morne say, ‘well, are you going to Bay St. George?’ And when they’re in Bay St. George on their way back, we say, ‘why don’t you go down to Port aux Basques,’” said Felix. “So it’s sharing and networking amongst ourselves. That’s what’s going to keep tourists here.”

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