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Tourism council promotes C’dale on a shoe-string

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The town of Carbondale — all its history and diversity, outdoor recreation, arts and culture — is promoted through the Tourism Council, a tentacle under the jellyfish auspices of the Chamber of Commerce.

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The Tourism Council of Carbondale (TCC) recently unveiled its summer marketing campaign to encompass the health and well-being of its locals and visitors with the overall objective of showing potential tourists why it is a good idea to come stay and play here, spend some quality time and help fill the sales tax coffers so merchants are successful, downtown is vibrant and the community at large thrives.

There is plenty of Carbondale to share and possibly grow when there’s a specific marketing plan in mind. The TCC is on it and has been since 2003 albeit with limited funds.

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The plan

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In 2010, thanks to a $10,000 grant from the town trustees, the TCC reorganized and updated the www.carbondale.com website to reflect its newly launched and still viable “Base Camp for Adventure” brand. The website is the main marketing tool used by the TCC. It is the magnet that attracts locals and tourists alike, along with a variety of business interests. From the website, a strong social media presence has also emerged. The TCC uses its Facebook page (www.facebook.com/carbondale), for example, to stage contests and other participant-oriented awareness opportunities like the current “125 Reasons to Visit Carbondale” tie-in with the town’s 125th anniversary.

“That same year (2010), after an extensive RFP process, the TCC selected two contractors to help form its brand messaging, create seasonal campaigns and reach out to potential visitors,” said Andrea Stewart, director of the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce.

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Maura Masters at M3 Marketing was tapped to implement strategic public relations and Tom Kenyon at Blue Tent Marketing handles the daily mechanics and graphic design of web development. Stewart fills out the three-legged stool of TCC account management by overseeing the advertising placement among other responsibilities.

With a limited budget, derived mostly from a 2 percent lodging tax approved by Carbondale voters in November 2003 to be “used primarily for the promotion, development and marketing of tourism in Carbondale,” the TCC considers the many reasons visitors should come here and consciously plans its seasonal campaign accordingly — using many non-traditional forms of marketing intended to stretch the budget while achieving defined objectives.

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Under the general “Base Camp” umbrella, last summer the theme was biking. This past winter the focus was Carbondale’s relatively warm micro-climate as a “hot spot.”  This summer, the TCC invites Carbondale visitors to come relax, rejuvenate and recharge while enjoying exceptional outdoor recreation, delicious dining and artistic attractions.

Measuring results

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For many years, Bob Fullerton (from Roaring Fork Properties) chaired the TCC. Jared Ettelson (from the Village Smithy restaurant) will soon transition into that position. Fullerton and Ettelson are joined by seven other local business owners or employees on the volunteer TCC committee, and meet monthly to review strategy and discuss budget goals. Town trustees Elizabeth Murphy and Frosty Merriott serve as the trustee-to-chamber liaisons, and are often involved in TCC conversations. The TCC committee also oversees the contractors and staff, and approves any and all expenditures proposed in the marketing strategies.

“With the chamber reaching out to the Roaring Fork Valley, the TCC directs its advertising and public relations work in a broader circle,” said Stewart. Target markets included in TCC advertising include the Front Range, Vail Valley and Grand Valley. The TCC casts an even wider net regionally and nationally with public relations efforts and placement in publications such as Sunset, Outside, AAA Encompass and Elevation Outdoor magazines, and The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and New York Times newspapers, plus a myriad of online blog and other electronic coverage.

The TCC also partners with its neighboring chambers of commerce, the Colorado Tourism Office and other groups when planning press tours and larger special events (oftentimes supplement funded by the Carbondale Board of Trustees) such as the Ride the Rockies last summer and the recent Bicycle Tour of Colorado.

The effectiveness of the marketing campaigns and partnerships is measured by monthly sales tax revenue reported by the town finance department, Facebook impressions, web traffic and press stories highlighting Carbondale.

In addition to advertising, public relations and event promotions, the TCC also has a presence at the weekly summer Farmer’s Market, monthly First Friday events, and maintains the Highway 82 scenic overlook. This work is achieved from the 2 percent lodging tax plus a minimal amount of earned revenue through T-shirt and other merchandise sales.

The TCC conscientiously and deliberately pinpoints the value and experience of Carbondale on a wide map so visitors and valley-wide residents can appreciate all the reasons locals live and enjoy the beauty here.

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