Change with times, consultant tells South Shore tourism bureau
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent June 22, 2013 11:48PM
Updated: June 23, 2013 6:34PM
HAMMOND — The business of tourism is changing and tourism bureaus will have to adapt if they plan on making it in a new digital era, says one industry expert.
Bill Geist with Zeitgeist Consulting of Madison, Wis., appeared before the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority Board last week to discuss the future of destination marketing and how the authority should move forward with a new strategic plan.
Zeitgeist is a firm specializing in strategic planning, governance, marketing and legislative issues for convention and visitor bureaus, tourism-focused chambers of commerce, economic development organizations and communities, according to the website.
The company has worked with more than 150 different entities since it was founded in 1995, however the SSCVA was its first client. Zeitgeist has created the authorities strategic plan every three years for the past 18, said Speros Batistatos, president and CEO of the SSCVA.
Geist said in today’s digital world a tourism bureau has to consider changing its current membership model of participation and become all-inclusive in order to compete with internet sites like TripAdvisor, Google and Yelp.
“In a lot of destinations I know these guys are becoming the new convention and visitors bureaus. We’ve got big competition. We have to figure out what we do best,” he said.
The virtual tourist can access one of those sites to find every restaurant, for example, in an area. If that same virtual tourist goes to visitors’ bureau site, they only find the restaurant listings for members and become irrelevant as a one-stop shop for tourists because they know better.
A tourism bureau must be able to offer the same information but use its ability to know the region in detail to help the tourist better plan their trip instead of a simple listing.
“They are not good at putting together the experience,” Geist said.
Board members approved moving forward with a new strategic plan and have scheduled a two-day retreat in July instead of their regular meeting to hammer out the details and get the plan ready for approval.