GILLETTE — No one knows when the coronavirus pandemic will end and life gets back to normal, but when it happens Campbell County needs to be prepared.
Tourism is not a social distancing industry, said Kurt Box, accounts supervisor for AdBay.com, a Wyoming-based advertising firm that works with the local visitors center. The tourism industry benefits greatly from thousands of people going to one destination.
But with the pandemic shutting nearly everything down, now is not the time to stop marketing, Box said. This will come to an end and an “all-clear” order will be given, and Wyoming has to be ready.
That was the message Box had for participants last week in a Zoom webinar hosted by Energy Capital Economic Development on effective marketing strategies during the pandemic.
Jessica Seders, executive director of Gillette Main Street and the Campbell County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said her organizations have been putting in a lot of work to get ready for when things do open back up.
People are encouraged to buy gift cards to local businesses, and Seders said she’s heard of some who’ve spent more than $500 on gift cards.
Franci Edgerly of ITI Digital said now is “not the time to go dark.”
“This is the time to stay connected with your audience,” she said. “Things will bounce back, but it is going to take a little bit longer.”
She recommends businesses create videos to share online, whether it’s a virtual tour, a video log of what goes on behind the scenes, a cooking class or a workout session.
People are on social media more than ever now because there isn’t much else to do, Seders said, so there’s no better time to promote your business through social media.
“What do you have to offer? Let’s get creative in highlighting what you do,” Seders said.
Box said Campbell County should be prepared for two outcomes. The first is if the all clear is given in late spring or early summer.
If that happens, people are going to want to go on a vacation because they’ve spent the last several weeks cooped up, Box said.
They won’t want to travel to a foreign country or highly populated city, and they won’t want to fly, he added. They’ll most likely drive their families somewhere, and that somewhere could be Wyoming.
“We do think that when this clears, Wyoming is one of the states people are going to want to come visit,” Seders said.
People are going to want those wide open spaces as opposed to close quarters, Edgerly said. It puts Wyoming in a great position when the time comes.
The less desirable outcome, but one that cannot be ignored, is if the pandemic lasts throughout the summer and life doesn’t go back to normal until tourism season is over.
“We want to be creating content that addresses that as well,” Box said. “Take tourism to the people.”
People are thinking about vacations now, he said, adding that when the pandemic started picking up steam, so did traffic on the visitor center’s online ads.
In January and February, the click-through rates on the ads — the percentage of people who saw the ads and clicked on them — were about 0.4%, which was pretty typical for that time of year.
In March, things started picking up. From March 8-14, the click-through rate was 1.3%. The next week, it was 1.56%, then 1.74% the next week. The last three days of March, the rate was 2.17%, or more than five times higher than in January and February.
That’s why AdBay is working on a new marketing campaign for the visitors center with the slogan, “All clear, come here.”
“When the world is ready, we’re waiting with open arms,” he said.