By Garrett Dvorkin
Herald Staff Reporter
VERNON TOWNSHIP — The Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau invited county and municipal officials, as well as members of the media to attend a presentation of its new marketing strategy at the Movies at Meadville on Tuesday.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, while would be tourists and Crawford County residents were forced to stay inside and not gather, the visitors bureau took its foot off of marketing all that the county has to offer.
When Executive Director Victoria Soff took over the position in September, she had her eyes set on how the county, and the tourism-focused businesses, could get back going strong.
The bureau signed a contract with Meadville-based Bull Moose Marketing in hopes of getting tourists back to it’s sites. Soff simplified by saying she wanted to “make sure what we are doing is impactful.”
As attendees started to fill the theater, with pop and popcorn in hand, they saw the phrase “square deal” plastered across the large cinema screen. The presentation covered business and marketing goals, relevant tourism trends, current disposition, strategic initiatives, objective and intent and timeline and successes.
While explaining their short-term marketing goals, Soff emphasized the need for impactful marketing efforts, especially during a pandemic when budgets can be tight. Soff said that her organization is committed to reducing unnecessary spending. She said she wants to create a clear marketing strategy, and hopes that the partnership with Bull Moose can help the county achieve just that.
A point that she emphasized is the two types of tourists. While Soff said that the bureau is looking to get visitors from areas like Ohio, New York, Pittsburgh and other metropolitan areas, she is also focused on regional visitors.
“All of us can be a local tourist,” she said. Soff herself said that she wants to be a local tourist in Titusville, and has wanted to stay at the Caboose Motel.
For a vacation, “You don’t always have to get far away,” she said.
Soff was followed on the podium by several members of Bull Moose Marketing who explained how the firm plans to help the bureau and the county as a whole.
Ron Maddox, co-owner of Bull Moose, explained recent trends associated with travel and tourism, and how that applies to Crawford County. He said that overall, people are feeling more and more confident in relation to travel and leisure.
To help put these trends into context with what the county and the various tourist organizations need, he explained a SWOT that his firm had done. A SWOT examines the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that face the county.
Some strengths were lakes, parks and trails, heritage tourism, and location and accessibility. Some of the county’s weaknesses were hotel space and boutique options, poor signage and way finding and no formalized county brand identity.
Next to speak was fellow owner of Bull Moose Josh Sherretts. He focused on one area that they believe the county can really take advantage of — heritage tourism.
Sherretts explained that Crawford County does not have a Disney World or one attraction that can draw in visitors for the sole purpose of spending time at that location. Instead, Crawford County needs to work on developing tourism that uses cultural and natural assets to promote the county, or as Sherretts put it himself, “experiences that represent authenticity ... things that make a community really what it is.”
Once the county has identified where heritage tourism could thrive, which they have done, the next step is to identify who will appreciate what the county has to offer — a target audience.
In the presentation, a list of those who might enjoy the county were identified as activity seekers, nature lovers, those with culinary interests, price sensitivity, exploration hungry, amongst others.
The presentation then touched on how to reach those who have been identified.
“How do we get people to realize the great stuff we have here,” said Sherretts. He talked about improving both the bureau’s digital and physical presence to better reach those who may be interested.
No matter what the plan is, although a complex one is clearly being complied, Soff told those in attendance that “I am here with energy.”
She said that through Bull Moose, the bureau now understands what they need to work on and assured those in attendance that her office has already started.
In attendance was Crawford County Commissioner Christopher Soff. Soff was one of the government officials in attendance that the bureau hopes can take lessons from the presentation and use them to promote the county.
Speaking of both the bureau and Bull Moose, Commissioner Soff said, “I am encouraged by their partnership in promoting the wonderful benefits this county has to offer, things many of us take for granted.”
The bureau asks that anyone who wishes to learn more about the square deal marketing strategy contact the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau for more information.
Dvorkin can be reached by email at Gdvorkin@titusvilleherald.com.