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Tourism conference has greater significance in '09: the industry's bottom line is no small matter in New Hampshire.

In a chaotic economic environment for tourism, is flat the new up?

Surviving and thriving in a challenging economy will be high on the agenda at the 33rd annual Governor's Conference on Tourism set for May 5 and 6 at Waterville Valley.

"I think the industry is cautiously optimistic about business for the coming year," said Alice DeSouza, director of the state Division of Travel & Tourism Development.

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DeSouza said this year's conference, which is sponsored by the New Hampshire Travel Council, will be especially timely for tourism-related businesses. "The conference will be a great opportunity to provide information to help people market smarter and use their dollars wisely."

DeSouza said that New Hampshire has a "strong product brand" to sell, but tourist-dependent businesses in the state are confronting a new phenomenon--flat or minimal growth this year may be a sign of success.

"Flat is the new up," DeSouza said. "In this economy, we're comfortable to be flat with the rooms and meals tax. We're only down one and one-half percent over the first eight months of fiscal year 2009."

One of the focuses of the conference will be on new Intemet social networking tools, such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, which are revolutionizing the way businesses communicate with familiar and potential customers.

"We can't market the way we used to," DeSouza said. In particular, she said her department is fine-tuning its Web site and is branching out onto Twitter and Flickr.

"Social marketing is going to be an eye-opener to conference attendees unfamiliar with this emerging platform," said Chris Nicoli, a spokesman for Canobie Lake Park in Salem and a Travel Council member. "My opinion is that any steps an organization can take this year to increase their knowledge on branding, promotion and marketing will ultimately benefit their bottom line."

Job creator

The bottom line of tourism is no small matter in New Hampshire, where it's the second-largest job-creating sector.

In the 2008 fiscal year, the state reported an estimated 67,000 full- and part-time jobs and $4.458 billion in economic activity was generated by direct spending by millions of travelers to the state. For the state budget, it meant $132.6 million in meals and rooms tax revenue.

According to state figures, the return on investment in state tourism marketing has proven to be strong--every $1 spent generated $8.84 in state and local taxes and fees.

Conference attendees will have plenty, of opportunities to learn about the Division of Travel and Tourism's 10-year marketing plan and how to partner with the state and regional tourism agencies to extend the reach of an individual business's marketing budget, along with presentations on "marketing mix," online marketing, social marketing and brand-building.

The conference also will feature 15-minute one-on-one sessions on public relations, brochure design, Web design and online marketing. The two main speakers at the conference will be travel marketing expert Peter Yesawich, who will deliver the keynote address, and Dr. Peter Yarlow, an expert in crafting memorable guest experiences, who will give the closing address.

"These are two excellent speakers who will give us new ideas and practices from outside the state," said Maryanne Adams, who heads the Travel and Tourism/Hotel Administration Department at the New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord.

Adams said the state could be helped by an influx of bargain-seeking travelers who won't be taking longer or overseas trips but instead will focus closer to home.

"I've always felt that the tourist industry in New Hampshire was fairly recession-proof," said Adams, also a Travel Council member. "What could work against us is weather, but this past winter we did very well."

At Canobie Lake Park, Nicoli said officials are "optimistic" about the upcoming season.

Canobie has launched a partnership with the Pepsi-Cola Corp. "and will be launching a substantial branding and marketing initiative throughout New England," he said.

"Consumers in New England are closely watching their own spending now, which will cause them to seek out economical ways to spread out their discretionary income," Nicoli said. "We feel that bringing this level of quality, family entertainment to our area will assist in the decision-making of guests who are tom between a fly-away vacation and more frequent vacations closer to home."

Fed agency sees summer gas prices lower this year

The federal Energy Information Administration anticipates that gas prices will be more than $1.50 lower this summer than last year, which should be welcome news not only to New Hampshire motorists but the state's tourism industry.

According to the agency, during the summer driving season--April 1 to Sept. 30-gasoline retail prices are projected to average $2.23 per gallon this summer, down from $3.81 per gallon last summer.

The monthly average gasoline price is expected to peak at about $2.30 per gallon late this summer, according to the agency, which added the caveat that fuel prices are notoriously volatile.

The agency also said diesel prices are expected to stay low as well. They averaged $4.37 per gallon last summer, the agency said, projecting an average of $2.27 during the summer,

In New Hampshire, gas prices averaged $ 3.726 over the April-September period last year, as calculated by NHBR based on data from the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning.

The highest price was recorded on July 15 2008, at $4.023 in the Manchester area and $4.047 in Portsmouth, as reported by the American Automobile Association,

Average diesel prices during the summer were $4.500, with a high of $4.795 in Manchester on July 17, 2008 and $4.892 in Portsmouth on July 28, 2008.

The Energy Information Administration also said it pates the price of oil to about $ 52 per barrel this summer--"significantly. lower than the $116 per barrel average last summer."

On April 16, AAA reported the average price of a gallon of regular gas in Manchester was $1.934 and $1.941 in Portsmouth, A gallon of diesel is averaging $ 2.286 in Manchester and $2316 in Portsmouth.

More info on the tourism conference

A complete schedule of lectures, workshops and presentations for the 33rd Annual Governor's Conference on Tourism is available at NHTravelCouncil.org.

Registration for the full conference is $195 for-members of the New Hampshire Travel Council and $295 for non-members (rates will increase after April 28.) There are one-day rates for a reduced fee.

Overnight accommodations are offered at the Golden Eagle Lodge and the Town Square Condominiums on a per-unit basis; and it is expected that many attendees will share lodging.
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Title Annotation:TOURISM; travel branding and marketing conferences
Author:Mccord, Michael
Publication:New Hampshire Business Review
Article Type:Conference news
Geographic Code:1U1NH
Date:Apr 24, 2009
Words:1093
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