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Destination marketing hits the trade show trail.

Last week Mike Mors, Member Services Manager for Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism, and I did a recap of our first quarter trade show participation and proceeded to update the calendar for the rest of the year. We were both shocked when the spreadsheet expanded into a second page!

There are several traditional leisure travel shows that the tourism bureau has attended for years. And every year we add one or two more until they, too, become a regular part of our marketing strategy.

The number of consumer marketing events on our calendar has grown to include broad-based destination travel and recreation trade shows, along with events that showcase niche markets like water sports, golf, and military travel. In an age of increasingly technology-based communication, it appears there continues to be a significant (and growing) market for face-to-face conversation.

During the first quarter of 2015, BWCT had a promotional presence at the NY Times Travel & Adventure Show, Vancouver Golf & Travel Show, The LA Times Travel Show, Seattle Golf & Travel Show, Seattle Bike Expo, Two Nation Vacation in Portland and Seattle, The Great Outdoor Adventure Show in Vancouver, The Vancouver Bike Show, NW Recreation Expo, Spring Business Showcase, and the Zoomer Show in Vancouver.

These 1-4 day events put the tourism bureau and our partners face-to-face with hundreds of thousands of people who have been to Whatcom County in the past and who might need a reminder about the great things to do and see in order to prompt their next return visit.

They also provide BWCT a cost-effective opportunity to introduce Bellingham and surrounding Whatcom County to those attendees who have little or no familiarity with our destination.

How do we know it's a good investment of our time and resources? Analytics of course.

Each trade show is immediately followed by a "spike" in online traffic and information requests from that show's host city and surrounding region. For example, last year, we participated in a Bay Area travel show for the first time. Targeted ad placement and media relations support was scheduled to coincide with the trade show exposure. The next month (and for several months afterward) San Francisco rose to the top 5 in our online feeder market.

Hundreds of attendees at each show "opt-in" to our monthly e-newsletter, The Traveler, which showcases attractions, events, activities and what's new in and around Bellingham. The open rate of our e-newsletters continues to hover around 25-27%--an astonishingly high rate--with very few un-subscribers.

We could not participate in all of these trade shows without the cooperation of our business and hospitality partners. They help off-set the booth expenses, provide getaway packages and door prizes to entice attendees to our booth, and send their own staff to help us work the booth. We are extremely grateful for their support.

Although first quarter is the busiest portion of our trade show calendar, we have several more between now and the end of the year--including an Outdoor Adventure Expo at Whidbey Island Naval Base, a Military Travel Fair in Tacoma, an H20 Adventure Show in Seattle, Here & There Travel Show in Portland, and the West Coast Women's Show in Abbotsford.

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Title Annotation:BE in Bellingham Whatcom County: one destination, many adventures
Date:Apr 1, 2015
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