Promotion to track tourist dollars

June 23, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

Nearly a half-million "Catch Your Breath Bills" will start circulating in Carroll County next month.

The bills, about the size of a dollar, are redeemable at many county businesses for a variety of benefits -- from discounts to desserts.

"The individual sites will decide on the giveaways," said Joan Meekins, director of the Carroll County Office of Tourism, which is co-sponsoring the promotion with the Tourism Advisory Council.

The promotion's purpose is twofold: Organizers hope the bills will attract business and give them a means to track tourist dollars.

As visitors exchange the bills, business owners will mark them with the patron's ZIP code. The council will use that information to track where visitors come from and target areas it is not reaching.

"We want to bring new visitors and business here," Ms. Meekins said. "This tracking will help us determine where our promotions are working and where we need to focus."

The council will mail 20,000 envelopes with 25 bills each to businesses in surrounding counties, state tourism agencies and distribution booths. The promotion will continue through the end of the year.

"The bills will all be collected and used as a demographic to show the impact of tourism on the county," Ms. Meekins said. "It also will help us with advance planning of our events and will provide information to all our sites."

The county office is "supporting but not driving" the effort, she said. The main thrust comes from the Tourism Advisory Council, a group of tourism leaders and businesses that meets monthly.

"The council hits the whole gamut of county businesses and seeks the broadest perspective from everyone," said council member Harry Colson, marketing specialist for Union National Bank.

Since the council formed about 18 months ago, members have been looking for a way to illustrate tourism's impact on the community, said Ms. Meekins, also a council member.

Catch Your Breath might be the answer, she said. With information gathered, Carroll County, the first to try the promotion, might have a better chance at state tourism dollars to market its events.

"We can take this information to the state and show them where our traffic comes from," Ms. Meekins said. "We are hopeful the state sees the commitment and dedication Carroll County has to tourism. We believe in tourism and we can work with the big leagues."

Mr. Colson calls the tracking device the first step of many that "will get tourism rolling here and help raise awareness for county tourism with our legislators."

He promises businesses that "the exposure far outweighs the cost."

The council is still soliciting participants in the promotion, which will cost each business $165. The business name, address and phone number will appear alongside a county map on the Catch Your Breath savings guide that will accompany the bills.

Information: 1-800-272-1933.

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