Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Melea Hames from Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association to talk about how they're using CrowdRiff in their recovery plans.
We discussed their "when business returns to normal" blog series, road trip itineraries throughout the area, how they're using CrowdRiff, and what other DMOs can do to prepare as places open up to regional travel.
You can the full webinar here, or read through my conversation with Melea below.
Here are a few key takeaways:
Using CrowdRiff to highlight partners along the way
- The “when business returns to usual” blog series covers four areas of the region. Each post includes a short itinerary using CrowdRiff galleries to showcase stops along the way.
Pulling in content using hashtags and Connect
- North Alabama pulls content in from popular local hashtags, as well as from their partners using Connect. They also have a local ambassador program that helps fuel their content library.
Focus on regions and traveler areas of interest
- Melea suggests other destinations use road trip itineraries focused on regions. Other DMOs can tease out the specifics of that region to appeal to certain travelers. For example, the northwest area of North Alabama has many recording studios and an overall "music vibe."
What's North Alabama’s overall approach to the recovery?
Melea Hames: One thing we’ve started doing is our membership person has been going around taking videos [on her iPhone] of some of the local hotels. She’s capturing how they’re taking all the necessary precautions and being safe and sanitary.
We’re getting ready to put those out so people know what to expect, and that they feel safe and confident when they return.
Another approach we’ve taken is to create things to do, like road trips. That leads us into the next point with our blog post series of road trips for when people can travel again.
What is the “when business returns to usual” blog series?
MH: Before the shelter-in-place order, we were still able to go to parks and things like that. In the beginning, I went out and made some Facebook videos to promote our outdoor locations, because we have so many beautiful outdoor locations here.
Then I did a contest where we gave away t-shirts asking people to guess where we were. And I’d share the places that were open of course.
And then we had our shelter-in-place order and it was kind of like, okay, so now what? Even though some of those other locations were open, I didn’t feel comfortable just out-right promoting those locations.
I divided our region into four areas: northwest, a north, south, and a northeast section. I focused on each area in each blog post.
So I thought, you know, what people want right now is hope. They want to know that it's not always going to be this way, and things to do when we're able to travel again.
I’d heard the line “when business returns to usual” so I thought of creating a blog post series of road trips. And that way, like I said, people are ready to go when they're able to.
We're a 16 county region, so I divided our region into four areas: northwest, a north, south, and a northeast section. I focused on each area in each blog post, and I would highlight several of the attractions, even the ones that were closed at the time. Of course, at the bottom I put that a lot of these locations are closed and to check before you travel.
How are you using CrowdRiff galleries?
MH: Well, I love CrowdRiff. I love that we have CrowdRiff because even before all of this, it added so much. If you do a blog post and you have several attractions, I don't wanna load it with too many pictures because it will slow it down.
With CrowdRiff galleries, it gives me the option to add so many more pictures. And you think, okay, which picture best represents this location or attraction? Sometimes you want that iconic shot that people are used to.
We also have a lot of North Alabama ambassadors who are a step beyond photographers. They're like artists with their work. They create those artsy shots. With CrowdRiff, I can use all of them. I can get a variety of things that people will see when they go and visit those locations.
We also have a lot of North Alabama ambassadors who are a step beyond photographers. They're like artists with their work. They create those artsy shots. With CrowdRiff, I can use all of them. I get a variety of things that people will see when they go and visit every location.
How are you sourcing this content using CrowdRiff?
MH: It's a mix. The main thing I use is our hashtag, which is #VisitNorthAL, so that pulls in a lot.
And of course our North Alabama ambassadors know to use our hashtag and to tag us so that pulls all of their content in.
Some of the DMOs that are in our area like Huntsville, they have a great hashtag #ihearthsv that has a huge following, so we follow that one to get great content as well.
We also have several other attractions that we use Connect to gather content from.
What advice do you have for other DMOs looking to attract drive markets?
MH: I’d recommend creating little road trips.
For example, I have a friend, and we were talking the other day about her big vacation that couldn’t happen this year. But she said instead of taking that one big vacation, we're probably going to take three or four trips now. She’s looking for places she can go locally.
Road trips, weekend trips or even day trips are perfect for that. You can create little itineraries for people to go and do.
Our northwest section is known as our music area. It has all the recording studios that are world famous and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, so it has that music vibe. Try themed road trips, so they’re ready for people to just pull up and explore.
Photo credit: @DiegoJimenez