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Archive for Saturday, April 24, 2004

Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau devotes advertising campaign to Web site

April 24, 2004

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Lawrence tourism officials are using innovative methods to bring visitors to the city.

The Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau launched a new advertising campaign in February dedicated to its Web site.

"Online marketing is where it's at right now," bureau director Judy Billings said. "We're one of only a few cities our size that is doing this right now."

At the Web site, potential visitors can book hotels online and sign up for various specialty packages. Packages include the "Romantic Retreat," which includes dinner at Pachamama's and a two-night stay at the Ramada Inn. Other packages revolve around golf, Kansas University, culture, family and the arts -- to name a few. The visitors can pick out a package that suits them and plan the entire trip at the bureau's Web site.



To book a room online in Lawrence, go to www.visitlawrence.com/visitor/placetostay.php

"It's a one-stop shop," said Brandy Ernzen, the bureau's assistant marketing manager.

Electronic marketing helps the bureau get the most for its advertising dollars while still promoting the city in an effectual manner.

"There's no one big thing to market in Lawrence," Billings said. "We have a wide variety of attractions. Electronic marketing allows us to segment people and is more economical for us."

An electronic database allows officials to e-mail potential visitors about upcoming attractions that might interest them.

"If someone is interested in the arts, we can e-mail them about a new art show that is opening in Lawrence," Ernzen said. "We know they are interested because they have filled out a survey telling us what they want to know about."

Ernzen is in charge of keeping the Web site updated and sending out so-called "e-mail blasts." The blasts focused on people based on their interests. Ernzen said the bureau hoped to send e-mails to interested users once a month.

Hotels are receiving a boost from the online venture.

"The hotels are really getting extra exposure with this Web site," Billings said. "We're marketing for them when we advertise it because we really push online booking on the site."

Besides online marketing, tourism officials are still trying to attract motorcoach operators to come to Lawrence.

Earlier this week, approximately 30 motorcoach operators were scheduled to visit Lawrence as part of a familiarization tour put on by the Kansas Department of Commerce's Travel and Tourism Division.

Kelli Hilliard, the division's group tour manager, said the group would tour the Dole Institute of Politics, visit the bleeding heritage historical areas and have a chuck wagon supper at Rob Phillips' cattle ranch north of Lawrence.

The stop in Lawrence is part of a weeklong tour of Kansas.

"The familiarization tours make (the motorcoach operators) more aware of what we have to offer," Hilliard said. "They're always looking for something new and unusual."

Phillips, also manager of Eldridge Hotel in downtown Lawrence, said motorcoach tours could bring thousands of dollars into Lawrence.

"The potential is unlimited," Phillips said. "We have to have a compelling reason for them to come here, though."

Phillips' ranch offers visitors a chance to hear about the history of the American cowboy and enjoy western entertainment.

Hilliard said most people spent $100 a day while on a motorcoach tour. Most motorcoaches have about 40 people, so that could bring $4,000 into a community for one overnight stay.

Lawrence has some obstacles to overcome if it wants to attract a lot of motorcoach tours, Phillips said. Many of the restaurants cannot accommodate 40 people at a time in addition to their regular clientele. Also, many of the people who go on motorcoach tours are elderly and require certain conveniences such as level surfaces and frequent bathroom stops.

"We're just getting started with this," Phillips said.

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