by George Spohr, Journal Staff
James Walter is sick of the hit-and-runs.
People hit up the Central Leatherstocking Region for an attraction or two, then they run back out of the area.
“The ultimate goal is to put heads in beds — to get people to stay overnight, to get people to actually stay here, spend money here, visit different attractions,” says Walter, executive director of the nonprofit Madison County Tourism.
Walter is one of eight tourism promotion agents working with the ABC Creative Group in Syracuse to remake the group’s marketing campaign. They’re turning to a new concept called “TripKits,” which package attractions and properties together by theme in an effort to keep visitors here.
For example, a “Hall of Fame” TripKit directs visitors to the five Halls of Fame in the Central Leatherstocking Region, which the state describes as an eight-cluster area including Schoharie, Madison, Cooperstown/Otsego, Oneida, Montgomery, Greater Binghamton, Herkimer, and Chenango.
“We’ll start you in Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame, then send you to Canastota, then to Oneida,” Walter says in explaining the concept. “The goal of these TripKits is you can plan a four- or five-day vacation and never have to leave Central Leatherstocking.”
The TripKits concept will appear in print, television, and Internet venues, explains Amy L. Roberts, public-relations director and account manager at the ABC Creative Group. Other themed TripKits include golfing, hunting/fishing, family adventures, and antiquing.
“All of their past marketing campaigns have been unsuccessful in tying together and marketing all of the attractions and properties in the region,” Roberts says. “This is partly due to the fact that the region is so large and diverse. The idea of packaging and marketing the region as a whole seems simple, but it is much more than ‘pretty pictures.’”
“We had been wandering around, not doing a heck of a lot, doing a lot of piecemeal marketing,” Walter says. “We decided this past winter to really engage the services of a marketing firm to guide us a little better.”
The $130,000, two-year campaign is funded by each of the eight clusters, a large chunk of the group’s $80,000 annual budget. Each of the eight clusters chips in $5,000 per year, and the state matches each $5,000 contribution with $5,000 of its own.
“I think it’s safe to say it’s the boldest idea that we’ve gone with, doing these TripKits,” Walter says. “In the past, it’s very much been, ‘Let’s run some ads in a couple different markets here, a couple different markets there.’ Some worked, some didn’t work.” Walter says this is the first time pre-planned itineraries have been planned for individual travelers.