Tourism Harrison has stayed the course of their five-year plan, and it’s clearly paying off.
During a recent Village of Harrison Hot Springs Council meeting, Tourism Harrison reviewed their strategy for the village over the course of 2019.
Tourism Harrison is currently in the middle of their most recent five-year plan, which is slated for an update in 2022 as administered by Destination B.C.. Destination B.C. is a provincial tourism advocate corporation responsible for among other things the famed “Super, Natural British Columbia” advertising campaign.
The current objectives of the five-year plan include increasing social media followings by 10 per cent per year, to collaborate closely with tourism-based businesses across the region and to provide excellent visitor service, demonstrated by a visitor satisfaction score of 85 per cent or above.
Tourism Harrison executive director Robert Reyerse said their marketing approach is based on the various stages of the vacation experience – dreaming, planning, buying, doing and sharing. This ranges from advertising on the side of busses going through Vancouver to visitors guides, social media campaigns and beyond.
“We want people to be thinking about Harrison,” Reyerse told the council. “We use a variety of things just to remind them there’s a lot of places people can go, and we want them to know that Harrison is a great place to go.”
One of the more important updates to Tourism Harrison’s strategy is ongoing optimization of the website for mobile use. Given the prominence of mobile internet usage as time goes on, the importance of updating websites to be readable on tablets and phones is crucial for success.
“When I first started working for Tourism Harrison, 85 per cent of [web] traffic was from desktops,” Reyerse said. “Now it’s completely reversed. Fifty-five per cent of our traffic comes from mobile phones, 25 per cent comes from tablets and only 20 per cent comes from desktops. Your website has to look good on the phone.”
Tourism Harrison has worked to harness the ever-increasing power of social media as well.
“User-generated content is the number one way promoting your destinations these days,” Reyerse told the council. “It’s the most authentic way of promoting your destination, so we’re heavily into Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.”
Reyerse said Tourism Harrison has rounded up more than 100,000 images from users who have come to Harrison Hot Springs, shared with credit on their various social media channels.
These changes among other factors has caused web traffic to Tourism Harrison’s website to grow each year, rising from 189,850 visits in 2014 to 305,012 visits in 2019. The biggest growth was between 2015 with 209,110 visitors to 2016 with 268,072 visitors a 28 per cent growth.
Parallel to this, hotel occupancy grew year after year after bottoming out in 2011 due to the financial crisis. Reyerse said the most interesting jump to him was between 2017 and 2018 in which average hotel occupancy rose four per cent due to the Lights by the Lake festival.
“That was much more than a $500,000 impact on the economy at a time where we’re typically very slow,” Reyerse said.
The next regular Village of Harrison Hot Springs Council meeting is scheduled for Mar 16 at 7 p.m. at the Village Hall, 495 Hot Springs Road.