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VOL. 122 | NO. 48 | Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Happy Marriage

Memphis and Tunica visitors bureaus pat selves on back for job well done

By Rosalind Guy

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SHOOTING THE BREEZE: Guests bask in their leisure time on the verandah at Tunica RiverPark. -- Photo Courtesy Of The Tunica Convention And Visitors Bureau

More than 10 years ago, the Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau attempted to forge a partnership with the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau.

But back then, even with the emergence of casinos, or perhaps because of them, Tunica wasn't necessarily attractive as a tourist destination.

But as the years passed and Tunica's tourism revenue grew to more than $3 billion since the first casinos opened there in 1992, the area came to be viewed as more viable. And as such, the time seemed ripe for the two CVBs to work on a mutual tourism campaign.

Now that the results of that campaign have been tallied, officials on both sides deem their effort a success.

"The final numbers are in from the 'Memphis-Tunica Winning Campaign,' showing the campaign hit the right chord with visitors," said a joint release issued last week.

Basking in the glow

Last October, the Tunica and Memphis CVBs launched "Memphis-Tunica - The Winning Combination," a campaign geared toward travelers who come to Memphis or Tunica and end up visiting the other city.

Both groups contributed $250,000 apiece for the $500,000 campaign, which went toward the creation of print, television and Internet advertisements that aired in nearby Birmingham and Huntsville, Ala.

"We utilized 30-second television spots, we did a Sunday newspaper full-page insert and we had outdoor billboards put up in key areas," said Webster Franklin, president and CEO of the Tunica CVB.

The campaign ran from Oct. 1 to Dec. 17. Through the ads, potential tourists were directed to www.memphistunica.com for the chance to win a trip to the area.

Over the course of the campaign, 13,765 people registered on the site. Of those, 7,968 opted to receive additional information about the Memphis/Tunica area on a consistent basis via e-mail, Franklin said. And 9,932 requested visitors' guides.

Linkage, digital and otherwise

The system did not allow for duplicated entries, said Tunica CVB public relations manager Claire Pittman.

Besides Web site hits, the results of the campaign were measured using Neilsen Ratings and contest entries. Neilsen Ratings are measurement systems that determine the audience size and composition of television programming.

Franklin said the CVBs attempted to collaborate back in the late 1990s, "and I don't think either Memphis or Tunica was ready for that."

"I don't think we'd grown enough as one destination," he added. "But when the opening of Interstate 69 happened in October ... we thought that there has never been a more perfect time to show the two areas as one. Because they really were being linked on a much easier and much safer route down I-69."

He said it definitely turned out to be a win-win situation for both cities.

Added Kevin Kane, president and CEO of the Memphis CVB: "History was made as the (two CVBs) launched their first-ever campaign together. And it was very successful."

The two areas also work well as one destination because the tourist attractions in each complement rather than compete, Franklin said.

"The rise of Tunica has happened in the last 15 years," Franklin added. "At the same time, you've had the Redbirds, AutoZone Park happen and you've had the rebirth of Beale Street. ... The Memphis tourism product has grown at the same time Tunica has. ... For every person that comes to Tunica to see a show or gamble at one of the casinos, more than likely if they're spending the night here, Memphis is going to get something out of that as well," he said. "And for every convention that's booked in Memphis, Tunica is going to see some business out of that."

And Kane agreed the growth that has taken place in both cities also made the campaign possible this time around.

"There has been a lot of growth in Memphis the past 10 years," Kane wrote in an e-mail, "especially with the revitalization to the Downtown and surrounding areas. We've added new attractions, new hotels and new restaurants to our infrastructure ... all of which play an important role in the recent success of the Memphis/Tunica campaign."

A symbiotic relationship

Last week, when representatives from both CVBs sat down to discuss the results of the joint venture, they agreed it is an effort that should be repeated.

Each CVB, of course, has the primary responsibility of marketing its city independently.

"We have agreed to sit down later this summer and try to formalize another market where we might go to continue this campaign," Franklin said. "It's not something we look at as a one-time event, but something that we hope to more structurally formalize in the coming months."

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