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Rioux: Good relationships are the best advertising

SCVB director Tonia Rioux. She said that Sitkans rolled out a "not just a red carpet -- but a magic carpet -- for last October's travel industry convention.

SCVB director Tonia Rioux. She said that Sitkans rolled out a “not just a red carpet — but a magic carpet — for last October’s travel industry convention.” (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

The Sitka Convention and Visitors Bureau still relies on ad placements to attract visitors to the community, but it’s also receiving more and more referrals through social media.

SCVB director Tonia Rioux told the Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday that Facebook was now her third largest source for inquiries about the community. There are over 13,000 people following and sharing the SCVB’s posts on Facebook — roughly double the number at the beginning of 2013.

In her presentation, Rioux emphasized that relationships — in whatever form — were an important tool for marketing a destination like Sitka. Hosting the Alaska Travel Industry Association convention last October sent a message that Sitka is capable of more than what many in the industry expected, and that the connections people made within the community can be converted into advertising value.

Here are some of her remarks on the power of word-of-mouth.

We’re a destination marketing organization. They expect us to say, Sitka’s amazing! You should come here! That’s our job, right? But when other people are recommending Sitka, when other people say what a special place this is and have amazing experiences, and tell other people about it, that’s where the value really lies. So this year the SCVB is going to be focusing on number 1, communications outside of Sitka and sparking interest. A more focused communication stream with media and travel writers. Because travel writers have the ability to spark interest in a different kind of way than we can. When there’s a feature article about Sitka in a magazine, it’s a recommendation from a writer who came here. It’s their opinion. So that’s extremely valuable. And the conversion rate, if you have a two-page feature publication on your destination in a major magazine, that could equate to $20,000-40,000 of advertising, if you were to purchase that as an ad. It’s a really big bang for our buck.

Besides increasing Sitka’s reach on social media last year, Rioux said the SCVB helped bring more actual people. There were 15 groups who held meetings in 2013, with a total of 1,425 people, and an estimated economic impact of $1.5-million.

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