The secret is out. Each year more people are discovering the Eastern Shore of Virginia’s charm. The Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission has worked hard to share what makes the Eastern Shore so special with new audiences and in 2017 saw huge gains.
Seven digital platforms market the Eastern Shore to visitors, expanded from two in 2013. This broad approach allows the tourism commission to talk to a wide variety of visitors across the web.
The primary platform is its website. In 2012 33,000 unique visitors viewed esvatourism.org. In 2017, the website drew 236,000 unique visitors, an increase of 621 percent. In 2017, 75 percent of visitors to esvatourism.org had never visited the site before.
The top pages on esvatourism.org were Eat, Outside, Events, Stay and Do. Visits to the Stay page are a good indicator that users intend to travel to Virginia’s Eastern Shore. That page had 30,000 unique visits in 2017.
The Eastern Shore Tourism Commission also uses a feature story platform, blog.esvatourism.org, to show visitors all of the unique things they can see and do in the region. Started in 2015 with just 3,000 views, the blog’s 25 posts received 37,000 views in 2017.
Phenomenal growth in social media marketing is key to reaching younger travelers.
In 2013 the region’s Facebook page, Visit Eastern Shore, Virginia, had 800 likes. At the end of 2017, it had 22,620. In 2017 the tourism commission posted 250 times on the Visit Eastern Shore, Virginia Facebook page and had 3.1 million impressions. In 2015 the tourism commission created an Instagram account, VisitESVA, in 2017 that account had 1,724 likes.
The tourism commission reaches out directly to visitors through a quarterly email that markets the region by pushing visitors to the feature story blog and website. That email has an annual distribution of 20,000. Consumers opt in to receive that email and it has an open rate of 28 percent, eight percent above the industry average.
As word of Virginia’s Eastern Shore spreads, the media has taken notice. In 2017, 129 media outlets featured the Eastern Shore, including “Garden and Gun”, “Country Living”, “The Washingtonian” and “TripAdvisor”. Such stories are the result of marketing and PR efforts by the tourism commission, the Virginia Tourism Corporation and individual towns and businesses on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
Eastern Shore tourism also works directly with writers to host trips here. In 2017 four travel writers visited the region. Especially important are bloggers who tap into younger audiences, like Annette White of Bucket List Journey. She spent five days on the Eastern Shore in June of 2017. She has 93,000 Instagram followers, 20,000 Facebook likes and her blog gets over 500,000 monthly views. She wrote a blog about outdoorsy things to do on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
Virginia’s Eastern Shore was the state’s fastest-growing tourism region for three of the last four years.
In 2016 visitors to the Eastern Shore spent $273.6 million at restaurants, B&BS, hotels, campgrounds, shops, galleries, museums, attractions and on other travel-related items. This translates to an average of $749,797 a day streaming into businesses from Cape Charles to Chincoteague.
In addition to spending directly at local businesses, travelers contribute to the local tax base by paying sales, meals and lodging tax, which flows directly into local towns and counties. Tourism-related taxes on the Eastern Shore grew at the fastest clip statewide, bringing in $7.5 million, a whopping 7.2 percent growth over 2015 – and an increase of 31 percent since 2010.
The Eastern Shore also took the top spot in state tax receipts, payroll and employment, other key indicators of a tourism economy’s growth.
A key marketing strategy is shoulder season growth. The shoulder season is anytime that falls outside the peak Memorial Day to Labor Day season.
Eastern Shore tourism’s fall oyster campaign centered around a blog post titled “Annual Fests for Foodies, Virginia’s Eastern Shore”. That blog saw a 243 percent increase in traffic in 2017 compared to the previous year.
The Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission is currently working on launching a new tourism website for the region to promote Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
The Virginia Tourism Corporation compiles its annual economic impact data from the U.S. Travel Association. The information is based on domestic visitor spending (travelers from within the United States) from per-person trips taken 50 miles or more away from home. Detailed explanations of how the study is conducted and data by locality are available onwww.vatc.org.
The Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission is funded by lodging tax that visitors pay when they visit the region. The ESVATC manages the website www.esvatourism.org, with comprehensive tourism-related listings and events for visitors; produces an annual visitor guide; manages a content publishing platform; implements an integrated strategic marketing program; and manages the Southern Gateway Welcome Center at the CBBT, all at no cost to local residents on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.