Consultant challenges CVB: develop better focus

October 22, 2013 11:13:13 AM

Nathan Gregory - [email protected]


The Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors revisited a proposed strategic destination plan Monday during its monthly meeting and will likely vote on adopting it next month. 


Don Anderson, executive partner with Indiana-based Destination Consultancy Group, has been working with board members to adopt a long-term set of objectives with community input since he first appeared before the CVB during a retreat in July. 


He pulled no punches during Monday, his third appearance before the board. 


Anderson identified challenges as well as marketing, redevelopment and communication initiatives for directors to consider. 


Among the challenges included: the city and county's low identifiable destination brand awareness; nondescript city center district; lack of a targeted and measurable destination marketing and sales strategy; and an unfocused CVB governance model. 


"This board and this community has never had a long-term plan. I think by having this plan, it should guide a lot of our discussion. Board discussions, in most cases, is always about the future," he said. "Our intent here is to bring additional benefits to our community through tourism. Tourism can build communities, but we need to be out there because there's a lot of competition and there's others that are doing this as well." 


He said over the next three years and beyond, Columbus would be "much better as a destination" if the CVB addresses those challenges. 


He said while the CVB and business partners need to consider people who are staying in Columbus on business, they also need to focus more on people traveling through the area and give them reason to stop in Columbus by showing an ability to cater to diverse interests.  


"The leisure is the 'want' and there are many choices, so if it's a want, we better have something enticing for them ... We certainly want to be a much more year-round destination. That means 365 days a year, I've got to get cultural heritage here," he said. "It's not just about a drive-in market. We want our airport to be expanded and used to its best advantage. We're proposing that you would have a uniquely interpreted and entertaining cultural heritage trail." 


He likened such a trail to a "necklace with pearls or gems." 


"We're trying to tie all your cultural assets," he said. "Certainly there's some key attractions and there's events that relate to it, but that's an easier way for a potential visitor to understand that you do have a lot here. But, they can't see that if you have list after list after list. You're going to have to see that story." 


He also recommended continuing to work toward a "vibrant" downtown commercial district and the visitors bureau implement a mission of supporting a segmented marketing strategy, co-op promotional programs and continuous pursuit of grant opportunities and other support. 


The board unanimously approved having Anderson work with the CVB on its marketing budget for a $3,500 fee. Executive director Nancy Carpenter said his work would help "tie the budget to results" of CVB events and festivals. 


In other business, the board:  


n Heard a certification report from Golden Triangle Development Link CEO Joe Max Higgins. Carpenter said the CVB budgets $200,000 each year for the Link's Chamber of Commerce component for partnership on tourism and recreation. Higgins explained to the board how the Link has used that funding, which included working with the Main Street Association on Sounds of Summer and its continuous work to grow Columbus Young Professionals; 


n Approved project clearance reports for Artesia Days, Southside Blues Festival and Crawford Days. Artesia Days and Southside Blues Festival will receive $4,000 in second-installment funding, while Crawford Days will receive $3,250.

Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.