Innovation in Tourism - Case Study: Santee Cooper Country, SC Using SaaS Content

How this five-county destination marketing organization in South Carolina is taking advantage of dynamic content to promote their restaurants, events and more through ITI Digital's automated SaaS




VISION & LEADERSHIP


Mary Shriner’s years leading the Santee Cooper Country’s destination marketing efforts clearly show her commitment and dedication in implementing cutting edge digital content strategies to accomplish the tourism goals for the region.


The vision for growing Santee’s tourism industry and building sustainable economic growth led Shriner to implement dynamic web and social media content strategies to engage target audiences, increase the profile of her stakeholders, and maximize available resources.


This strategy change influenced and stimulated travel to Santee Cooper Country. Under Shriner’s leadership, Santee Cooper Country has seen significant strides in community building and product development by creating travel inspired itineraries. These initiatives contributed to growth in economic development through tourism within the region.


OVERVIEW


Over the past three years, Santee Cooper Country’s tourism leadership has taken a digital leap. The organization elected to move from content management to experience management. They integrated innovative, dynamic content software solutions that deliver new dynamic content daily and with a fresh new web design, they engage visitors and promote travel to the destination.


Mary Shriner and her team chose innovation. The new website features user-generated content, their stakeholders’ Facebook pages and posts, interactive maps, a library of itineraries with GPS capability, the ability for visitors to create custom trips and the option to explore daily events. The DMO site takes advantage of automation, displaying curated content within a geo range and delivered from popular APIs, such as Facebook, Google, Eventbrite, and Eventful.


According to Mary Shriner, “This content strategy powered by the ImGoing DXM is not only saving staff time but it is engaging visitors and empowering our business partners to amplify their marketing message through our website.”


“AUTOMATION SAVES STAFF TIME AND EMPOWERS MY COMMUNITY”.

IMPACT & RESULTS


The DXM (destination experience management) dashboard allows staff to efficiently manage the visitor experience and works in tandem with traditional CMS. A new digital era arrived, bringing a wealth of opportunities. An online destination experience was born.


Shriner and her team’s efforts spearheading this new platform led to significant improvements in the site’s performance. We measured site engagement, lead generation, impressions, and time on page. All of these factors contributed to Santee Cooper Country’s growth achievements as a result of the adoption of new content strategies.


Before DXM Events, Places & Trip Planner Strategy

(Jan 2016 - December 2017)

• 3,030 Page Views

• 78.51% Bounce Rate


After Implementing DXM Events, Places & Trip Planner Strategy

(Jan 2018 - January 2020)



INNOVATION & CREATIVITY


The DXM software application, named ImGoing, automatically aggregates and delivers quality destinations, events, and things to do for prospective travelers to engage and interact in a simple, user-friendly interface. ImGoing’s trip planner allows visitors to plan detailed itineraries catered to their own interests and promotes pre-planned trip ideas for travelers. Features include the travel time, description of the attraction, downloadable PDF, and social share. With the mobile first approach, visitors can take advantage of GPS to navigate around the itinerary.


ImGoing allows this DMO to promote content from partners within the community who need effective destination marketing strategies that will contribute to business growth while satisfying site visitor needs with interactive and engaging content. These tactics save management time, allowing Santee Cooper Country’s staff to utilize their time promoting the destination, engaging local partners, and assisting visitors.


The delivery, innovative. The message, creative.

The program was divided into three modules, each with respective pages on the santeecoopercountry.org website.


Automated Events Calendar


We entered a new era for managing and publishing events. The SaaS automatically aggregates local events from Eventbrite, Eventful, and Facebook. Santee’s calendar is, to its essence, a daily view of all happenings in and around the region.




Facebook Places


Using software automation and Facebook’s content API, this page displays all Facebook Business pages of tourism-relevant local businesses in the region. Visitors to the page encounter all the listings they need, including hotels, attractions, places to eat, marinas, golf courses, shops - but with a twist: the information displayed is 100% submitted by the business owners via their Facebook page about section and it includes their Facebook posts, updated daily.


The idea to include daily Facebook posts of local restaurants, attractions, and more tourism-relevant locations becomes the core of a new website experience. It’s no surprise engagement numbers on the page have increased since launch. It’s human nature in our digital age to want the latest, authentic and publicly endorsed information. Santee’s Facebook Places accomplishes just that. In addition, partners now have participation in visitor engagement and, most importantly, an opportunity to share their own message.


Santee is leading the industry when it comes to connecting effective traditional marketing strategies through a new,

automated and innovative website approach.




Trip Planner & Itinerary Builder


Connecting the Automated Events Calendar and the Facebook Places, Santee published the Trip Planner & Suggested Itineraries with three main goals:

• Influence travel to the destination

• Allow visitors to explore, plan and build their trip to Santee Cooper Country with real-time information

• Provide indecisive visitors an enticing collection of pre-built itineraries, ranging from the region must-do’s to unique topics, such as “What to Do on a Rainy Day.”


This creative strategy elevates content to its highest value. Unlimited custom itineraries can be created with the click of a button. Santee Cooper’s DMO staff can regularly publish seasonally suggested itineraries that are GPS-enabled for mobile users in-destination and print-friendly for those planning ahead.



COMMUNITY SERVICE


Shriner and her team worked directly with local businesses to educate, advise, and incentivize participation by educating restaurants, venues, and attractions how to submit events and best promote their businesses through the new channels of ImGoing.


The key objective was to educate their partners about the new community-driven Calendar of Events and Facebook Places, focusing on the common objective to attract more visitors. A branded and dedicated education material was developed in a 4-page PDF on “How To” promote their business in partnership with the CVB.


Partners began to understand the impact of promoting their businesses online, either with an event, or updating posts on their Facebook page.


These tactics increased the visibility of their businesses and offered new opportunities for growth. A true partnership between the Santee Cooper Country and their community.


The DMO’s Visitor Center manager, Jane Powell said the following:

“Our partnerships with local businesses cultivated thriving relationships, new and old in our community. Most of these partners simply can’t afford to have their own websites, so this content strategy helps them tell their story and share their unique message. It also allows them to be an active partner in the region’s tourism marketing efforts. At the Visitor Center, we direct people to the itineraries page when they ask for information. This way we can continue to generate interest and travel attractions across our region. Our Wildlife Refuge, for example, is a 45-minute drive from our center. But if they’re visiting they need to know what’s around. The ImGoing service solves this challenge by displaying nearby attractions.”

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