Aug. 17—Money from the COVID relief fund will be a major asset for promoting London and Laurel County.
During a special-called meeting last week, the co-directors of the London-Laurel County Tourism Commission discussed applying for funding from ARPA (the federal American Rescue Plan Act) to better promote the area.
LLCTC co-directors Kim Collier and Kelly Burton said they had prepared a breakdown of how the funding can be used. Burton added that the county tourism commission would be required to match 10% of the funds. According to the breakdown of funding, Laurel County would receive $251,889, leaving the tourism commission responsible for $25,189. The funds must be used to promote new events, not existing ones.
The areas where the funding could be spent were broken down into focusing on specific marketing objectives — attending travel shows to promote London as a tourist destination; posting events on the webpage daily; utilizing Internet digital marketing such as streaming video, audio, geofencing, podcasts, banner ads and other forms of digital advertising; creating videos; using TV ads to promote local events and attractions; and using print media such as magazines.
Burton explained that software is available that will assist in discovering where travelers are going and using information on local attractions to lure them to the area.
Although she attends many trade shows, Burton said extending participation from the current shows to other fields would be an option to increase interest in visiting the London/Laurel area. County tourism chair Tom Handy said he thought some areas would not be feasible for such marketing, with Burton and Collier agreeing to keep focus on areas where travelers would be in this area.
"I wouldn't go to Colorado or somewhere to recruit people to come here," Burton said. "But people from Chicago and Detroit come through London going to Florida."
Making London a stopping point for an overnight stay —or longer — would involve getting the word out about the many attractions in the area. Those include adventure, history, outdoor attractions, festivals, hiking and boating and other features of the area.
Burton added that she had attended boat shows in Kentucky and other states that had been quite successful in promoting Laurel Lake and outdoor activities such as hiking and rafting. She mentioned trade shows in Boston; Paducah; Erie, Pa.; Highland, Ind.; and Greenville, S.C. as new shows to attend. The trade shows focus on boating, fishing, hiking and other outdoor adventures where vendors from various areas showcase the drawings of their communities.
Currently, magazine ads have proven successful in catching the attention of readers. Outdoor- and adventure-themed ads have generated inquiries in the past, and LLCTC directors follow up with those.
But advanced technology is a major asset to promoting and tracking inquiries about the area, which prompted Burton and Collier to apply for the grant.
The county tourism commission, which is funded by the transient tax from hotel/motel revenues, and the city tourism commission, which is funded by the local restaurant tax, work together on many projects, Burton added, easing the financial burden for both entities.
Board members for the LLCTC voted to apply for the funding with no "nay" votes.