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Tempting tourists with island treasures

Marketer hopes to grow tourism on Whidbey

Instead of telling tourists to "do nothing," Whidbey visitors are being invited to play pirate.

Well, sort of. The new tourism marketing slogan is "Find what you treasure on Whidbey and Camano Islands," and replaces the previous message, "Do nothing here."

The new slogan is one of many tourist-tempting efforts put together by a 16-member joint tourism committee to attract visitors to Whidbey and Camano islands.

To support the tourism campaign RoseAnn Alspektor, Island County tourism marketing coordinator, is making a call out to South Whidbey residents and business owners to help her spread the word about the hidden treasures that can be found on Whidbey.

"If you are a business that relies on tourism, let me know about you," Alspektor said.

"There's glass studios where people are doing extraordinary things, incredible art, quilters, weavers, not to mention the entertainment field," she said.

Assisting locals

Alspektor can help all kinds of businesses take advantage of marketing opportunities and spread the word about their island offerings to media outlets, such as travel magazines.

The tourism coordinator is also looking for photography, video and "off the beaten path" stories from local residents.

"People that visit and live here have great stories to tell," Alspektor said. "There is so much to discover here it's just unbelievable."

Alspektor has been a Whidbey Island resident herself since 1997, and said she still learns a new story about the island every time she goes out.

Many of Whidbey's attractions are like hidden treasures.

Although the rural character is a large part of the island's charm, the lack of signage can make it difficult for tourists to find what's out here.

"We have to come up with clever ways for tourists to discover we're here," Alspektor said.

A "treasure map" highlighting tourist-destinations is one of the tools that has been created through tourism campaigns. A television commercial recently aired on KING 5, KONG TV and NW Cable News. Alspektor is also in the process of making a new travel brochure.

Alspektor often attends tourism-related events in Washington, and will be participating in the New York Media Blitz. She is also planning ahead for the 2010 Olympics that will be held in Vancouver, BC.

A better Web

An ongoing tourism marketing project is the revamping of the Island County tourism Web site to better reflect what the Whidbey has to offer.

"The Web site's going to continue to evolve and focus on compelling storytelling," Alspektor said.

She is also looking to create a master calendar on the site that would encourage islanders to search for and plan their events.

This could possibly remedy a current challenge Alspektor has noticed; the clustering of events that target the same audience and all take place at the same time.

This causes lodging places to become overbooked and long ferry lines on some weekends, while other weekends, places to stay are left almost totally open.

"There's no reason for feast or famine in tourism, because we have things going on all year round," Alspektor said.

"One thing that would really help in terms of spreading out events all year round is a master calendar that links events to lodging and services," she said.

Businesses will be able to check the calendar to see what's going on before they decide when to hold an event.

"And," Alspektor said, "If I knew easily what was going on, then I would be able to plan some marketing themes around that."

Finding funds

The marketing efforts are made possible by the 2 Percent Joint Tourism Fund, which is managed by a 16-member Joint Tourism Committee made up of government and community representatives. The tourism fund budget for 2006 is $159,537.

The Joint Tourism Fund is one of two programs funded by sales taxes on lodging. The other program is the basic 2 Percent Hotel-Motel Fund, which is distributed to various organizations through an annual application and award process.

So far, the joint tourism group's new marketing efforts have received positive feedback, Alspektor said.

Positive pitch

The new slogan is finding receptive ears.

"Find what you treasure works for locals, as well as people from far away," Alspektor said.

She said a downside to the previous campaign -- "Do nothing here" -- was that it appealed only to a narrow market of frenzied, stressed-out people looking to escape the bustle of the mainland.

Many locals didn't buy into that campaign because they thought the island had much more to offer than what the slogan suggested.

"The new slogan should be welcomed by locals," Alspektor said. "People do feel that we treasure where we live."

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