SOUTH FORK— At the South Fork Town Board meeting on Feb. 27, the Board of Trustees adopted resolution 18-04 establishing a marketing plan to increase tourism in South Fork.
The resolution marked the completion of several months of work done by Town Administrator Dan Hicks and two other individuals, which has now reached the implementation stage. Hicks recently explained the details of the plan and the steps being taken by the town to market the area in an affordable plan.
Over the last several years, the town has not staffed a marketing position, due to a decision made by the board in 2015 but has continued marketing efforts of advertising and hosting events to attract visitors. “With the town’s limited resources, rather than hire an additional staff member with a marketing background which would cost about $60,000 per year, we utilized our existing resources to create the marketing plan,” said Hicks.
Through the combined efforts of Hicks, Visitor Center Director Mark Teders and B4 Studio owner Kara Brittain, the group was able to create a long-term strategic plan, utilizing existing marketable attributes of the surrounding area and the strengths of the town to form a plan to attract visitors and tourists to stay in South Fork. “We created a marketing team comprised of the resources we already had at our fingertips, rather than pay for someone to come in and do it for us,” said Hicks.
The basis of the new marketing plan is a study produced by the Colorado Tourism Office called the Tourism Roadmap, which shows that tourists spending multiple nights in a hotel, cabin, house or RV park are the tourists that spend the most money during their visit. Hicks stated, “We will utilize South Fork’s rivers, trails, the Silver Thread Byway, nearby ski resort and golf course, a number and variety of places to stay and a centralized location to attract visitors and increase tourism. Our marketing campaign will target interest groups of fishing, hiking, ATV/Jeep users, biking, skiing and other target areas to bring people here to stay.” The marketing theme for the plan is “Make South Fork Your Basecamp for Adventure.”
A brand for South Fork was created six years ago and will continue to be used on publications and in the visitor guide that is printed once a year. The town currently advertises in 12 different publications throughout the central states, in the local paper, on the town’s website and on three outlying websites.
The group looked at the challenges of the existing marketing efforts, identifying areas that need improvement. The first challenge was the existing website that was originally created in 2013. “We needed to fix the website, so it works properly on cell phones. Our goal is that the website becomes a main content provider of information on activities, maps and itineraries to tourists and then funnel these website visitors to the section in the website for lodging,” said Hicks. A live webcam was added to the website which is a popular tactic to attract more website visitors, and according to Hicks attracted 7,000 additional visitors in the first month.
Another challenge for the town has been trying to get marketing funding from the Rio Grande Tourism Board to help with costs associated with advertising. The town is currently in negotiations with the county on increasing funding it receives from the tourism board, since the South Fork area generates the majority of lodging tax that creates the fund allocated by the tourism board.
Hicks is also seeking funding for the visitor center to hire additional staff so the center can be open more hours during the summer. “Mark is the only one there at the moment and if he is gone, the center is closed. We hope to be able to hire a seasonal worker in order to have the center open seven days a week during summer months,” said Hicks.
Teders will be working on social media advertising and email blasts, generating a YouTube channel and growing the website content. “We really want to push lodging and the fact that South Fork is a central location for everything a vacationer to the mountains is looking for and an exceptional value when compared to the high cost experience in other in Colorado locations,” said Hicks.
“South Fork has all of the attributes a visitor wants to experience during a vacation in the mountains. It is a perfect basecamp for adventure,” finished Hicks.
The marketing plan is a work in progress and will be changed on a regular basis to fit the needs of the town and to enhance the strategy of bringing people to the area.