Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Brochure Swap 2010

Springtime in Nebraska for the tourism industry means gearing up for the busiest tourist season that runs Memorial Day through Labor Day. Some of the smaller Nebraska attractions aren't open all year around, so for them, they are busy getting ready to open. For most it means working hard to get the word out about their wonderful place to visit.

One of the springtime rites of passage is the annual Brochure Swap hosted by the Nebraska Travel Association. The location this year was Hastings, in one of the buildings at the Adams County Fairgrounds. All communities should be so lucky as to have such a great facility.

By the time these pictures were taken, we had already completed our "swapping", as had many other people, so you'll just have to imagine the scene a half hour earlier with about three times the number of people.


Attractions, events, hotels, Bed and Breakfasts, recreations, wineries, visitor promotion organizations... you name it, if they depend on visitors for their livelihood, they are bringing their promotional material to Brochure Swap to be distributed throughout the state. It is a fabulous opportunity to learn about the amazing things happening across Nebraska. Swapping consists of two components. First, placing brochures on the long tables for individual attractions and Conventions and Visitors Bureaus to pick up. Second, placing brochures on the pallets to be delivered to the various staffed Vacation Information Centers along Interstate 80 across Nebraska.

As a CVB, we can bring not only our official Visitor Guide, but also any brochures in which we invest promotional fund dollars to produce. For us this means the Lincoln County Historical Museum, Rail Fest, Childrens Museum, Cody Park Railroad Museum, and the 20th Century Veterans Memorial. All of the brochures have to be bundled in 50's and 25's, and clearly marked with the Visitor Center they are slated for. This means thousands of brochures for a CVB like ours. Preparing for Brochure Swap is no small feat!
But Brochure Swap also means gathering up information that we will distribute in our office as well as our Visitor Information Caboose located right along Interstate 80. We provide staff for that location from the Friday before Memorial Day to the Tuesday following Labor Day. Seven days a week, 9am to 6pm. Not only do they sell our area, but they encourage visitors just traveling through to stop elsewhere in the state.
Tourism is a partnership like that. We understand that it isn't a zero sum game. If a visitor isn't interested in what is offered in the North Platte area, we still win if they stop off in Kearney to visit the Great Platte River Road Archway Museum, the Stuhr Museum in Grand Island, the Quilt Center in Lincoln or the Strategic Air Command Museum in Ashland. A rising tide floats all the boats!
After all of the swapping is done, volunteers from the Nebraska Division of Travel and Tourism and members of the Nebraska Travel Association all pitch in to pack and wrap the pallets so the transport company can just pull up to them and load them on their trucks. It is definitely a cooperative effort... some more cooperative than others! Brochure Swap happened on a Tuesday, and the pallets would be delivered to their respective Visitor Information Centers on Wednesday, to open on Thursday.
If you have ever traveled across Nebraska on Interstate 80 (I know... I know... It's long and flat, but not quite the 750 miles long that Captain Andy Hillstrand of the FV/Time Bandit from the Discovery television series Deadliest Catch claimed when he told me he was familiar with Nebraska. Ha! I knew I would find a way to work that little tidbit into my blog sometime, somehow! In fact, Nebraska is only 450 miles long from east to west. But I digress...), you know that Nebraska maintains one of the finest series of rest areas anywhere in the country.

They are frequently spaced, modern, clean and in park-like settings. Many of them are staffed with knowledgeable Vacation Guides provided by the Nebraska Division of Travel and Tourism. These dedicated men and women love the state of Nebraska, and they live to help travelers to enjoy their stay in our great state. They also are invaluable in enhancing the economic benefit Nebraska receives from our travelers.

You see many of them in these pictures as well, making sure that the material they've just gathered is packed properly to reach their destinations in good shape.
Whenever we get together as an industry, we don't wast any time. Monday afternoon was a meeting of NACVB (The Nebraska Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus), then a formal presentation of the various regional tourism groups in Nebraska to the state Vacation Guides. After the Swap Tuesday morning we had a wonderful motivational speaker, then a meeting of the Nebraska Travel Association.

Because selling ourselves is almost as important as selling our destination (really, would you want to visit a place being sold to you by someone you didn't like?) Jeff Beals message of personal branding was invaluable. We were fortunate enough to have him for an hour, but he often puts on multi-day workshops on the topics, so we only got the condensed version, which I still found amazingly helpful.

The upshot of it is that you've got to be a celebrity in your own sphere of influence, you've got to follow the golden rule, and you've got to go and do! But please, don't take my word for it. Visit Jeff's website and order his book to find out for yourself.

He did give one piece of advice that I find to be a comfort. When you go and do, you are taking a risk that you are going to fall on your face! You know, you'll say the wrong thing, embarrass yourself, wake up the next day and wish you had never been born... that sort of thing. But don't let that risk stop you! It happens to everyone, and the reward is worth the risk.
Thanks for stopping by. I'm operating pretty much on pure caffeine at this point in the spring, so the coffee is ALWAYS on!

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