How one tourism manager’s persistence paid off
By ABA Media
As tourism and events coordinator of the City of Long Beach, Washington, Ragan Myers is accomplished at creating group-friendly itineraries to showcase this breathtaking coastal destination. Born and raised on the peninsula, Myers has worked for the City of Long Beach for 13 years and was nominated as one of the Top 10 Next Gens in 2014 by Groups Today magazine. Myers recently returned home from ABA’s 2018 Annual Meeting & Marketplace and offers insight on how to make the most of your Marketplace experience.
I am a team of one and still working to get all the post-Marketplace follow-ups done and new tours written based on requests from Marketplace—all while staying in front of the day-to-day responsibilities at the office. My budget for everything group/package travel-related for the entire year is $35,000, so I have to think outside the box in order to stay head-to-head with our larger-city neighbors. We are small, but we are mighty, and with some effort, you, too, can see a huge return on your investment in ABA’s Marketplace.
Long Beach is located on the southernmost corner of Washington state—just 2.5 hours from Portland, Ore., and 3.5 hours from Seattle—and it is known for its scenic beaches, ocean view lodging, novelty gift shops, museums, Lewis and Clark history, and award-winning restaurants. Our city represents 1,400 full-time residents and is a group- and family-friendly community featuring everything from amusement rides, golfing, video arcades, and eateries to riding horses on the beach. I have never met a stranger, and I love my destination! So, talking to folks about where I live is easy.
When planning appointments for a conference such as ABA’s Marketplace, I look at several different factors: Does the tour operator offer trips to the Pacific Northwest or Washington state, and if they do, are they planning to come to Long Beach? I review the tour company’s profile page on ABA’s Marketplace Research Database, and if I don’t get enough information from there, I go to the company’s website and search Pacific Northwest and Washington state. I then email the contact listed for appointments on ABA’s database and introduce myself. When I send out the email, I include a map of our area, a description of what we have to offer, and why I think they should include Long Beach in their Pacific Northwest itinerary. I include a request to meet with them at Marketplace and follow up with a postcard requesting an appointment if I don’t get a response the first time. I also cold-call to make sure they got my email, postcard, or both. Finally, I go to the company’s Facebook page and like their page and invite them to like mine, so we can begin a dialog. I don’t quit asking until I get a direct “no”!
As a first-timer at Marketplace, I wasn’t sure what to expect since I often hear that “folks aren’t really coming to Washington state yet.” But while most DMOs average 28 appointments, I was thrilled to head to Marketplace with 26 appointments lined up. Relationships are a huge part of this industry, and we all try hard to work with each other to better the experience of our customers. Tour operators need to be able to trust their suppliers and, even more important, trust the regional or local DMO.
Following up with a tour operator is huge! I appreciated that ABA had follow-up stickers for us to use, allowing tour operators to see that we truly are following up! I used the stickers for my follow-up postcards and even scanned the image and used it on the emails I sent as a further follow-up.
As a result of Marketplace, our Facebook page, newsletter, and website, I have gained more relationships and connected with more industry partners than I can begin to count. In January alone, I booked three tours for 2018, finalized three tours for 2018, and booked tours for 2019 and 2020! Our Facebook followers grew by nearly 60 percent!
“Ragan’s story is incredible, and she demonstrates how the work she puts into her attendance at Marketplace really pays off on her ROI,” said Vicki Osman, CTIS, ABA’s senior director of education, database, and member services.
To learn more about the City of Long Beach and how Myers uses social media to attract groups, be sure to visit her website at www.longbeachpackagetravel.com and the Long Beach Package Travel Facebook page.