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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Power of the Internet Makes Travel More Fun

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(ARA) - Finding your way off the beaten path for the family summer vacation has never been easier as the Internet levels the playing field between quaint small towns and the destination resorts that frequently overshadow many hidden gems. Nearly 64 million travelers -- 30 percent of the U.S. adult population -- used the Internet in the past year to get travel and destination information. Of that group, 44.6 million actually booked at least one travel service or product online in the past year. "The Internet has put consumers in control of their plans and they like it. They're able to gather all the facts they need and compare prices and options to obtain what they feel are the best deals possible," according to Dr. Suzanne Cook, senior vice president of research for the Travel Industry Association of America.

It used to be that resort destinations dominated the local travel scene because they had the most money to market and advertise. Resort dominance was and largely remains particularly acute in popular destinations such as Florida, California and Colorado, the country's top three vacation destinations according, to Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell's Leisure Travel Monitor.

For an example of the power the Internet can wield in the hearts and minds of travelers, Lee Hart, president of Brand Amp, a strategic communications firm that works with several smaller destinations in Colorado, offers Chaffee County as a case study. Just a 1- 1/2 hour drive from Vail, Copper Mountain, Breckenridge and Crested Butte, Chaffee's two small historic towns, Salida and Buena Vista, have struggled to be heard amidst the marketing messages trumpeted by its internationally acclaimed neighbors.

Little more than a year ago, Chaffee County launched an integrated image campaign anchored by a new Web site optimized for key search terms that would appeal to Colorado-bound visitors and bought Internet advertising to actively direct visitors to the site. Today, Chaffee County is not only easier for travelers to find but also for the travel industry trade to discover, as well as travel editors hungry for new and unusual destinations to write about. As proof, in the past few month's Chaffee County has been named one of America's Top Dream Towns by Outside magazine, won the Governor's Award for Outstanding Community Tourism Initiative for its Adventure in Arts year-round series of monthly countywide arts events, and received a Bronze medal from Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International for Chaffee's integrated print and online advertising campaign touting its new marketing campaign, Colorado's Headwaters of Adventure.

Hart said the progressive-minded visitor's bureau board of this rural mountain community is continuing its quest for greater visibility, moving still more of their relatively small budget from print advertising into Internet advertising, including pay per click keyword campaigns.

The rise of importance of the Internet in the travel industry is good news, Hart said, not just for smaller destinations eager to welcome more tourists and their resulting positive economic impact, but also for the travelers themselves who can now "more easily find destinations that rekindle the spirit of adventure and discovery."

Hart offers these tips for finding fresh locales no matter which state you plan to visit.

* Enter the state name and the terms "travel and tourism" and the official visitor's bureau of that state will appear as one of the top search results. Government supported and frequently tax funded, state tourism bureaus are charged with providing information on all visitor resources and destinations from the very small and unheralded to the very famous so you can browse a broad gamut of options, usually segregated by interest area and/or geographic location within the state of your choice.

* Search by an interest area in the state you want to visit such as "whitewater rafting in Colorado," one of the most popular activities in Colorado. Other popular search terms for mountain destinations could be "hiking" or "mountain biking." Similarly, search by the types of activities you'd like at beaches, America's most popular vacation target, by searching terms such as "beach volleyball Florida" or "surfing California."

* For active outdoor enthusiasts, whether traveling solo or packing a family, camping or resort-bound, Hart suggests visiting online versions of your favorite magazines such as Outsideonline.com, NationalGeographic.com and guide book publishers such as Fodors.com or LonelyPlanet.com

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