Lodging tax figures show city’s marketing efforts paying off

Published 11:47 pm Tuesday, November 23, 2010

If you’ve noticed an increase in the number of visitors to Selma and Dallas County over the past nine to 10 months, then credit the work of Selma’s Tourism Department and executive director Candace Johnson.

In a report released Tuesday, lodging tax collections — a key indicator in tourism traffic — in Dallas County is up more than 18 percent from last year and is proof the city’s diversification in its marketing plan is paying off.

“We sat down a few months ago with our advertising agency and noticed that all of our national advertising was in printed products only,” Johnson said. “We then put together a plan to spend the same amount of money, but to spread it around, ensuring we did more digital advertising, such as web crawls and targeted e-mails.”

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Johnson said the department also focused on two regional markets — Atlanta and Meridian — in an effort to attract visitors from those two areas specifically.

“We had great success with both markets. We saw an increase from Meridian for our Civil War events and saw increases in Atlanta for our civil rights events,” Johnson said. “This next year, we are going to target areas in Florida and Tennessee.”

As for the dollars visitors have meant to Selma and Dallas County, the year-to-year comparison on lodging tax collections is noticeable.

From January 2009 through September 2009, $170,727.31 in lodging tax was collected. During that same period in 2010, a total of $201,726.95 was collected; an 18.2 percent increase.

Johnson said hotels and accommodations in Selma and Dallas County have talked about increases in traffic and are also benefitting from billboard advertising along Interstate 65.

“We do have prime locations on I-65, both north and south, before our exits,” Johnson said. “We’ve heard from people who have come through they didn’t realize Selma was just 45 miles from the interstate.”

In the new budget, city leaders kept the department’s budget for national advertising the same, but Johnson believes the new approach to diversifying their advertising and targeting regional areas will continue to pay off.

“We have really noticed the difference this approach has made,” Johnson said. “We have a meeting with our agency next week and we’ll see what we are going to do.”