Manifest Destiny…Conquering Oregon via the Oregon Governor’s Conference on Tourism

First and foremost, a very big ‘thank you’ to my fantastic hosts at Travel Oregon. The staff and associates are a credit to the leadership and hospitality of the industry, which not only resonates within the Travel Oregon team, but the entire travel industry in Oregon.

Let’s get to the recap:

Being a true son of Florida, I love the rain. But, thanks to Todd, the rain held off (at least as far as I could see) until yesterday (Tuesday) morning. Even with the weather being cloudy and cool, it was great. But, I do love cold weather…go figure.

First time to Portland, but alas not enough time to explore the city. However, what I saw was great…Columbia River, green trees (everywhere), the Pearl District, some more green, PDX and more green. A charismatic city and certainly a location for a future, non-business trip.

Between preparing for my own portion of the panel presentation, I was lucky enough to hear several great speakers.

‘New Media Strategist’ Josh Hallett, who also spoke during ESTO in Phoenix, presented a thorough, yet easily digestible discussion on new / interactive media. I enjoy Josh’s presentation style which uses common language (no words over 4 syllables) and actual examples to introduce the audience, as well as provide a solid overview, to the subject of new media.

In addition to myself and Mo, we were fortunate to be joined by Paul Wille on our web analytics panel. After about 30 seconds of speaking with Paul prior to the panel I knew he got it…not to mention agreed with me. Just like Josh, Paul has a clear presentation style that seemed to be well received with our audience. He also cited a social media project with a Hawaiian hotel which would make a great case study for the Travel 2.0 blog. Once he gets a free minute, I will have him pen that post.

Steve Pinetti from Kimpton Hotel Group provided some fascinating insights into the enormous challenge of instituting and maintaining a true sustainable program within the travel industry. While Steve had some great stories, particularly the tale of converting the housekeeping staff to green cleaning products…which took 12 – 15 months and to which the housekeeping staff said, ‘if it does not foam, it is not working’…the largest take-away for me was that adopting a sustainable program for your organization is an endless, but rewarding, process. As Steve said, it is more that simply placing a sign in the break room, it is a complete, life-long, company-wide, vendor-wide, overall commitment to protecting the beauty and resources we promote to consumers.

And with more and more consumers actively searching out these green travel organizations, the importance of adopting an eco-friendly mindset has the very real possibility of being a choice you adopt and embrace or the reason you went out of business.

Speaking of green, Jonathan Tourtellot, Director of the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations, presented on the topic of geotourism, which seemed to be very well received by the crowd. After the pleasure of enjoying dinner at Andina with Jonathan, I can say first-hand that his knowledge and experience with the natural world (or just the world in general) is impressive.

Finally, the conference concluded with an active presentation from Paul Wesselmann. Usually most conferences end on a quiet note and most people skip the last 1 or 2 presenters, but that was not the case for Paul’s presentation. Hard to describe via the written word, but it was thought-provoking, entertaining and funny. If you are looking for a great final act, I would recommend Paul.

Circling back to an interactive topic, a lot of time was spent during our session discussing the meaning of engagement. Several members of the audience asked what numbers should they pay attention to…that certain programs (Omniture) produce too many metrics and they don’t know which ones are important…and if they should worry about page views.

As we said during the panel, engagement is different for each organization. Personally, I find it fascinating that someone would ask me what numbers to track. My response would be, what numbers are important to you? Are you booking hotel rooms or giving away maps? Whatever your primary website objective is, that is your primary engagement metric. Now, you can of course add additional metrics to that formula, but it should all center on a few key metrics.

Let’s take unique visitors as an example. You receive 10,000 unique visitors a month. Some percentage of those 10,000 are on your site for less than 10 seconds…and the number (bounce rate) is probably higher than you think…but let’s say that number is 40%. So, right off the top, 4,000 visitors to your site spent less than 10 seconds there. Unless you have a remarkably brief message, no one is getting any benefit out of your site in 10 seconds. So why would you report to your superiors, peers, counterparts, etc. that you received 10,000 unique visitors…almost half of them did not do anything!

Why would you report that number? Report on a number than actually means something…email sign-ups, brochures ordered, rooms booked, etc, etc.

Now, that is not to say you can ignore a number like visitation, but put it in perspective with some sort of an engagement metric.

Secondly, don’t send raw reports from your analytics tool to your staff or superiors. I am sure they are very intelligent people, but they don’t have the context or perspective that you do…nor do they care about all those numbers. If you have to send out a monthly report, sit down with your team and discuss which numbers would be most beneficial to see…hopefully an engagement number…and send those. Then, if they want to know the visitation per minute for last month, you can send that to them separately.

New Media:
If you read our Random Thoughts post from earlier in the week you have an idea of how this topic was discussed at the conference, but it is worth repeating.

You do not and should not do everything that is out there!

Just because someone else is doing it, does not mean you should!

Stop launching ‘Web 2.0′ projects without (A) planning, (B) goals and (C) determining if your audience is right for it!

There, 2 or 3 Web 2.0 conferences summarized in a few sentences.

Final Score:

Great conference, great speakers (including yours truly and Mo, thank you) and a great location. If you are planning a tourism conference in the near future, I would highly recommend any of the speakers we mentioned above (including us!), I am sure they would be a strong addition and provide valuable insight to your constituents.

If you were at the conference, l
et us know your thoughts and how we did. Always open to more questions and suggestions!

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.