Friday November 16, 2012

LENOX -- Following a well-received pitch by Berkshire Visitors Bureau President and CEO Lauri Klefos, the Select Board is considering the BVB's proposal to coordinate marketing of the town's four-season events for next year.

Armed with statistics touting the reach of the BVB's website, berkshires.org, Klefos outlined a full-fledged promotional campaign for the town at a cost of $11,000 for all of 2013. Through a short-term trial run this fall, the bureau has been promoting the community's winter season events through a prominent banner on its home page linking to the Lenox Chamber of Commerce's redesigned lenox.org site.

The BVB has also featured Lenox in its email newsletter that reaches 43,000 subscribers and potential visitors, Klefos told Select Board members at their Wednesday night meeting. She cited "the importance of making sure we keep Lenox in front of all of those people that we talk on a regular basis."

The town still has about $50,000 available in voter-approved economic development funds designated for tourism marketing. A similar amount was spent last year and early this year on a divisive "Lenoxology" campaign run by Bodden Hamilton Partners in New York City that has fallen by the wayside.


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In addition to advertising packages and email blasts, Klefos also outlined "fuel-saver" promotions aimed at potential visitors who live within 150 miles of the Berkshires, including the New York, Boston and Hartford-New Haven metro areas, focusing on specific events such as the Lenox Caroling Festival coming up Dec. 7-9.

The campaign targets urban residents seeking a hassle-free, rural vacation area filled with events in a nature-filled setting.

In addition, "Imagine Yourself in the Berkshires" is the rubric for a billboard campaign in the Hartford and Boston area that showcases images of prime attractions ranging from skiing to Tanglewood, MASS MoCA and The Mount, said Klefos. "History, arts, culture, nature -- always in our message," she added.

Overall, Klefos explained, the Lenox promotion via the web would be seen 2 million times over the full year.

Selectman John McNinch restated his often-expressed concern. "Marketing the town isn't a job for this board," he said, "and we need to figure out a way so that this board isn't talking about marketing at every meeting."

But Selectman Channing Gibson praised the recent short-term collaboration with the BVB, pointing out that it has driven a dramatic upsurge in web traffic to the local Chamber's site redesigned by Kevin Sprague's Studio Two branding and design agency headquartered in Lenox.

"If not us, I don't know who," said Gibson in reference to allocating the available marketing funds.

"What I particularly like about what Lauri's offering is that we don't have to keep visiting the package," he said. "If we decide to do this, it takes care of itself."

"We've been going helter-skelter in a lot of different ways," said Selectman Edward Lane. "We have to decide as a board on what we're going to do, settle on a plan and do it. Maybe it's this, maybe it's not this but we can't spend all this time talking about it."

Gibson emphasized that tourism is the town's only area of growth. Based on lodging-tax revenues, preliminary figures from the state show a 4 percent increase this year in visitation to the Berkshires.

"I think it would be money well spent," said Lenox Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ralph Pe tillo, commenting on the BVB proposal.

Select Board Chairman Kenneth Fowler indicated a vote on the plan would be scheduled at a future meeting.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@berkshireeagle.com
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto.

By the numbers ...

Here are some preliminary details on Berkshire County tourism just released by the state Department of Revenue:

Visitor spending

n 2011: $345.8 million

n 2010: $327.25 million

n The year-to-year increase: 5.7 percent

State & local lodging tax
revenue

n 2011: $26.9 million (2011)

n 2010: $25.7 million (2010)

n The year-to-year increase: 4.5 percent

Note: For 2012 through August, the state reports a 4.6 percent increase in room revenue for the Berkshire lodging industry.

Source: Berkshire Visitors Bureau, based on state DOR reports.