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Tourism director looks to increase online presence

Posted: September 6, 2012 9:44 p.m.
Updated: September 7, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Since being named Kershaw County’s tourism director in July, Darron Kirkley’s aim has been to coordinate local tourism efforts and bring more visitors to the community.

With a number of different directives underway, he’s now looking to make strides towards that end.

“I’ve gone out and talked with a ton of different people who put on events. Whether it be the (Carolina) Motorsports Park, things taking place at the Goodale State Park, or the Fine Arts Center, I’ve spoken with those people and said, ‘hey, I’m here to help you.’ I don’t want to replace their marketing efforts by any means, but I can definitely help them promote their events even more,” Kirkley said.

One of his chief concerns has been crafting a Kershaw County tourism website.

“I want to get a website developed so that when we run a full advertising campaign, that’s where it will lead people to. In talking with other tourism agencies, that’s the way they’re going,” Kirkley said. “South Carolina PRT (Department of Parks, Tourism, and Recreation), for instance, doesn’t have a call center with a 1-800 number listed anywhere anymore. Their call to action is strictly on a website.”

Kirkley established a Facebook page and Twitter account promoting Kershaw County tourism to coincide with the development of the official website.

“Those are probably updated three or four times a day with different posts,” he said. “So far, our Twitter is fairly low. Our Facebook page has about 150 likes. It gives you the data with how many people you’ve ‘reached’ and we’re looking at 3,000 to 5,000 reaches per week, which starting out, I can’t complain about that.”

Kirkley’s also looking to ensure that all tourism entities are working on the same page by organizing a community-wide calendar.

“That’s one of the big things, trying to create a calendar. I’ve also worked on compiling a true database of email addresses, phone numbers and events. There are a lot of organizations that have community calendars where people can post events, but a lot of the attractions are not always submitted. Therefore, there has been a lot of overlap with different events,” Kirkley said. “By having a centralized calendar, I can get more feedback and be able to create that calendar and distribute extra information.”

On a more face-to-face level, he is also working to develop county-wide “familiarization tours,” also known as “fam” tours.

“There are different types of ‘fam’ tours, but basically you bring in outside people and you show them around to the different attractions, lodgings, dining places, things that this area has to offer. It’s usually specifically targeted toward media personnel or travel writers, but this particular one we’re working on will be for the state welcome centers,” Kirkley said.

He explained that representatives from welcome centers, which are largely located along the state’s borders, typically have direct interaction with travelers.

“People stop off at the welcome centers and, just by having conservations with the people who work there, can be directed here,” he said. “They could say ‘I’m really interested in history or motorsports racing,’ so it’s beneficial to keep the people at the welcome center educated and updated, especially since they have new people there.”

Through the improved online presence and coalescing of tourism interests, Kirkley hopes to ultimately enhance and expand the community’s visitor market.

“With the website, Facebook and Twitter, we’ll be getting the knowledge out there as far as what’s going on and having a unified voice. I think that’s going to be better for all parties involved,” Kirkley said. “We’re looking to promote the tourism events that will truly bring in outside people. They need to have that visitor appeal. That’s the key thing.”

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