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‘Fam tours’ aim to put county in spotlight

Posted: November 21, 2012 4:44 p.m.
Updated: November 23, 2012 5:00 a.m.

 

Seeking to increase local tourism, Kershaw County Tourism Director Darron Kirkely recently hosted representatives from the state’s welcomes centers as part of a county-wide “familiarization tour.” Twelve staff members toured the area as part of the visit, which according to Kirkley, will help promote and expose travelers across the state to the county.

“The whole overall goal is to try to bring in more people and at least get our name out there. We also want to make people familiar with us so they can share it with people when they come in,” Kirkley said.

As part of the familiarization tour, also known as a “fam tour,” the visitors toured the Kershaw County Fine Arts Center, Historic Camden, the S.C. Equine Park, and the Steeplechase Museum. They also visited the Carolina Motorsports Park, a road racing and go-kart facility located near Kershaw.

“They actually got to ride the go-karts out there, which was a cool experience. Anytime they can truly experience the event or the attraction that makes it even more memorable for them,” Kirkley said.

He said this was also one of the first “fam tours” organized in several years for staff of the welcome centers.  

“That staff hasn’t done one of those in about six or seven years just because of the economy and the budgets and everything,” Kirkley said. “They basically had to cut those out. But this is the (welcome center) staff that has that direct interaction with people as soon as they come in off the interstate.”

He explained that due to the lag in organized “fam tours,” some information may have needed to be updated.

“In that time, with staff turnover and everything else, some of those staff members were just not aware of what was even here, what we have to offer. It’s good to get the chance to expose them and let them see firsthand so that they can communicate to the guests, ‘hey, this is going on here’ or ‘hey, if you’re interested in this.’ You’re trying to expose them to as many things as possible. There were a variety of things that they might not have been unaware of,” he said.

Kirkley said future tours are also being planned for the county’s tourism department.

“We’ll do these continuously,” he said. “We’ll have anybody in that we can pitch Kershaw County to. A lot of that involves working with our regional and state partners on who is coming in, how long they’re here, and what their interests are.”

Exposing travelers to the area also helps the county compete with its neighbors, Kirkley said.  

“We as a state promote tourism overall, but within the state, we’re still competing with other entities here. We definitely want to get our name out there,” he said.

Devon Harris, visitor service manager for the state’s welcome centers, said “fam tours” help to educate S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism employees so that they can tell visitors about the state’s “product.”  

“We can share our experiences if we’ve actually been there. It helps us close the sale so to speak,” Harris said. “Our goal is to get visitors to stay longer and by saying that I’ve been to Camden, for instance, it helps to have them swing off into the town and eat at the restaurants and visit the destinations there.”

As far as a successful a “fam tour,” she said variety is really the key ingredient.

“We like to see a variety of destinations because that’s what people are looking for,” she said. “Our primary goal is to have those experiences and to educate ourselves so that we can then educate the visitor.”

 

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