Deluxe tourism website planned
funds new design
Mesa Verde Country, the region’s prominent visitor marketing service, has secured $60,000 in funding to revamp its web site, and the budget may reach up to $85,000 pending a grant application.
On Monday, the Montezuma County commission approved $25,000 to the tourism group from the county lodgers tax fund. The City of Cortez has chipped in $25,000 and the Ute Mountain casino contributed $10,000.
A matching grant from the Colorado Tourism Office could add up to an additional $25,000, said Heather Hughes, director of Mesa Verde Country. An award decision is expected this month.
The lodgers tax is collected by hotels and is divided up for tourism promotion between local chambers of commerce and other groups. The lodging tax committee takes proposals for use of the money, and then presents its recommendation to the county commission for approval.
“They had a surplus of money in the lodging fund and were waiting for a proposal, so we successfully presented ours as a match for the Colorado Tourism office grant,” Hughes said.
The ultimate goal of the marketing project is to revamp the Mesa Verde Country brand so it is more recognizable. A major component is an upgrade for the website, Hughes said.
Offering direct hotel booking from the website will be one improvement and will help increase lodging tax collections to fund more outreach to potential visitors.
Currently it takes five clicks on the website to get to an actual hotel property. Incorporating a direct booking engine is more user friendly and convenient, allowing the visitor to search for dates, compare prices, and look at pictures right on the website.
“When they decide what property want to stay at, they click on that and it will go directly to that property website to book,” Hughes explained. “Right now if you were to do that on Expedia they charge 15-20 percent to the lodgers — revenue they are not getting, so we will be directly booking to the lodgers and they will be getting the full amount.”
The website will include more videos and be more interactive as well. A social media campaign using Facebook and Instagram will be started on the site also.
“Getting more people talking about and sharing their stories and pictures about Mesa Verde Country with one another — that is an invaluable marketing tool,” Hughes said.
“We want to be the source of information for people planning a trip to the area, and then once they’re here, to have a resource to find out about events.”
The website will also have a content management system owned by Mesa Verde Country. It allows changes and updates to be easily made by local tourism officials. Lodgers to put in promotions any time they want.
Creating a special Mesa Verde Country app for smartphones is also in the works. The downloaded service would allow users to access visitor information without having Internet access, which is spotty in the Four Corners, including at Mesa Verde National Park.
Part of the budget will go toward funding search engine optimization, or the race to the top of the page when people search Mesa Verde National Park on the web.
“We want to get up to the top in the search rank because we represent all of the lodgers in the area,” Hughes said.
The new beefed-up website is expected to launch in early 2014. The address is www.mesaverdecountry.com.