By Nathan Ham
Visitors coming to Boone will not have to go far to find the new location of the Boone Tourism Development Authority.
The TDA has relocated across the street from their former location to what used to be the Boone Planning and Inspections Office at 333 Queen Street. The Boone TDA had been renting office space across the road on King Street.
“We moved over here in August. We had been looking for some more office space along King Street, said Wright Tilley, the Executive Director for the Boone and Watauga TDA. “After planning and inspections moved up the road to the health department building and this sat empty for a little while, we asked the county about the possibility of this space. We lease it from the county which I think is a win-win for both of us.”
The Boone TDA and Watauga TDA combined their resources in 2010 as a way of reducing administrative costs and allowing for more money to go towards marketing and public relations, the main mission of what the TDA does.
“We’re doing everything we did as a destination marketing organization in terms of marketing and advertising campaigns, social media programs and PR campaigns, but now we just have more space and it’s a little more inviting for visitors to come get our visitor’s guide and information about tourism attractions and things to do in the area,” said Tilley.
The TDA operates with money from the occupancy tax paid by visitors that stay in the numerous hotels in Watauga County. Tilley says that, by law, two-thirds of that money has to go towards marketing and promoting Boone and Watauga County to potential visitors.
“We are allowed to spend up to one-third of the occupancy tax revenue on other tourism projects,” said Tilley. “Our board feels like it’s important to not only promote the destination but also reinvest in the tourism product.”
Some of those reinvestments include the biking area at Rocky Knob Park, the Middle Fork Greenway Project, the ongoing Howard Street project and potential future projects of revitalizing Howard’s Knob park and a wayfinding signage project that will include adding more hotel, restaurant and attraction signs to help guide visitors around Boone and Watauga County.
In addition to those items of interest to the TDA, an online presence is always important, especially in this day and age of technology.
“We’re going to be working on a new website upgrade at the first of the year that will probably take six to eight months to complete,” said Tilley.
It has been four years since the last website rebuild for the TDA.
“We’re trying to stay ahead of the curve going to more of a mobile-first format now,” said Tilley. “The website and social media have been great tools for us. With our audience, we are still geared more towards Facebook and Instagram.”
Tilley says that the core audience for people that visit the website are typically in the 35-64 age range.
“We are seeing more Millenials and younger generation folks, but not in the frequency as the other age group. We’re trying to do things that are appealing to the millennial generation without sacrificing any awareness and reach to the core group,” said Tilley.
In addition to Tilley at the TDA office, Michelle Ligon is the Director of Social Media and Public Relations and Brandon Holder is the administrative assistant that works with visitors when they come in the office and takes phone calls as well.
Tilley reports to a Boone TDA board and a Watauga TDA board. The Boone board is made up of nine members that are all appointed by the Boone Town Council and the Watauga board is made up of seven members that are all appointed by the Watauga County Commissioners.
For more information on the Boone TDA, visit them at their office, located at 333 Queen Street, or visit their website at www.exploreboone.com.
Photos by Ken Ketchie