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Watauga County TDA’s Newest Marketing Campaign Receiving Strong Reviews

By Nathan Ham

“It’s better here than there.”

That’s the latest marketing campaign slogan from the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority used to hopefully fill the mountainsides full of people wanting to break away from the city life and enjoy a taste of Boone.

The television commercials, which began airing roughly six months ago, are part of a new marketing campaign targeting areas across the region.

“The new advertising campaign launched back in January. We had been running the ‘Step Outside Yourself’ campaign for about four years but it was time to freshen that up and start with a new campaign,” said Wright Tilley, the Executive Director of the Watauga TDA. “The new ads are doing really well thus far.”

The purpose of the Watauga TDA is to reach out and market Boone and Watauga County to potential tourists and visitors. Tilley says the primary market for the ad campaign is Charlotte with other ads being displaced in the Raleigh/Durham area and Greensboro, Winston-Salem and the Triad.

While the Watauga TDA also markets Boone in some national publications, such as Southern Living, and in other nearby states, being able to reach out to potential visitors inside the state has been the big push so far.

“We focus pretty heavily on North Carolina advertising and we focus pretty heavily on those three areas (Charlotte, Raleigh/Durham, Triad),” Tilley said. “It has been pretty well received, we have gotten good feedback on what we’ve put out with print and digital ads and two television spots. We are in the process of producing two more TV spots and radio spots as well.”

Another element to the current ad campaign is the increased usage of social media platforms and media stunts. Tilley said that the campaign in charlotte chose two people off the street and rewarded them with a free weekend vacation in Boone.

“Back in April we took the mountains to the city. We had a kayaker in a fountain in Charlotte and had a hiker dressed with a backpack and walking stick walking through the concrete jungle of Charlotte,” Tilley said.

Last week, the Watauga TDA Board of Directors approved a new budget for the upcoming 2018-19 fiscal year. The balanced budget passed was at $1,782,265 and is 100 percent funded by the six percent lodging tax in Watauga County. The budget is an increase of $112,920 from the 2017-18 budget.

According to Tilley, almost $1 million of that goes directly towards marking and advertising. The rest of the money has typically been spent on outdoor tourism infrastructure, such as Rocky Knob Park and adding fishing and kayaking access points on the New River and the Watauga River. The Watauga TDA will also be contributing $250,000 to the Middle Fork Greenway Project that will eventually connect a biking and walking trail from Blowing Rock to Boone.