A website redesign isn’t always noteworthy. Any business or organization worth its salt knows that online content needs constant refreshing, and as technology changes, upgrades are necessary.
But the new Visit Farragut website is significant. It’s not just a matter of offering new content or utilizing better technology (although it does both of these). It signifies that this tiny town of Farragut initiative has finally grown up.
In 2017, I attended a local tourism conference with my boss (Parks & Rec Director Sue Stuhl) as well as two aldermen. We were trying to wrap our minds around what a tourism program for Farragut would look like and none of us knew much about it. As the PR and marketing coordinator, I thought I did. I was wrong.
In 2018, we hired our part-time tourism coordinator. Karen Tindal didn’t know much about tourism, either. As she began her education, the town invested in a Visit Farragut microsite – a small, easy-to-manage website that was separate from the town of Farragut website. It was a quick way for Visit Farragut to have an online presence, but it didn’t have much functionality.
Since then, Tindal has earned credentials. At the end of the month, she will finish a three-year program offered by the Southeast Tourism Society to become a Tourism Marketing Professional. To better understand the hotel industry and be better equipped to communicate with the town’s hotel partners, she became Certified in Hotel Industry Analytics (CHIA) through the American Hotel and Lodging Association. She’s won two tourism awards from the Middle East Tennessee Tourism Council and developed relationships with surrounding tourism organizations. Last year, she finally received funding (and validation) when the Board of Mayor and Aldermen passed a hotel tax.
That last event is what made the new website possible. Professionally-built websites don’t come cheap, but what can be learned from the site’s analytics will make it worth the investment, Tindal says.
“Our microsite didn’t have the depth of analytics that new site has. Now, we can see where our visitors are from and what they’re looking for. And the website will grow with what the analytics tell us.”
The town’s tourism initiative was put on pause last year, almost immediately after the hotel tax passed. Tax collection was postponed for a time, and Tindal changed her focus to promoting local businesses. Putting Tennessee CARES Act funding to work to draw visitors to Light the Park was another deviation from traditional tourism. Now, travel is rebounding. This July, the town’s hotels had higher occupancy rates and a higher average daily rate than in July of 2019.
“Our location on two major interstates and the beauty of East Tennessee allowed our hotels to do better than the industry average during COVID. There are still obstacles, like a shortage of employees, but the increase in road travel and being just outside a major city have helped us rebound.”
In addition to improved analytics, the new website has the look and feel of a robust tourism program, Tindal says. It also has better mobile functionality, which is important since most travelers are on phones rather than computers.
Take a peek at the new website at visitfarragut.org. I think you’ll agree that Farragut tourism has finally flourished.
Town of Farragut marketing and public relations coordinator Wendy Smith is your reliable Farragut insider.