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“Help Us Help You”

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By Nicole S. Johnson

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Director of Tourism

    July is one of the busiest travel months and the Bedford Area Welcome Center sees an average of 5,000 visitors stop by during this month.
    Many are here to spend a day (or longer) exploring the area. Our staff and volunteers answer questions, provide directions, and assist in any way they can to make sure the visitor has a pleasant experience and gets the information they need.
    However, this is an area where we need your help.  If you own or work at a tourism-related business, please ask yourself, does the Welcome Center have my information on-hand?  We are a free resource for displaying your printed material (brochure, rack card, flyer, business card, etc.). 
    We will not only help disseminate information about your business, but also any events that may be going on that are relevant for our residents and tourists to know about.   Again, we do not charge for this service.  It’s also important to remember that if you supply us with printed material, such as a brochure or perhaps a restaurant menu, that if any of the information changes or your menu items or business hours change, please let us know as soon as possible.  We depend on you to help us provide the most up-to-date information to our residents and the traveling public.
    In addition to the printed material, I cannot express enough how important it is to have an online presence.  A website is great (and a mobile-friendly website is even better), but social media is essential these days.  This requires more than simply setting up a Facebook or Instagram account; it’s crucial to be a good manager of the content and keep it fresh and relevant. 
    I realize that many of our local business owners are very engaged with every aspect of their business, including the marketing, but setting aside even 30 minutes a week to update your social media can make a huge difference.  It’s also effective to use visuals whenever possible (photo/video) as every social media platform reports a higher interaction rate when a visual is included.  By the end of this year, video content will represent 74% of all internet traffic.
    Think more visual, less text.  Get creative with your content and monitor what people are responding to.  Also be sure that your customers know you are on social media. When they stop in, have a sign that encourages them to “check-in” or tag you.  TripAdvisor and Yelp are two other sites to consider using.  Also, if for some reason we don’t have your printed material at the  Welcome Center, at least we’ll be able to find you online!  Be sure to keep your business hours current, especially if they change seasonally. 
    Once you’re on social media, don’t forget to tag us!  If there is a special event or offering you want to get the word out about, tag us at either @VisitBedfordVirginia so that I will receive a notification.  I will then be able to share your post and help reach even more people!  For anyone that is looking to be in-the-know about events happening at your favorite business or attraction, I encourage you to “like” and “follow” them on social media. 
    It’s also a great idea (if you don’t already) to follow Bedford Tourism on Facebook as we post a lot about what’s going on around Bedford.  The Tourism Department also manages www.Visit Bedford.com which is a great resource for visitors and residents alike.  On here you can also sign-up to receive our free e-newsletter.  
    Take a moment and make sure that if you have a tourism-related business in Bedford that you are listed on our website.  We also keep an event calendar so if you have something you’d like to include, please email the information to Michelle Crumpacker at mcrumpacker@bedfordcountyva.gov and include a website link and/or phone number for more information as well as a photo or logo for the event.   
    On June 1, we welcomed a new employee to the Tourism Department. Anita Dengel joined our team as the new Visitor Services and Volunteer Coordinator. Anita has more than 20 years of experience in the travel and tourism industry, and was employed with AAA-Mid Atlantic prior to coming to the Welcome Center.  She lives in Bedford County and knows the area, attractions, and events well. 
    A big focus in the coming year will be enhancing the volunteer program to include a more formal orientation and training program, as well as volunteer recruitment and retention.  With that being said, the Welcome Center is currently accepting applications for new volunteers. If you enjoy working with the public and can commit at least four hours a month, please consider joining our team!  The Welcome Center is open seven days a week, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. 
    For more information, contact Anita Dengel at  adengel@bedfordcountyva.gov or (540) 587-5684. 
    I wish everyone a happy and safe July 4 holiday!