Home-Study Career-Change Copywriting Course Among 90K in OBT Ad Costs for 2013

The City of Montrose Office of Business and Tourism spent more than $100,000 on remodeling the newly renovated Elks Civic Building as a Visitor Center, above. Highway Signage still directs travelers to the Montrose Chamber of Commerce at 1519 Main St., however, and business owners have expressed concern that the City is not doing enough to create successful events that draw actual travelers to Montrose.

By Caitlin Switzer

MONTROSE—(April 1, 2014)  Early in 2013, the newly-created Montrose Office of Business & Tourism paid $30,000 to Marketing Telluride for a software package designed to analyze visitor data collected by local lodging establishments. In May, the results of that effort will finally be made public in the form of a report, according to a news release issued by OBT staffer and outreach pro Stacey Ryan.

The release notes that “With the help of IXI Services, a division of Equifax, and the Telluride Tourism Board (TTB), the Montrose Office of Business and Tourism (OBT) is developing a data analytics report that will provide an actionable marketing foundation to boost tourism – and as a result, local retail sales.  When the report is made available in May, OBT will use it to attract visitors by creating highly-targeted marketing and advertising campaigns to drive business to the Montrose region.”

According to Assistant City Manager and OBT Director Rob Joseph, “By studying geographic, demographic, and socioeconomic data from previous visitors, messaging can be developed to target groups identified as likely visitors of Montrose.  The advertising messages will be placed in pinpointed media vehicles, thereby increasing the effectiveness of advertising dollars and visitor conversion rates to the area,” Joseph said.

“We have farm tractors planting crops down to the inch with global positioning systems ensuring full utility of the land—why not run our advertising and marketing programs with the same precision?”

Indeed, why not? However, a public information request pursued by the Montrose Mirror earlier this year notes that the OBT already spent more than $90,000 on advertising between January of 2013 and January of 2014, long before obtaining any statistical data. According to Joseph himself—whose resume lists no prior governmental or tourism experience and who uses only his first name on his city answering machine—a $421 copywriting course expenditure with American Writers & Artists, Inc. was made to ensure that future advertising would be free or no-cost by training locals to become professional travel writers.

“The same story can now potentially recirculate dozens of times and if we do it the way I’ve envisioned, this becomes the lion’s share of our advertising!” Joseph said last month.

A report in Saturday’s Montrose Daily Press quotes Joseph as saying, that the OBT will “pick up the tab” for the analytics and report, and that the expense will fit into its “budget.” However, entries in the OBT’s check register for 2013 show that Marketing Telluride has already been paid $20,000 and $10,000 for the analytics software. Telluride Tourism Board CEO Michael Martelon, who successfully pitched the concept to the Montrose City Council last year, told the Press, “You get commercials on TV doing it, IBM is doing it, everybody is doing it,” he said. According to the Press, Martelon commissioned similar reports from IXI Services in 2012 and 2013, and credits those with a 13 percent increase in regional sales after the first year. However, Telluride has an established slate of year-round festivals as well a world class ski area, unlike Montrose. Martelon did not return calls to the Mirror by Press time.

The Best Western Red Arrow Hotel is among the local lodging establishments who have been working with the City on the data analytics process. Manager Heather Dunaway said that she does believe it is a good idea, but has not gotten any results back yet.

“So far, all we have done is participate,” she said.

Another local hotel owner said that he received a recent phone call from someone asking questions about data, but added that he was unaware of the analytics program. Jeff Anderson of Country Lodge said that he hopes that more promotional efforts will center around the Black Canyon National Park.

“People go to the Canyon, and then they come to town to eat and sleep,” he said. “We don’t really promote the Black Canyon with solid, actionable ideas, but we should–it is what we have.

“I work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” he said. “But we’re crashing here.”