Visit Rainier Celebrating Successes as an ‘Out of the Box’ Destination Marketing Organization
Mt. Rainier, WA-Marketing Washington State’s most-recognized natural icon is admittedly, a pretty sexy sell. On any given clear day Mt. Rainier is instantly adored by millions of residents, commuters, and visitors on both sides of the Cascades. It hardly seems like it would be necessary to promote mountain visitation, considering its image is everywhere-from the Washington State quarter, to dozens of logos, to countless 17,000-foot level airplane photos, and beauty shots used to segue sports telecasts. However, for Visit Rainier, the state’s only virtual marketing destination organization, doing just that is both exciting and challenging. And Visit Rainier is producing some impressive results.
“At its core, Visit Rainier is a visitor-friendly website promoting tourism to Mt. Rainier and its gateway communities. The day to day management of Visit Rainier as a program is performed by a team of only four, part-time contractors, working out of home offices around Puget Sound,” says Mary Kay Nelson, Executive Director for Visit Rainier.
Contractors report quarterly to a board that provides guidance, but as a whole, purposely stay at a 30,000-foot level when it comes to actually running the organization. And to spite the part-time contractor hours, and lack of a physical location, Visit Rainier just reached 100,000, extremely interactive Facebook fans; has 27,000 folks opted-in to receive its monthly newsletters; reported over half a million unique website hits per year, as well as over 1.3 million page views a year. Now, Visit Rainier is ramping up to begin some exciting and strategic partnerships with other destination marketing and tourism organizations in the state, as well as some corporate partners.
“The day we reached 100,000 Facebook fans was thrilling,” continues Nelson. “While many corporations and much larger, traditional, destination marketing organizations can say they have oodles of Facebook fans, the fact that Visit Rainier is a relatively young organization, coupled with the level of engagement we get from our Facebook followers, 100,000 plus fans is beyond exciting! Compared to other destination marketing organizations in the state, our number of Facebook “likes” is only second to Visit Seattle, which is of course is a far more visible organization to travelers.
Nelson added that the most popular entries on the Facebook page are pictures and hiking reports. Within minutes of a post dozens of fans are sharing their favorite memories and happy experiences associated with the mountain. “It’s an extremely positively charged environment,” she said.
While keeping visitors engaged is extremely successful, the biggest challenge the organization faces is actually that the mountain is so accessible to major metropolitan areas, that many people have an ‘I can go there any time’ mindset.
“Folks regularly tell us about the time they went to the mountain when they were little, or how they bring out of town guests to visit,” says Nelson, “and I always ask, ‘why wait for a special occasion? Come back any time, stay longer! Let’s keep making new memories’!”
To this end Visit Rainier is dedicated to promoting new programs that will enhance visitor experiences, hoping to convert day visits to longer, overnight stays. To celebrate next year’s Centennial of the National Park Service the organization launched its Visit Rainier Centennial GeoTour. One hundred new geocaches will be hidden around Mt. Rainier National Park and in its gateway communities over the next two years. Mt. Rainier National Park itself has committed to creating new virtual caches to add to each series of the GeoTour. The caches are being released in four series, 25 caches each. Series 1 launched June 13, 2015 and had over 800 finds logged on 25 caches in the first 16 days after its release.
Since Visit Rainier is primarily funded by lodging tax dollars, the organization is currently exploring an ecommerce program to expand revenue generating options. Other programs in development include a “Rainier Taste Trail” featuring local restaurants, wineries, breweries and farms; a mountain selfie campaign; and a “visitor information alert” phone app.
“One of our greatest desires is to bring the mountain to the people, via a mobile marketing kiosk,” says Nelson. “We have an exciting Kickstarter campaign idea in development to generate funding. Visit Rainier is never lacking ideas when it comes to new visitor experiences and ways to promote visitation to the mountain, so stay tuned!”
Visit Rainier is a nonprofit, 501(c)6 organization that continues to be a leader in destination marketing. As a collaborative partner with the National Park Service, the organization offers vital travel information to local, national, and international visitors by promoting tourism to Mt. Rainier National Park and the gateway communities surrounding it.