At a meeting of the Starkville Convention and Visitors Bureau board Tuesday, Jennifer Gregory, vice president for tourism development with the Greater Starkville Development Partnership, announced the money visitors spend on tourism in Oktibbeha County annually has increased nearly 25 percent over the last two years.
From 2009-2010, Gregory said, the Mississippi Development Authorityâ€™s tourism division reported an increase of nearly 10 percent, reaching about $65.2 million. She said such reports primarily account for money tourists spend on gas, food and hotels.
In 2011, Gregory said, tourism revenue reached about $74.9 million, an increase of about 14.8 percent. When the two consecutive increases are added together, she said, they approach a 25 percent increase over two years. She said this is a testament to the success of all the CVBâ€™s tourism partners, including Mississippi State University athletics, the Mississippi Horse Park, the Starkville Area Arts Council and others.
â€śNot only are the football games and all that just such a great draw,â€ť Gregory said, â€śbut Starkvilleâ€™s becoming a place that people want to go.â€ť
Gregory also reported on tracking statistics from the CVBâ€™s advertisements in print and online. When Internet users click on CVB ads on other websites, she said, the CVB is able to track which websites have the most users click on the ads and travel to the CVB home page. She said various advertisements with MSU athletics have led the most users to the CVB home page, with MSUâ€™s home page in second and Facebook in third.
Gregory said the CVB can also track the success of print advertisements through Quick Response codes scanned by smart phones. The Starkville Main Street Association also used QR codes to add an element of surprise to its Secret Santa discount program, she said. Users had to either scan Secret Santa tags with a smart phone or have a sales clerk scan them to see discount amounts ranging from 15-25 percent.
As a result, Gregory said, SMSA was able to track the success of Secret Santa through its QR codes. A table of QR scans for the fiscal year to date from CVB shows Secret Santaâ€™s discount tags were scanned a total of 373 times.
The CVB board also discussed plans to integrate commemoration of Starkvilleâ€™s 175th anniversary into its existing campaigns. Starkville Chamber of Commerce Chairman Melissa Dixon suggested incorporating the 175th anniversary into the â€śHistoric Starkville, Mississippiâ€™s College Townâ€ť logo featured on the CVBâ€™s website.
â€śThat way, youâ€™re not adding another (logo) to the things that already have Starkville, Main Street, Partnership, so-and-so,â€ť Dixon said. â€ś(Itâ€™s) like Sullivanâ€™s did. They put that on all their shirts, bags, all that stuff for the whole year when they celebrated 50 years. That way, youâ€™re not adding a whole other aspect.â€ť
Gregory said she agrees with this idea and plans to implement it. Jeremiah Dumas, CVB chair and Ward 5 alderman, said the 175th anniversary addition to the logo will extend only to CVB materials. The city recently adopted the logo for official use and adapted it for official city flags, but Dumas said there are no plans for the addition to extend to official city use.