What GRCVB Has Been Doing During the COVID Crisis: Destination Technology
Friday, July 24, 2020, 1pm by visitRaleigh
Last week you heard from the Administration Department on how that team at GRCVB has been working hard during the COVID crisis. This week you are hearing from the Destination Technology Department and its director, Vimal Vyas.
As with all departments, we immediately worked on addressing budget cuts beginning in March. These cuts included all search engine pay-per-click advertising, Arrivalist research technology and other internal process-related and cloud-based products.
Since March our official tourism website, visitRaleigh.com, has experienced major monthly drops in organic sessions (organic sessions refers to potential visitors viewing visitRaleigh.com as a result of unpaid “organic” search results). Organic sessions were down 48% in June 2020 compared to June 2019. This remains a significant decrease; however, traffic by June was moving in the right direction, as the year-over-year (YOY) gap has shrunk each month since its most dramatic instance (the YOY gap had been 72% in April).
The Marketing and Communications Department has produced/updated some quality content that helped to close the organic gap, such as posts about Black-owned businesses in Wake County (+3,560 sessions), best trails to hike and run (+1,607 sessions YoY), patios and places to eat outdoors (1,197 sessions) and places to catch summer sunrises and sunsets (+1,210 sessions).
celito.net data center for reliable redundancy
With the need for our staff to work remotely, we extended our network backbone and upgraded our virtual private network capabilities. We worked with our managed service provider, celito.net, to move our servers and business continuity appliances to their data center. As we sometimes have staff working in the office and remotely, the celito.net data center has provided power and internet redundancy.
Deployment of Citrix ShareFile for secure data and collaboration
We have continued our partnership with Citrix. With staff working remotely, it was essential to continue using a secure cloud environment; Citrix ShareFile provided us with secure data storage, workflow, collaboration and business continuity.
Destination digital asset management
We have worked with the Marketing Department on image inventory management. Until recently, the Bureau's internal image library had been managed on a product called Media Pro, which is being discontinued. That necessitated the transition and migration of the images and metadata associated with them to an asset management platform, Barberstock.
In the upcoming months, we will migrate 14,000+ images to our main digital repository at raleigh.barberstock.com. Many of the useful resources can be used by staff, partners, media and meeting planners to promote the Raleigh area as an energetic, energizing destination for leisure travelers and meeting/event attendees.
Training and supporting staff in the new norm
With the new normal, training and supporting our staff is even more essential. We have increased our support focus on the challenges of working remotely including staff training. Content of these training sessions has included cloud-based security, malicious email activity, password management and secure file usage and storage while working remotely. Also, individually tailored training sessions have happened daily since March for GRCVB staff on many of the products we use for productivity.
Most important with the increase in online meetings, staff have been trained extensively on how to troubleshoot, use cameras/microphones and facilitate online meeting tools to work with partners, meeting planners and other external customers.
Moving to an email marketing automation technology
We have been working on switching our distributed (email) marketing platform, Distribion, to a new product for the Bureau, Act-On. It will provide our staff with more tools, reporting options and artificial intelligence to improve our partner, external customer and stakeholder email communication.
This switch involved extensive data migration between several platforms but gave us an opportunity to validate our data for email reputation management. This provided us another opportunity to revisit the validation of our email deliverability with SPF and DKIM. This past week’s Tourism Talk E-newsletter was the first email sent from GRCVB's Act-On.
Destination digital footprint in this recovery
We recently started a digital footprint beta test with DTN, our advertising sales partner for visitRaleigh.com.
In this time of recovery, the accuracy and visibility of our partners' digital presence on search engines is key to our ability to sell the destination. This beta involved using a product called Yext, which can help elevate a partner's digital brand. It provides the ability to automatically sync your business's information across 50+ directories such as Google Maps, Yelp and Apple Siri.
Irregardless Cafe jumped on the opportunity to participate in the beta program. Yext couldn't have come at a better time for the cafe; about the time we reached out to Irregardless, the business had just been sold to the new owners. With the change in ownership, the restaurant company made some pretty significant changes to their business, and one of the first decisions they made was to stop offering catering services. They also changed their business name from Irregardless Cafe and Catering to just Irregardless Cafe. Ownership also realized their menu and digital ordering services were not listed on many of their online business listings.
These two, seemingly simple changes, aren't easy to make on each of the 50+ major business directories. Through DTN and Yext, Irregardless was able to change their business name, create searchable menus and add digital ordering services links to their business listings on the 50+ directories all in one place, in a fraction of the time it would have taken to update their information in each one of those directories individually.
Over the last several months, GRCVB partnered with 2Synergize, LLC, a Simpleview consulting company, which specializes in the CVB industry and helps destinations gain a competitive edge in the meetings and events market.
In this beta, GRCVB was able to test new and improved pace reporting offered by 2Synergize and powered by Simpleview Business Intelligence in real-time. This new platform combines two concepts—longer-term pace reporting and short-term hotel STLY (same time last year) production. The information is presented in an interactive portal, updated (daily), with drill-down access to reports, charts and underlying data. This would be used to provide our area hotel partners real-time supply and demand business intelligence.
Business intelligence data for COVID response
To assist Convention Sales and Sports Marketing with daily changes with booked groups during this time, a dedicated COVID business intelligence dashboard was created to provide daily updates on group cancellations and rescheduling. This dashboard has provided a breakdown of direct and indirect economic Impact for canceled and rescheduled groups as well.