Full Circle with The Christi Reece Group

Director Elizabeth Fogarty - Visit Grand Junction - Full Circle with The Christi Reece Group - Episode 6

September 09, 2020 Elizabeth Fogarty Season 1 Episode 6
Full Circle with The Christi Reece Group
Director Elizabeth Fogarty - Visit Grand Junction - Full Circle with The Christi Reece Group - Episode 6
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode Christi interviews Elizabeth Fogarty, the Director of Visit Grand Junction.  The two of them have a fascinating discussion about place and tourism marketing, data analytics, relationship building, the effect of COVID-19 on tourism, how Grand Junction is evolving, and how we protect our quality of life on the Western Slope through it all.  Visit https://www.visitgrandjunction.com/ to learn more about their vision, order a visitor's guide, and to see all there is to do in the Grand Valley!

If you prefer to watch your podcasts, check out the video: https://youtu.be/9B4j1pCXAxs

Christi Reece:

The Full Circle Podcast, compelling interviews and incredible tales from Colorado's Western slope, from the mountains to the desert, Christi Reece and her team hear from the movers, shakers, and characters of the Grand Valley and surrounding mountain towns that make the Western Slope, the place we all love. You'll learn. You'll laugh. You'll love with the Full Circle. Hi everyone. And welcome back to the Full Circle Podcast with The Christi Reece group. I'm Christi Reece and today I'm honored to have as our guest Elizabeth Fogarty, the Director of Visit Grand Junction. Uh, so it used to be the Visitor and Convention Bureau. Right. But that changed before you came.

Elizabeth Fogarty:

Correct. Just before I arrived, our industry, we're known as destination marketing organizations, and we are a department of the city of Grand Junction. Um, somewhat unusual about 25% of DMOs in the country are a division of the city and others , um , are a separate taxing district.

Christi Reece:

Okay. And , um, what about Palisade and Fruita, do they have their own destination marketing organizations or do you cover those areas of the county as well?

Elizabeth Fogarty:

They do have their own, however, we do market the entire area consumers don't see boundaries and , uh , they primarily think through activities and experiences they want so primarily Visit Grand Junction does talk about all the activities in the entire Valley, but Palisade and Fruita do have their own tourism boards as well.

Christi Reece:

Okay, awesome. So Elizabeth, tell us a little bit about how you got to Grand Junction and how long you've been here and your tenure with Visit Grand Junction.

Elizabeth Fogarty:

Yeah, thanks. Uh , Ben in Grand Junction, just 2 and a half years short time , uh, originally from Western New York, grew up South of Buffalo and started my career in Buffalo with Delaware, North Companies. They're very large. Uh , one of the largest privately held hospitality company in the world, $3 billion company, and was really fortunate to start with them in their corporate marketing department. So I was exposed to some pretty progressive , uh, business industry and stayed with them for quite some time. Uh, from Buffalo, I moved to Syracuse and then Denver at the old Stapleton airport, I'm dating myself and then to Boston, they moved me there. And then my last stint with Delaware North was in Yosemite National Park. So that was their first park service , uh , contract. They took over for Curry Company and I was managing the Wawona Hotel , uh, which was really interesting. It was in the red at the time and they said, turn it around in a year, get us in the black. And we did it in six months. Oh, wow. Fantastic. Yeah. And then decided to take a break. I had a brother in Colorado Springs who was retiring from the Air Force, so decided to catch up with family and , uh, worked at the Broadmoor Hotel for six years when Gaylord owned it and then kind of migrated my way North , uh, worked in Denver for a company, primarily working with boutique hotels on the East coast and , uh , then Boulder and then Estes Park for 13 years. So that's where I resided prior to coming to coming to Grand Junction. And honestly I owe a big part of being here to Debbie Kovalik. We were at a conference in Colorado Springs, the hotel conference, and she shared that I , uh, that she was retiring and I should consider , uh, the position in Grand Junction. So I was somewhat familiar. I was a typical Front Ranger, somewhat familiar.

Christi Reece:

You knew it was over here on the side of the state somewhere, probably stopped to get gas on your way to Utah,

Elizabeth Fogarty:

We call it in our office now, Gas and Gatorade and everything we do is to avoid the Gas and Gatorade , uh , consumer. Um, in fact, we have research now that says, if they stay a certain amount of time in the Grand Junction area, they actually returned. So yes, I was one of those glad I had that experience because it allows us to have really good insight now that we're trying to convert. Right.

Christi Reece:

You know what it's like to be a consumer out there wandering around Colorado and wondering what all these places are about.

Elizabeth Fogarty:

Exactly. And , uh , I was just blown away. My husband and I came out here to spend some time and be incognito and really delve into the community. Um, spent time at local restaurants and sat at the bar at Bin, and just talk to the bartenders and , and, you know, said who we were Front Rangers just visiting. What's it like to live here? What's it like to visit? We learned so much. And then we really got excited and , uh, I really wanted the position so much , um, having spent some time here. Um, but again, yeah, Debbie kind of put that bug in my ear and she deserves a lot of credit for the foundation that she created, you know, the lodging tax didn't exist. Um, but Grand Junction was one of the first to have a lodging tax in the state and that was under Debbie's leadership. So , um, we still lean on a lot of the learnings that she created with her team and we've kind of taken it to the next iteration of where marketing is now.

Christi Reece:

And I think we're really lucky to have you obviously you've got an incredible marketing background and I think when you came to town, we all thought, Oh my gosh, do we deserve this? You know, you're going to do great things. And I think you really have, so we appreciate that. Did you go to school for marketing ?

Elizabeth Fogarty:

I did. I primarily majored in marketing and accounting and my emergent genetics kind of balances that out. I have a lot of creative creativity side and then an analytical side. And all of that really aligns itself with marketing, especially in today's industry where our actionable insights truly come from data as opposed to anecdotal information or feelings. Right,

Christi Reece:

Right . So that's a great segue because I wanted to ask you about the analytical data and how are you relying on that now? And how is that different from the way we used to market? It's really exciting.

Elizabeth Fogarty:

The , the data really began in the hospitality industry with retail and restaurants. The data companies could wrap their hands around the widget. They were selling, whether it was a restaurant meal or a piece of clothing or a toy, right. It was tangible. And tourism was really slow with the data because these technology companies couldn't really wrap their head around tourism. We don't have a tangible thing where marketing and experience and we're creating real relationships with our community and then the broader area we're marketing to . So it only happened recently, even when I was in Estes, we were wanting to lean into the data, but the companies were saying, we can offer you this data, but there really wasn't a connection to the ROI and a direct connection to the consumer anonymized data and aggregated data. But there still wasn't that connection like they had with retail and restaurant . So when I came here, we started reaching out to those companies and helping them say, listen, treat us as a restaurant, draw a geo around the city of grand junction or downtown. And let's treat that as a retail shop or a restaurant. Um, and we worked with some really progressive companies that were willing to do that. And then while we were doing that, larger companies were coming up the ranks and seeing the light with tourism. And it literally happened just in the last year and a half, two years where we are, where we are now, where we can , um , align the data with the consumers we're looking for and marketing and it's done in a responsible way is about again, creating relationships. So we want to speak to the people that want to hear from us. And if they don't, we don't want to be sending them ads and traditionally marketing. We all remember right. We were getting ads from a variety of places. So on one hand, people may say, I don't want to be tracked. And I don't like using that word, but publicly those conversations are happening right now. Um, but what's actually happening is brands now have access to data again, anonymized that allow us to speak to the people that want to be spoken to. So instead of me getting ads in my margin that are polyester, plaid pants, I'm getting ads in the margin of things that I'm looking for or

Christi Reece:

Recommended for you based on your other choices.

Elizabeth Fogarty:

Exactly. So it's making our life easier.

Christi Reece:

It does creep some people out, but it also, when it, when it nails, it you're like, Oh gosh, I hadn't heard of that book or that music or that product. And it is something that I would like, because I did like this other thing.

Elizabeth Fogarty:

Exactly. And we're becoming reliant on it. For example, when I was looking a couple of years ago with those food delivery companies, right? They send you a kit, you make it that evening. Right . I researched one and I expected all of them to show up in my margin, make my life easier. I don't have time to go find you. I don't need to remember all your names. I think I HelloFresh, but there was many out there. They all showed up. But one and I was aggravated with the one because I had to go find it. I mean, I had to go research all of them to make a decision, which is a little obsessive, but we were becoming more and more reliant on the information. And at the end of the day, you can clear your cookies and show off ads. And if I'm served up an ad, that's not appropriate to my hobbies or something I'm looking for, you know, it just takes a second to click on it and say, I don't want to be served up these ads. And if you really lean into it, yeah , it really helps your lifestyle. And if you choose not to, you can shut them off as well.

Christi Reece:

So can you tell us what kind of data is the perfect Grand Junction visitor showing us? I mean, what, what are, how are you targeting? Yeah,

Elizabeth Fogarty:

It really depends on season and activity. You know, if it's a specific event that we're looking to help, of course, pre COVID, we would use that data. We had events and yeah . And seek out that information. So it depends if we're talking season or event, or sometimes it's just the quality consumer. So we know that no surprise Salt Lake city is the number one , um, origin market to Grand Junction for out of state. Um, but Boise has a longer length of stay. So from a destination management standpoint, we won't ignore Salt Lake city, but we might lean into a city with a longer length of stay because quality of life is all , always our number one strategy. We know that if we enjoy our lifestyle here, people will want to visit. But if we encroach on our amazing quality of life, which is why we all came here , um, then why would people visit? If we start encroaching on that and we're not happy as residents . So our filter is always what will help and benefit the community enough where we're not encroaching and quality of life. Um, cities pop up unexpectedly like Albuquerque has been , um , surfacing and everyone is surprised , emerges , and you , yeah . And we're able to track it. And then if we triangulate our data as well, so we don't use any one data source, that's a risky way of going down a rabbit hole and data's not always correct. So we triangulate as much as we can. Sometimes we'll use an ad tech company for a little while, achieve some learnings and then we'll shift to another. But when we are able to consistently consistently see good data, we'll often share it. For example, we shared the Albuquerque story with CMU, and we said, this might be a great opportunity for your admissions office. So the marketing department has been looking into that as well. And then Chicago is another good example. Long before the negotiation was happening for that direct flight that we were getting in the summer. We knew that there was a lot of potential for Chicago and Grand Junction. It was a growing market for Colorado and our data showed it was a growing market here even without the flight. So literally two and a half years ago, we were marketing and still do to Chicago heavily. And it's one of our top cities even now without the direct flight. Wow .

Christi Reece:

And what do you think the attraction is? What makes Chicago folks like Grand Junction? What is it about our area?

Elizabeth Fogarty:

Yeah, every city is a little different and we're learning more about that. Um, we're getting , we're getting those learnings a little more in state, especially with COVID, we're doing more a marketing focus in state. So we know , um, the leanings of Arvada first Littleton, first Denver, you know, Arvada , uh, our data's showing there's a lot of scuba divers in Arvada. I saw this in Colorado Springs too . And I lived in Colorado Springs. It was like the number one scuba store West of the Mississippi, other than the coast. It was like odd hobbies, right? It's not unusual. It gets this cult following. So we're not sending scuba adds to Arvada. Um, but

Christi Reece:

We got Highline Lake though, come on,

Elizabeth Fogarty:

You can maybe show up in their feed if they have a preponderance to wanting to be outside and like outdoor recreation, things like that. Um, Chicago, it's definitely the wide open spaces and getting away from the city. So we also use programmatic content. So , um, when Chicago goes to our website, they likely see a hello Chicago message, and then something that speaks to them. And that goes back to the relationship building. We do that for all our direct flights cities. It's really fun.

Christi Reece:

That does sound fun because you get to learn about these other places and other populations. Um, I have a realtor friend in Fredericksburg , Texas, and I was looking at my Facebook feed and she said, we just had the best time in Colorado and Utah. And they did a big trip where they , uh, did some river rafting, I believe over in , uh, around Moab and then , uh , some four wheeling. And then they went to Gateway Canyons for a few nights and did some more outdoor activities there. And then they did a wine tour in Grand Junction, and I was scrolling through the photos and I said, you were just in my town. I wish I know you , you were coming here. And she said, it was the best trip. The photos she posted were amazing. I mean, this could be an ad for Grand Junction , uh, everything that she did. And I think there's such an opportunity for us to capitalize on the Utah people that know that as Canyon country, right? Because they don't typically think of Colorado as being Canyon country

Elizabeth Fogarty:

Agree or even the arches. And that another thing I learned being the front ranger I was, was the second largest concentration of arches is here and it's in large part, why we put it on the back cover of our new visitor guide just released the squeak. So , um, we're very careful with that though. We do educate people on what type of hike that is, that falls into our destination management piece. Uh , we have a full page on leave, no trace, trace principles on the inside back cover of the guide, fairly for a DMO to devote that amount of education and a guide. Um, but again, we really want to make sure we protect this area and we know tourism has an impact to a community, and we want to make sure that we minimize that impact.

Christi Reece:

So let's talk about this guy a little bit more because it's a , it's not on the stands yet, but , um , we have an advanced copy. Uh , it's beautiful. And there's no ads in here, right.

Elizabeth Fogarty:

Correct, that's very unusual as well. And we're really proud of that.

Christi Reece:

It's really nice. I have to say my first reaction was, can we put an ad in here, but then when I thumb through it and I think there are no ads, it's just about Grand Junction, not about any of the businesses here, but you can find information about the businesses easily because you have links to websites and all kinds of things.

Elizabeth Fogarty:

We wanted it to be a trusted source as opposed to putting ads in front and kind of forcing that messaging. And we know the community has many opportunities to purchase ads and we don't want to encroach on that either. We'll leave that to other partners who really depend on that funding. So that was an important decision as well, because we could have easily added ads to this piece, especially COVID and trying to increase our revenue because we are dependent on lodging tax. But , uh , we decided it was important to maintain the integrity of that piece. And , um , continued to receive feedback from the community that they liked it the way it was and just stick to the refresh. So yeah, we're really proud of it. We did add a new section in this edition . There's now a restaurant section. We didn't do that in the past cause the restaurants change so much, but we literally were making changes the day it was going to press and we got everybody in and it's okay if it changes where we direct them throughout the guide to go to our website for additional information and even events, we felt it was important to continue to list all of the events. So we didn't remove any of them. Obviously we confirmed with all the event, promoters and managers, we did reorganize the events based on season that they are historically hosted in, but we did remove the dates . So there's quite a few subtle COVID changes in there . Uh, there's a few photos of crowds, but a little looser than what we've done in the past. Um, but we're really proud of it. The front and back cover are by , uh , Michael Roush who , uh , was born and raised in Grand Junction. Still has family here really proud of his images. And he actually wrote , um, a little story inside the guide that , uh , will bring to your chills to you . Every time I read it, I get goosebumps. That's really amazing. That's great. So the teams worked really hard on it. They deserve a ton of credit.

Christi Reece:

I bet I know what it takes to put out a publication. It's a lot of work. So this is a yearly publication.

Elizabeth Fogarty:

Yeah. Year ish. So we try to have it last, a little longer. Uh, we printed 95,000 copies of this. Uh, we increase them every year, other than the resident print that we did last. Um, but it continues to grow in popularity, both , um , within the community and outside. And it does convert when people there's studies done on , uh, the industry wide that say , if someone looks at a visitor guide, either print or digital, they do extend their stay. And that's what we're trying to accomplish as well.

Christi Reece:

So where can people pick these up in Grand Junction? And I think even more importantly, where else are they distributed? Where people that might not know about Grand Junction, where can they pick it up?

Elizabeth Fogarty:

We mail them. So if few , few ways you can go to our homepage on visit grand junction.com in the upper right corner. It says order a guide. And that's where you can view the digital guide as well. And we have hundreds of thousands of digital views of the guide and we track all of that. We know what pages they're clicking on and what links and that helps us with our actionable strategies of what people are interested in or what we might be missing. And then , uh, they are, they will be , um, distributed outside the visitor center, which is temporarily closed due to COVID, but we stuck it outside so people can stop by and pick one up. And then there's areas around the community. I think , uh, here as well, Christi, or we have racks of the guide , um , many hotels, retail stores, restaurants, any , uh, establishment that would like a rack , a typical magazine rack. We stock it and then we stopped by when it's running low and fill it. So if any business in town would like one, we take care of all of that and we refill it as needed. So it's really nice.

Christi Reece:

And are, are they stocked at welcome centers?

Elizabeth Fogarty:

Yes. Outside the area, all of the state welcome centers, AAA offices, other travel companies , um, the airport , uh, there's really no limit to where we put it. If someone asks, we, we ask them, would you like a case or a rack? And the more places the better the digital copy obviously gets a lot of leverage.

Christi Reece:

And we were talking earlier about an insert that's going into the Colorado Visitor's Guide.

Elizabeth Fogarty:

So we're , we have exclusive rights to this insert. This will be our third year producing it. So anyone that purchase or , uh , requests , the Colorado official visitor guide, that's produced yearly as well. The Grand Junction insert is literally on top. And then the whole thing is bubble wrap. So when people receive their state guide, it really helps Grand Junction stand out. And it really is this coffee table piece or something you put on your fridge that we think lasts longer than the actual guide, which is quite big, eventually that winds up in a closet. Um , but we've heard that this piece , um , people keep for a long time and we keep it out. It is really beautiful. We also do a lot with postcards , um, especially post COVID. We thought we'd lean into some traditional marketing, some guerrilla marketing. So we've been sending out newsletters through the state , uh, uh , list saying , um , if you'd like a postcard, the mail, and we had a little jingle that went with it, a little poem that said, you know, none of us love getting mail, except when we get a postcard from a beautiful place. And we'd love to send you a beautiful postcard. And so many people are requesting those postcards from all over the country. I love it . And we did that for residents last year as well. Everyone who received a visitor guide last year, they got a postcard and we asked them to mail it to someone who's never been to Grand Junction before. And then we ask them to email us and tell us where they mailed it. And then they were entered into a contest. So postcards have been really fun for us. We've just had , um, a huge , uh, response to the postcards and we just purchased , uh , a bunch more. They're super economical and we throw a stamp on it. And , um , the first 3000 of these that we'll be mailing out to people have requested them. They received two stamp postcards, one of the front and one of the back of the guide. And we were saying in a letter , um, when hopefully come visit, bring these postcards with you, fill 'em out and melon while you're here , um, to kind of complete that circle. So it's been fun, some creative ways the team has come up with

Christi Reece:

And you have a team of eight.

Elizabeth Fogarty:

When we're fully staffed, everyone dabbles in data. So , um, these positions are currently difficult to fill because we're really at the, at the , uh , very lead of what marketing is doing from a data standpoint. And these positions haven't been around for very long, but , um, now that it's been about a year and a half, two years, that these positions have been in the market, we think we'll have some better luck and good post COVID will help too . There are benefits of COVID right. Um, unemployment was really low pre COVID. It was hard to find people, but now we've got , um , some new folks that are looking to expand their marketing horizon and we're starting to attract them. Awesome.

Christi Reece:

Um, let's talk a little bit about the trends that you're seeing in tourism here, and COVID has obviously changed things, but what trends were you seeing before COVID and what you expect , um, the long range trends to be here and how has COVID affected things? I mean, how, how far down has the , um, uh, the lodging tax dropped and how has that affected you? And, but I , I want to think about, I mean, obviously we, that live here, know lots of people are coming here. Lots of people want to live here and we feel like we're getting more tourists from different areas. Um, so talk a little bit about the trends that you were seeing before COVID

Elizabeth Fogarty:

We were seeing some substantial growth in visitation. Um , we were very cognizant to spread these people out as much as possible, but , um, we were seeing some significant growth. I think it was appropriate or we, it's not a dial on the wall that we can turn on and off, but we knew that there was opportunity to grow tourism in this community. Um, and we were hearing from businesses that they really needed an extra push from tourism. Uh, if we've learned anything from COVID nationally , uh, these businesses can't survive with just resident purchase, whether it's restaurant or retail or activities. So , um, there was a healthy growth pre COVID post COVID and the time we're in now, we're still doing okay. Certainly businesses are hurting in this community and we're doing everything on everything we can to help them. Uh, but during the , uh , quarantine that was happening nationally, instead of just shutting down our marketing, we did create a room from home campaign. And that was a very, very responsible messaging of not inviting people, but we saw it as an opportunity to educate people about what the Grand Junction area offered, because that's a huge gap in the market, right? Let's still people don't know about our area. So we created a grid, okay . Photos with no one in the photos, just beautiful scenery and deployed this messaging digitally to people. And we let them know, you know, please don't come visit, but here's an opportunity to learn about us. So when visitation does open up either by state or by country , um, we've kind of laid that foundation. So that was a significant part of our strategy during COVID. We also, as DMS , you kind of turn inward and start helping the community even more. So we created a Google Sheet, that was live that businesses could go in on their own, or we would do it for them. And it was everything from restaurant hours with the, to go and the takeout, a nice partnership with the city, as far as the eat out campaign, that was a lot of fun that we were #GJStrong and then #GJStrongAppetite. That was a lot of fun. So we promoted that , um, and just advertising the hours of businesses. And as they would open, we would give them a bit of a , a nudge on the, on the marketing side. And it seems to have worked because our numbers aren't as dire as we're seeing in the state and even the country. So, although we're about 40% below last year, year to date for lodging tax, our most obvious barometer , um, we think we'll end the year at about 38% below 2019, and that's ahead of the country, which likely will end up at 50% below 2019. So we're pacing ahead of the state and the country. But again, we don't want to get too far ahead. We're pretty comfortable with where we are now. Um, we don't want to attract too much visitation. We stay really close obviously to the COVID numbers and Mesa County health. And , um, obviously the restrictions with , um, the governor and the state rules. We follow those really closely, a complicated message, I think for , uh , lots of people in lots of industries. How do you say we want you, but

Christi Reece:

Too many.

Elizabeth Fogarty:

Yeah, not all at once . We do that with the length of stay. So , um , if we, you know, we have limited revenue and limited time. So , uh, in some cases that's a good thing. So we , we can't market to all of these cities that we would love to, and then we choose longer length of stay. And sometimes that depends on season as well. So we monitor that

Christi Reece:

Is that ideal length of stay, the tourists you're targeting.

Elizabeth Fogarty:

We would like to get it to about four nights, depending on the city. It's one and a half to two. And we'd like to get it to four because that's when they are visiting multiple restaurants and shopping at multiple retail stores. And , um, you're not flipping rooms constantly. It reduces the amount of cars into the community. Um, so that would be ideal. And I think we can, we can get there.

Christi Reece:

Are you doing surveys with people that are traveling here and what kind of data are you seeing? What do you think that Grand Junction still lacks that tourists want to see in our community? Yeah .

Elizabeth Fogarty:

So this came out in our branding. Uh, we'll be , uh , sharing publicly soon. Uh, the final recommendations of the branding process. This has been a year and a half of working with the community. We did a lot of executions within the city. We can talk about that if there's time, but the consumers are intrigued about what we have here. We just need to communicate confidently what we have that's unique. So one of the things that came out of the branding, which we're really excited about is residents are confident about grand junction. I think historically the messaging was Grand Junction just doesn't have the confidence it needs, but that's changed. And I think it's recent. Um, a lot of changes have happened thanks to the partnerships in the community and the great organizations like GJEP, the chamber and airport and sports commission. I think all of that has been elevated organizationally and then individual businesses as well. So the residents , uh, through our branding surveys absolutely said they were confident. I think what's lacking is how to message that confidently. And we're going to be helping with that as part of our branding , uh, and, and , uh, how we communicate with the public. And we'll give them tools and resources and assets to say, you know, here, you can apply this to your own brand. This will not only help you, but it'll, you know, raise all ships and , um, help the community as a whole. But yeah, consumers, once they hear about us, they do want to visit. And again, once they visit, they often tend to come back. Our research is showing that as well. We're not a bucket list, Disneyland check, and that's it. Once they visit, they absolutely want to come back. And, you know, we're not surprised, right? The monument and the Mesa and the book cliffs. And there is, they just don't know about it. It's not over complicated. Um, I think people look for the silver bullet when a branding is finished and they look for a logo and fancy tagline, and we've avoided that at all costs, we may get a new logo at the end of this branding exercise. It's not something we're focused on. In fact, we removed the logo from this visitor guide purposely just to distance ourselves from that conversation. Yeah. You'll find it in the book, but it's not something that needs to be our brand. Um, so that was a subtle way to say, you know what? We're so much more important than a logo and we'll see what comes out of it. We may end up with a logo .

Christi Reece:

Our brand is the experience that people have.

Elizabeth Fogarty:

Right? Exactly. And the relationship we're creating a lot with them. Exactly. And it's not a tagline . So we did an Outdoor Retailer campaign with GJEP two years ago and created , um, new imagery and taglines. It all comes together here. And mother nature plays favorites, and don't hate us because we're beautiful. And it was wonderful because Palisade, Fruita and Grand Junction all loved it. And they loved it so much that they said this should be our brand. Um, so it was a good problem to have, but we said, this isn't a brand. This is creative. Um , a brand is so much more involved in that and the community has listened and responded in that way. Again, when we did community surveys, I think everyone started understanding based on the questions we were asking , um, something that came out of that was not just confidence, but also a little bit that we're a teenage city trying to figure out who you are. And we are evolving. It's a really good thing. Like we're kind of in control of our future and we're not overly dependent anymore on anyone industry. And I think the diversification we're seeing is really helpful for our brand. And I think that's part of the confidence we're seeing in the community as well.

Christi Reece:

I love that thinking about the confidence that we have, and I, I went to one of the branding workshops and the word I specifically remember was when the guy asked, do you feel like we're sexy here? You know , because we , a lot of us felt like Colorado has this sexy mystique, but we thought Grand Junction just doesn't feel sexy, but we were getting there. You have that opportunity. And yeah, I agree. We're becoming cooler. And , uh , how do you think that Grand Junction's identity has changed over the last 10 years?

Elizabeth Fogarty:

I think more awareness. I think it's less other than the identity of the residents. You know, I think the boom and bust cycle sucks the wind out of a community, of course. And then you're trying to pull it back together. Um, but I think the assets have always been here and oftentimes it takes a destination marketing organization to kind of organize that in a way that the community can deploy it. So I wouldn't say much has changed. It's more, the attitude of the community has change and we're already there and now they're open to it. Like you have to have confidence in order to take this messaging and deploy it. Um, so we're seeing that. And , uh , again, some of the , um , exercises we did with branding, you probably remember we had the holiday trees at city hall where we had wooden ornaments and we encouraged everyone to write down what they loved about grand junction. And that was subliminal. We didn't say we're doing a branding exercise, come to city hall and fill out an ornament. It was just very subtle. And to get people thinking about what is special, it's already here, it doesn't necessarily need to change. And then we also did the tickets of good cheer where during the holidays, instead of people getting a parking ticket, it was random. So some got parking tickets, me included, but

Christi Reece:

I won't show you our stack. Exactly. It's our donation. I think we pay for a city employee with

Elizabeth Fogarty:

Me too. And I'm one of them

Christi Reece:

That, you know, it was really a nice surprise to go out and find a , just a nice note on your car.

Elizabeth Fogarty:

And we encouraged people to email us as they're fine. They didn't have to, but once again, say what's special about grand junction. Yeah. And then we do the traditional surveys as well. We did some COVID surveys even of , um, how COVID was affecting them. So impact survey recovery survey. And , uh, even though the chamber , GJEP and CMU do those surveys too, that's a good thing. Um, and then I just encourage everyone to be sharing that information and see where there might be some conflicts in the data. And then we noted and maybe question , uh, ask the question differently or that all the data's lining up consistent. And then we all can really depend on that data. So that's something else that we've really leaned into on a community wide level is sharing information and cross pollination of ideas and strategies and data , um, to help each other. That's really important. Yeah.

Christi Reece:

Yeah. We have three distinct communities, but we can't all work together and bring more people to our whole area that we have so much to offer in the three different communities.

Elizabeth Fogarty:

And in our regional partnerships even go beyond the Valley, you know, there's partnerships, sometimes we do with Moab, Utah, we tourism is that way. Sometimes you compete. And other times you're partnering and then the Southwest , uh , mountains and mesas is our new region from the Colorado tourism office, rebrand of the state. So we used to be part of the Northwest region and then destination think the same company we're using for our branding, drew new lines across the state that made a lot more sense. And now we're in the Southwest region, which is mountains and Mesa. So now we've created, I think, three different itineraries to move people around our region and get them to stay a little longer because just like your friends did no one's staying in any one destination culturally, that long we're trying to increase length of stay, but they are moving around. So if they're in Durango or Glenwood Springs, we want to get them up here too . Or maybe they'll come here and stay longer than next time they come to the area.

Christi Reece:

Uh , I get excited just thinking about having all these different people from all over the world, come visit our area, and I'm sure you do too.

Elizabeth Fogarty:

We do. We're tempering it with COVID. Um, we're being much more direct with our invitation in state and then much more inspirational out of state. Uh , but we think we're primed for, for both and as restrictions lift , um, whether it's a vaccine or what have you, we don't really know what the future looks like, but we can still lay a really good strategic foundation to make sure grand junction is recovering

Christi Reece:

What everybody needs to be doing right now. Right. Working on their systems, laying foundation so that when we open up, we can really take advantage of that time. Okay . Anything else that you want to share about what you're doing at visit grand junction or projects going on or looking ahead?

Elizabeth Fogarty:

Sure. There's a new technology we're bringing to the table that will be primarily for the businesses in the area it's called Ben Wingo. Uh , so then WinCo , that's just the company name. We won't lead with that, but it's basically a web based app. So it's not an app people, even though we have lots of apps on our phone, we traditionally don't use them. It seems like a good idea. So this is more of a web based app. It's a website that offers the convenience of an app, but actually has a website behind it. So an example of what this would do from a free standpoint, and this ties into our strategy of destination management. So one of the things our team is working on is , uh, itineraries that are free in the area. So we're coming up with mild hikes and there'll be 15, mild hikes, 15 or so medium and a dozen or so extreme. And then let's say they complete, we'll say you need to complete five of these hikes, five of these mild hikes, and you literally can ping the app. So they'll just literally go to our website, click on a link, they get a link on their phone and then everything is super seamless. So they can go to the Trailhead, even if there's no signal and ping that they're at the Trailhead. And if they do five, then depending on the partner we've , uh, we're working with, if they do all five, they can go to like Rockslide and get a free beer. And what happens when the family goes and gets a free beer at a business or a free gelato, everybody purchases something, right? So that's kind of the destination strategy around it. They'll also be pay passes where if you visit these three museums, then you might win a prize. So a lot of it is gamification as a strategy, but we're super excited about it. Um, you know, we, again want to be really careful that trails aren't overused. So we're constantly reaching out to our public land partners to say, if you see a trial getting overly popular, even if it's residents let us know, and we'll swap that Trailhead for a different one, we really want to disperse the visitation. So this new technology is a great way to do that as well as create really cool experiences. Other one, we're doing a sculpture. So every sculpture will be on that sculpture itinerary. And then we may create sculptures that you need to see on certain blocks. You know, especially if a few stores said we're not getting the traffic, we're kind of at the end of downtown, we're not in the middle. Um , we'll create a little itinerary around that. Get people out there. People love to play games. People are just inherently competitive and that'll be a way to drive some traffic to that end of town. So we're super excited about it. It's just going to continue to grow over time and we think the community is going to love it. And the residents get to use it too . Yeah, I wouldn't use it . Yeah .

Christi Reece:

There's, there's places my husband's a Grand Junction native and there's times when we do scavenger hunts with our kids and he's always the one that creates them. Cause he knows all these hidden things that I, we should know with him . It's so fun. Yeah. Um, lastly , uh , as we wrap up , um, I just want to thank you for being here and , um, I'm really excited about all the things that you're doing. Um, we talked a lot of nonprofit organizations and you represent every business , uh, in the city, especially, but in the whole region, right. Uh , if people want to know more, they want to get in touch with you. If they've got ideas. Um, I mean, how do you, how do you interact with the general business public?

Elizabeth Fogarty:

We get a lot of , uh , reciprocal conversation from the three monthly newsletters that we send out. So if someone hasn't signed up for those, go to visit grand junction.com and at the bottom there's communications, just click on that and you could sign up for one of them or all three, one is marketing. Another is stakeholder where we share what the team is achieving and also how the community can partner with us to help whatever their mission or whatever they're trying to accomplish is. And then we also, the third one is at PR e-news where we're sharing stories, we're pitching. So the last one we sent out was fall and even holiday. Um, if they have ideas, they can pitch those to us. And then we pitch those to press and Colorado tourism office. And we, again, a lot of people reply to those , uh e-news and I passed them onto the team and then they take ownership of them and work with the business. Obviously, our website's a great place for information. Emailing me directly is always wonderful. I love hearing from people. My email is ElizabethF @gjcity.org . Okay. Um, and then our offices are open. The visitor center is temporarily closed, but our team is at the office Monday through Friday eight to five ish. Um, and we're always available. So residents will come up to the door, we see them and they might need visitor guides. They might want to drop off some information. So we're very easily accessible either in person or through email or communication pieces.

Christi Reece:

Wonderful Elizabeth Fogarty. We want to thank you for joining us today. It's been a pleasure to talk to you and learn more about what's going on at Visit Grand Junction and appreciate all of your hard work and stay healthy, stay safe. And , uh, we'll hope to talk to you again sometime soon.

Elizabeth Fogarty:

Thank you for having me. I truly appreciate it. It's fun to talk about what the team's accomplishing. They deserve a ton of credit . Yes . Just want to give them a shout out.

Christi Reece:

A lot of teamwork goes into that. We know you're not just doing all this single handedly. So good job to to everyone at Visit Grand Junction. Yeah. Thank you. Thanks for being here. Thanks for listening. This is Christi Reece signing out from the Full Circle Podcast.