CAPC creates online bulletin board for venting frustrations, getting answers

Monday, January 23, 2006

EUREKA SPRINGS -- A new Web site bulletin board to get answers straight from the source was announced during Wednesday's work session of the City Advertising and Promotion Commission.

On-line since Jan. 3, the bulletin board was prompted by a question from a 30-year resident of Eureka Springs asking if salaries of the CAPC staff comprised 50 percent of the CAPC budget.

"You can go to the site and see that it's 16 percent," said Executive Director Lynn Berry. She further noted that the national average of convention bureau staffs is 30 percent of budget.

A link to the bulletin board is found at www.eurekaspringstourism.com, and visitors are invited to "vent your frustrations, share your opinions and get answers from the source."

Said Berry, "Hopefully they will come with solutions."

An introductory page states that the bulletin board "is not a place to spread lies, fear, uncertainty or doubt. It is not a place to bash and defame others in our community, nor is it an opportunity to promote commercial enterprise.

"In other words, you can be thrown off with no public plea or recourse-- the flexible view of the first amendment does not apply here."

There are also admonitions for participants to make a point without being "personal or hateful for the sake of being hateful;" register under one's real name to post, eliminating opportunities to be anonymous; and no posting under more than one account, one e-mail address or one name.

Primary purpose of Wednesday's meeting was to firm up the commission's 2006 plan. While goals were agreed on, steps to be taken to meet those goals were largely not addressed, and are expected to be addressed later.

A three-year plan is to be addressed later this year.

A goal of increasing tourism tax revenue by 5 percent was an increase of the original proposal. Objectives to this end includes cooperative marketing with area and regional businesses, contacts in key cities to market Eureka Springs, familiarization tours, and direct and Web site marketing.

It was decided that a University of Arkansas focus group should be called in to study the Web site's navigation, as many in the community believe the site to be a real challenge to users, Berry said.

The commission added cross-selling to its goals in product development. This goal would employ educating workers in tourism, such as a motel desk clerk informing visitors of 15 miles of hiking trails at Lake Leatherwood, the international recognition of the architecture of Thorncrown Chapel, and other noteworthy aspects of the Eureka Springs area.

The commission agreed that arts and culture should be a formal brand of the community, and that brands should be evaluated against consumer travel demographics.

It was also determined that the CAPC needs to better communicate its vision for Eureka Springs with citizens and businesses, and that relations between Eureka Springs and the state should be enhanced.

In research and planning, the commission will begin gathering area travel statistics, and implement final reports on festivals, including lodging stays generated and monitoring the gap between supply and demand.

The commission also will investigate more billboard advertising in the Springdale and Tulsa, Okla., areas, and additional television spots.

Next meeting of the commission will be at 7 p.m. on Jan. 31 in the Western District Courthouse.

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