City campaign aims to attract tourists statewide

Thursday, September 1, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:25 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Next year, Columbia will launch a large-scale advertising campaign with the intent of making Columbia one of Missouri’s biggest tourism locations.

Lorah Steiner, director of the Convention and Visitors Advisory Board, said attracting visitors to the city is important to the local economy.

“The nice thing about tourism is that it doesn’t require new utilities, it doesn’t require new roads, it doesn’t require new teachers in the schools,” Steiner said. “It uses the existing infrastructure, so you’re bringing new money into the community, and you’re not having to spend a lot to support that influx of revenue.”

The marketing campaign involves $65,000 worth of radio advertising, mainly in the St. Louis area. The city will also run full-color, full-page ads throughout 2006 in Missouri Life magazine and plans a $16,000 campaign in Reader’s Digest, which has an estimated readership of 3.8 million. Other aspects of the campaign include ads in rural Missouri newspapers, local ads on KMIZ to promote arts-related tourism and an online company called CVB Hotrates, a national organization that allows hotels and visitors bureaus to post information about their communities and facilities.

The promotional campaign focuses largely on “The District,” Columbia’s downtown area.

“Downtown is eclectic, it’s artsy, it’s vibrant, and there’s so many interesting, unique places,” Steiner said. “What we’re trying to do with our campaign is address the traveler’s desire to see and experience what’s unique in the city.”

Carrie Gartner, director of the Columbia Special Business District, said more people are paying attention to Columbia.

“We’ve really opened up our markets to people outside of Columbia,” said Gartner. “Twenty percent of Twilight Festival attendees are from out of town.”

The cross-state Katy Trail and the MKT Trail also are major draws.

“Fully 50 percent or better of all inquiries every month are about the trail,” Steiner said. “Even when we did research three years ago, better than 50 percent were from out of state.”

Thanks in large part to a kiosk at the intersection of the Katy and MKT trails, many bikers make it a point to take the eight-mile detour to come to the city.

For the past two years, the Convention and Visitor’s Advisory Board has worked with Woodruff Communications, an ad agency in Columbia. The city paid Woodruff $75,000 per year for creative work.

This year, the board has chosen to use the money it was paying the ad agency for statewide promotion in the form of the radio and magazine campaigns.

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