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March 19, 2019 12:44 pm

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Saugatuck-Douglas CVB’s New HQ Sees Walk-In Visitors Increase By 520%

The Saugatuck-Douglas Convention and Visitors Bureau saw its own walk-in visits increase by about 520 percent over last year since it opened its new Visitor Welcome Center June 30 at 95 Blue Star Highway. 
     And, now the CVB is starting an aggressive fall advertising campaign to turn an “unusual” season into a beautiful and successful season for the local hospitality industry as well. 
     “This year we’ve had a very unusual season. The spring was so cold and wet, so when you have colder temperatures you wind up with an unusual year. There have been mixed reports on how people are doing,” said Saugatuck-Douglas CVB Executive Director Felicia Fairchild. “We want the fall to be strong. Although we had an unusual beginning, summer was average to good.”
     Results from a recent Saugatuck Convention and Visitors Bureau survey showed the season brought mixed results: ups and downs among more than 50 area member businesses in the local hospitality industry. 
     That is why a sizeable chunk of advertising dollars will go to promote the area’s tourism industry to fall visitors, especially in larger metropolitan centers, including St. Louis and Indianapolis.
    The first-ever focused fall advertising campaign targets print media, with a “Got Fruit” theme. It is a tongue-in-cheek reflection on last year’s (and this year’s) dazzling foliage colors and fruit production - despite a mainstream media depiction of the area to the contrary. 
     “We’re launching it through Chicago Living Magazine, which will go out through distributors to Wall Street Journal and New York Times subscribers in Chicago and other cities,” explained Fairchild.
     The recent survey showed that most of the members located outside of the downtown area are doing gangbusters – extremely well, she said. 
     “Some are saying it’s the best year they ever had…Overall, we’re actually having a very good year.”
     Fairchild is setting her goals, budget and creative strategies to continue the positive business outlook through the coming season, with ads going into USA Today, a television spot on food, fruit, grapes and wines this fall, and four major articles in highly visible publications.
     “Budget Travel has just written about us as one of the Ten Beautiful Beach town Bargains for Fall, and ranked us with Laguna Beach – this is all over the United States, it’s national publicity,” she said. 
“We are also named among the Top 10 Romantic Fall Getaways by Southwest Airlines’ in-flight magazine will include mention of Saugatuck in the Grand Rapids ads.”
     And, she said, “Midwest Living wrote a phenomenal article about us in 2005 and they are doing a reprint of that. Then, Mature Michigan’s Fall Travel Guide, a fulfillment piece for the state of Michigan, which goes nationwide and internationally, has us featured on the cover.”
     Fairchild says it takes a lot of work and a lot of advertising dollars to get the word out that the Saugatuck / Douglas area is a fabulous fall destination.
     “My goal is to have a phenomenal and very busy fall,” she said, and laughed as she looked back on the work involved. “Getting that result is like nailing Jello to a tree.” 
     The comprehensive ad campaign in major market areas includes television, print and Web advertising. 
     But, the area is lucky, as Grand Rapids will be working to include Saugatuck’s message in their own advertising campaign, she said. “We’re working with them to make Saugatuck part of what they’re doing – as it is just 30 minutes away to get to Saugatuck’s great community and great beaches.” 
     “We put in about $20,000, along with seven other communities, to collectively spend $300,000 in total advertising – and $89,000 of it is in fall advertising,” she explained of the strategic methods to promote the area through advertisements. 
     “You have to be very clever from a public relations standpoint when you don’t have money.”
     The message is clear to the tourism industry:
     The Saugatuck area is a great place to be – and that continues well beyond Labor Day. 
     “We want to see our lodging numbers be very strong this year,” she said. “We would like to drive the overnight market here and visitors in general.”
     For more information and to see the new Got Fruit! ad, visit

Saugatuck-Douglas CVB’s New HQ Sees Walk-In Visitors Increase By 520%

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