Olentangy Valley News

Website updated with tourists, residents in mind

County visitors bureau's new site already drawing eyes of thousands

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The Delaware County Convention & Visitors Bureau is looking to bolster the county's $1-billion tourism industry with the help of a revamped VisitDelOhio.com.

The website hadn't had a makeover since 2006. It was relaunched last month with a new contemporary look and an interactive calendar of events.

When visitors first land on the homepage, they're welcomed by scrolling pictures with headlines such as Play Outdoors, Enjoy Arts, Zoom Down Water Slides and Browse Street Markets.

Bureau Executive Director Deb Shatzer calls the display the "wow factor" of the new website.

"It gives all the information visitors would need, such as where they'd stay and shop and eat," she said.

"It's a little more interactive than our old site was, and we're excited about that," she said.

Shatzer said the website is the bureau's foremost tool in bringing visitors to Delaware County -- and those visitors are worth a lot. According to the bureau's 2011 annual report, in addition to the money spent by tourists in the county, tourism supported 12,431 county jobs and generated almost $278 million in wages.

Local and state taxes tied to tourism topped out at $128 million.

"The website is a really good marketing tool for us, but I also think that this is a great service to our prospective visitors, because it gives them so much to choose from," Shatzer said.

In addition to the business and restaurant listings, the site includes a list of area attractions, possible meeting locations and overnight accommodations -- all of which are mapped out to show proximity to one another.

Visitors also can browse trip itineraries. The bureau has put together suggestions for a family getaway, guys- and girls-only weekends, couples trips and outdoor excursions.

Ashland-based Spire Advertising began working with the bureau early this year to update the site and transfer all of its content.

Although the company and its content-management system are new for the county, this isn't the first time the bureau has taken care to build a more-effective website. Shatzer recalled that its first website, launched in 2000, won awards because it was one of the first tourism sites in Ohio to feature animation.

Shatzer said one of her favorite aspects of the new system is that it allows the bureau to update and upload content at any time.

The website is also expandable. Shatzer said she'd eventually like to have photos with all the businesses and restaurants in the registry.

"I think, as we continue to add to and improve the site and get the word out about it, we'll start to see a pretty good increase in page views and in visitors to Delaware County," she said.

It seems the bureau's work already is paying off, because in the first five days of August, the calendar portion of the site was visited 2,000 times. That's half the amount of the hits from all of July.

But the site that's on track to receive a record number of views this month isn't just working to lure and inform tourists. Shatzer said it can be a good resource for residents, too.

"We really don't think of our own backyard as a tourist attraction, but it really is and we're lucky," she said. "There is a lot to discover about the area that even a lot of people who live nearby don't realize, and we just want to spread the word."

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