When you’re targeting two distinct demographics, Tourism Ucluelet’s executive director Denise Stys-Norman believes two sites are better than one.
The site cost roughly $23,000 and came out of Tourism Ucluelet’s roughly $416,000 annual budget, which is funded entirely by the province’s Municipal and Regional District Tax; a 2 per cent tax automatically added to the bill visitors pay when they stay at local, fixed roof, accommodations.
Stys-Norman told the Westerly News that she and TU collaborator Brent Holweg, of locally based Steam Train Creative, spent a little over a year putting the website’s content together and were able to keep costs down by keeping the majority of the work in house and avoiding unnecessary bells and whistles.
“We just wanted to have a clean beautiful site that was easy to manoeuvre through and sold the experience of coming to Ucluelet,” she said.
“Brent and I wrote all of the content that is currently on the website. That process, in itself, took us quite a bit of time to go through, because you want to make sure that you’re crafting a message and you’re writing it in a way that is respectful to the community and celebrates why Ucluelet is so special and such a great place to come to.”
She said showcasing the community’s visitor experience was a tough slog at www.ucluelet.ca where tourism lures were forced to share the stage with municipal information like council agendas and community notices.
“It’s difficult to promote an area when you’re talking about municipal ongoings, like bylaws,” she said.
“They start reading about what’s going on in town instead of why they want to come here and spend their time and their money in our beautiful part of the world.”
She touted ucluelet.ca as a “beautiful site, that’s very well built and provides a lot of information,” but said the important information locals need isn’t what brings tourists to town.
“When you look at both sites they are distinctly different,” she said.
Ucluelet councillor Randy Oliwa recently expressed concerns around losing the local accommodation listings currently housed at ucluelet.ca, but Stys-Norman assured TU is fine with accommodations being listed on both sites.
“Leaving those businesses there provides another avenue for businesses to be promoted and represented in this community,” she said. “At the end of the day, if they’re represented on two pages, there’s more accessibility to find out about businesses in town so we’re happy for them to stay on the ucluelet.ca site.”
She said www.discoverucluelet.com will take some time to gain popularity and move up the search engine ranks, but suggested the early numbers have exceeded expectations.
“Our early google analytics have been phenomenal. Our early data is really positive and we’ll just keep on growing and pushing that out there,” she said. “We’ll certainly be promoting it in a very clean and presentable way.
During a presentation at the Ucluelet chamber of commerce’s annual general meeting last month, Brent Hohlweg spoke on behalf of Tourism Ucluelet and touted the sites’s early success; particularly its ability to hold visitors’ interest.
“People are spending time interacting almost right away on the site, which is what you want,” he said. “The site really is sticky. We’re holding people.”
He said Tourism Ucluelet’s core messaging is around escaping to a stress free zone and it’s important for the community to keep that promise and make sure visitors leave feeling restored, rejuvenated and ready to return.
The aim, he said, is to expand the tourist season and extend stays.
“Our goal really is to just get people to stay an extra day and play, not to pack more people in here during summertime,” he said. “It’s getting back to the authentic part of Ucluelet, not just driving growth for the sake of growth. We’re looking at trying to be respectful to our heritage and making certain that we do this in a way that we all can still live here.”
He cited the small mainland community of Steveston as a cautionary example of what can happen to a town that wagers its authenticity in pursuit of growth.
“For me, the moment that Steveston changed, is the moment that the community allowed McDonalds to go into the corner,” he said.
“At that moment, unbeknownst to everybody, the whole authentic aspect of what Steveston really is, and it’s still a great place don’t get me wrong, but that part of growth overtook. Developers came in. Everything just went to a point that it became something that wasn’t really about an area I wanted to live in anymore.”
He said tourists are trending towards unique, raw, experiences that Ucluelet has in spades and added Destination B.C. identified “cultured raw consumers” as a key traveling demographic.
“That consumer is really why Ucluelet has taken off,” he said. “We laid literally all of that out over the last couple of decades in Ucluelet.”
He said Tourism Ucluelet is working to build and maintain messaging that’s as quirky and fun as the product it’s promoting.
“We have a bit of an irreverence in Ucluelet,” he said. “We’re not always trying to be serious so having, sometimes, a little bit of fun, being a little cheeky and interrupting the message is where we’re getting our most success.”
Stys-Norman said Ucluelet’s tourism economy is showing “phenomenal growth,” but echoed Hohlweg’s sentiment about the importance of keeping that growth manageable and the local experience intact.
“We appreciate that we can only grow to a certain capacity before we hit that tipping scale and going down that other side,” she said. “I don’t feel that we’re quite there yet, but it can happen quite quickly if we’re not mindful of who we’re inviting and how we’re inviting them.”