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New LED sign should soon promote Pulaski County tourism, area events
New LED sign should soon promote Pulaski County tourism, area events

Pulaski County Tourism Bureau Director Beth Wiles says this new LED sign will help promote area events.
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (May 29, 2010) — After months of debate, members of the Pulaski County Tourism Bureau finally decided to purchase a new light-emitting diode or LED sign to replace the existing sign on St. Robert Boulevard that has become a haven for pigeons.

In addition to nesting on the existing sign and leaving droppings on nearby cars, the pigeons have been pulling out sign components and the sign no longer functions. The new sign will include anti-avian features designed to prevent nesting, according to Tourism Director Beth Wiles.

During Thursday’s board meeting, Wiles said the total cost to install the new sign will be about $120,000. It will be similar to several LED signs already present on Missouri Avenue and Old Route 66 in St.Robert.

Signs in Time of St. Robert was the winning bidder, Wiles said, with K. York Electric of Crocker doing the necessary electric work.

“The sign committee met and visited with several of the companies that proposed bids. We made a decision and we did go with Signs in Time,” Wiles said. “It will be an LED in place of the brown and gold sign that says Visitors Center right now, and down below we’ll have Visitors Center.”

Wiles said it will take about four weeks for the LED portion of the sign to be ordered and a couple of weeks more for additional portions to arrive and be installed.

“We’re looking at mid-July to get the sign up and running,” Wiles told board members.

Wiles provided additional details on the sign after the meeting.

“This will really help us in promoting the county for both visitors and the local communities,” Wiles said.

“For instance, this weekend it would have been great to have welcomed all the bikers and bluegrassers into town. We will be able to promote events throughout the county, welcome special groups, motor coaches, military reunions, run video and photos of river floating, museums, advertise PFAA plays,” Wiles said. “We will also be able to do away with the banners that currently promote events on the corner of the property, which many times rip in the wind, fade out with rain, and many times there are more organizations wanting to put up banners than we have room for, or allow.”

While the sign has been a major focus of disagreement among board members for months due to the cost, it’s far from the only way in which the Pulaski County Tourism Bureau promotes area attractions.

To shouts of “hooah” and “excellent,” Wiles told board members Thursday that the Tourism Bureau has paid for a life membership for the Army Engineer Association, in part because that entitles the organization to discounted advertising and to a profile article in the organization’s magazine.

“We’re doing some advertising in that piece, and if you join for a lifetime it is a $1,500 membership. I thought that was wise to do with where we are located and also it allowed us to receive a 15 percent discount on our advertising placement,” Wiles said.

Other recent advertising buys include Best of the Midwest magazine at a “remnant cost” of $1,000, which is a discounted price for late advertisers who fill space that otherwise would go unused, as well as longstanding ads in Missouri Life, Reunions, and Midwest Traveler. New ad buys include a Vacations and Destinations publication produced by the Fort Leonard Wood Guidon, History magazine and the Army Engineer Association magazine.

Wiles said Bus Tour magazine will be doing a six-page profile on Pulaski County in its September issue, and said the Missouri Division of Tourism recently profiled a berry farm near Dixon.

“We’ve been very fortunate in the last eight months I think we’ve been five or six times with them giving us good press,” Wiles said.

The Pulaski County Tourism Bureau also joined an online pay-per-click marketing program but quickly learned that searches need to be more specific than Wiles originally realized.

“It’s gone very well; I have tweaked some of the keywords that we are purchasing and I have re-upped for another six months so we’ll keep watching that,” Wiles said. “I went ahead and pulled simply Fort Leonard Wood off and made sure to keep like Fort Leonard Wood graduations to keep those extra words because we were eating up most of our money just on Fort Leonard Wood and I wanted to target more specifically what we’re trying to reach regarding Fort Leonard Wood.”

The advertising seems to be effective, Wiles reported.

“Our group tour bookings are going very well this year,” Wiles said. “We are up two bookings this year, and we’re just in the first quarter, over all of last year. Thing are going extremely well.”

Tourism Board Chairman Twyla Cordry expressed surprise that bus bookings in just the first quarter are more than all of 2009. Wiles said she’s establishing procedures to help that continue.

“We’ve also set up a procedure to follow up with those tours to see how well those trips went so we can continue making improvements for future visits. We’ve been receiving very good responses on all of those,” Wiles said.

In other tourism measurements, Wiles reported that in-person visitors to the Pulaski County Visitors Center are up 132 visitors in April compared to the same month last year and phone calls are slightly down by three people. The top inquiry reports on advertising came from the spring insert on Pulaski County to many Missouri newspapers and magazines, followed by ads in Parade magazine and Midwest Living

“We have received quite a few more leads for the month of May; we’re running about 2,200 more as of April than we were as of April last year,” Wiles said. “It is going very, very well.”

Cordry said she was especially surprised by how many hotels and hotel customers are taking advantage of ways to book hotels via the Internet. That’s important for the Pulaski County Tourism Bureau, since nearly all of the organization’s revenue comes from a tax on hotel guests.

“What a difference from 2007!” Cordry said.

“Yes, there’s been a huge growth in online booking,” Wiles agreed.

Wiles said all of the hotel tax payments were current through March and the only recommendation of the organization’s auditor following an audit of the 2009 financial records was to show trade show pre-bookings in year of disbursal, not the year staff members actually attended.

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