Technology to Grow Wyoming Tourism
Dennis E. Curran
Wyoming's new tourism director wants to make visiting Wyoming a more interactive experience for travelers.
That means making greater use of the Internet in marketing Wyoming but also increasing interactive experiences for visitors once they get here, according to Diane Shober, who took the state's top tourism promotion job this past summer.
The Wyoming Travel and Tourism Division will seek additional budget appropriations from the Legislature next year to build the technological infrastructure that will help Wyoming and its communities improve their ability to attract visitors and to take better care of them once they are here.
“People are using the Internet more and more and are making more last minute decisions about their travel,” Shober told tourism industry leaders at the Fall Hospitality & Tourism Summit. “I see that as an opportunity for us to capitalize on and take advantage of that traveling market.”
She noted that nearly half the people traveling to Wyoming are booking their trips on the Internet compared to less than a third nationally, and she predicted that new infrastructure would help Wyoming hit even more niche market travelers.
The Tourism Division isn't just looking at expanding its Web site but at developing a “really rompin' stompin', outrageous interactive medium,” she added. It is looking at innovations, such as embedded video and on-line mapping and interactive travel kiosks, to be more interactive with visitors, both before they come and after they are here. “We want to expand the interactive to allow visitors to see what that experience is,” she explained.
The Tourism Division began looking at technology infrastructure after Gov. Dave Freudenthal asked what the staff would recommend if given an opportunity to invest some of the state's one-time money from a spike in natural gas prices and tax revenue. Freudenthal has not yet recommended his budget, but Shober said she believes her agency's proposal “has a lot of merit and value for investment.”
Beyond that, Wyoming's tourism promoters are looking at making a more “tourism-friendly Wyoming” through greater use of interpretive signs, product development and tourism marketing education.
“My fear is our visitors are missing out on these great opportunities, because there's not a sign saying 'Nearing Pilot Butte Wild Horse Area' or driving to Shoshoni and seeing 'Nearing Hell's Half Acre,” Shober said at the fall conference.
At the Hospitality Summit, she challenged industry leaders to “look beyond what you know and picture how somebody from the outside would see this. What would be a fresh approach to what's right here in our backyard?”
She also emphasized the value of continually investing in travel industry employees, so that they will be really strong “Wyoming Tourism Ambassadors.” She conceded that it might take time to make greater use of technology and the Internet, but she stressed it is important.
“We're building the Cadillac, we may only get an Oldsmobile at the end of the day, but we are going to submit a budget that would cover everything we feel could be funded through a one-time investment,” she emphasized. “We want to be ready if we get $10 or $1 million or $10 million.”