Visitors Bureau faces pandemic challenges



SIDNEY — As has been its mission since inception in 2002, increasing the regional visibility of Sidney and Shelby County as a recreation travel option continued as the primary focus of the Sidney Visitors Bureau last year. Unfortunately, the pandemic of 2020 presented a formidable challenge for the Bureau in fulfilling its mission.

Jeff Raible, president, Sidney-Shelby County Chamber of Commerce, has submitted the following report about the Sidney Visitors Bureau:

Promotional messages of the Bureau reached more than 3 million people in 2020 based on conservative estimates for both digital and print advertising reach. Social media, eNewsletters, search engine optimization, the DiscoverOhio app, and web banner advertising were heavily employed to connect with consumers receptive to digital suggestions on how to best spend their leisure travel time in Ohio.

For the eighth year in a row, the Sidney Visitors Bureau partnered with neighboring Visitors Bureaus in Darke, Miami, Auglaize, Mercer, and Van Wert counties to exhibit at the AAA Great Vacations Travel Expo in Columbus. This annual three-day show is well attended by consumers looking for both day trip and overnight vacation getaways. The January Expo hosted more than 12,000 travel enthusiasts looking for places to visit in Ohio.

Brochure distribution services were another effective promotional tool for the Bureau in 2020. The Sidney Visitors Bureau distributed area visitor guides at rack locations along major interstate highways in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. In addition, guides were strategically displayed at select Ohio Department of Transportation Travel Information Centers both southbound and northbound on I-75.

Despite the impact of COVID-19, the Visitors Bureau web site, saw good traffic and site engagement in 2020 as evidenced by data gathered using Google Analytics. Search Engine Marketing strategies using Google AdWords and broadcast email also contributed significantly to enticing web site traffic for the Bureau. In addition, a new section on the web site that was developed in 2019 was continued in 2020 to promote Sidney’s Bicentennial.

A highlight of the calendar year was the production of nine new promotional videos to showcase Sidney as a travel interest. In total these videos published primarily on several social media channels garnered nearly 35,000 views.

Collaborations with the Shelby County Historical Society to produce a downtown Sidney walking tour brochure and the Great Miami Riverway to promote Sidney as the trailhead for the 99 mile paddle/pedal trail from Sidney to Hamilton, Ohio were also success stories in 2020.

Last year a significant portion of time and energy was invested in the development of a new community and destination brand strategy for Sidney. Beginning in early 2020, an eleven member committee comprised of local experts in marketing and branding accompanied by area stakeholders in economic development set forth to develop a new brand message and mark for Sidney. The goal was to formulate a look and story that would effectively communicate the desirability of the Sidney area as an ideal place to live and visit. Working in conjunction with “placemaking” consultants at the Fahlgren Mortine agency in Columbus, a carefully crafted strategy was born.

The earliest applications of this new brand have only recently been employed. An internet based microsite highlighting the quality of life enjoyed in Sidney and the surrounding area is being development with inspiration from the newly created brand story. The brand story captures the essence of Sidney and is in many ways reflective of the quality of life enjoyed by all in Shelby County. In addition, a Sidney focused brand story video is currently in production to showcase the area and capture the interest of those looking to relocate or visit.