You don’t need to be in the hospitality industry to benefit from tourism.
That’s one of the lessons that businesses have learned by participating in Visit Jacksonville’s partnership program.
The benefits of the $2.2 billion in area business sales that tourism generated in 2013 were dispersed among industries, as evidenced by the more than 22,000 jobs that were supported by visitor spending. From salons to community service organizations to staffing companies, businesses have capitalized on tourism through Visit Jacksonville partnerships.
“It’s multifaceted for us,” said Esther Bullard, senior business development representative for Kelly Services Inc., a Visit Jacksonville partner since 2014. The workforce solutions provider has gained exposure to businesses as well as opportunities to staff events and access to valuable insight and data.
Who better to have a relationship with than the local hotels. They’re dancing and waltzing with a lot of the companies coming to Jacksonville to investigate economic development.
Bullard has met representatives of local companies through networking at Visit Jacksonville events, as well. “To have business relationships with them and for them to be knowledgeable of us and what we do can go a long way,” she said.
Kelly Services’ recruiters have also been able to impress candidates for high-level positions by sharing links to Visit Jacksonville’s “user friendly” website, which highlights area strengths. “It’s a great snapshot of our city and it’s easy to follow and navigate,” Bullard said.
Partners consider Visit Jacksonville’s ability to connect businesses to tourism through such enabling technologies as the partners-only part of its website to be a significant benefit, particularly the listings of upcoming conventions, meetings and special events. Listings include the meeting name, meeting planner contact, address, phone number, estimated attendance and headquarter hotel.
“On any given day there are more than 10,000 visitors contributing to our city,” said Kimberly Morgan, Visit Jacksonville’s director of development and community relations. “They’re a viable customer base that needs to be targeted and that businesses can be really successful with.”
The meeting planners that Visit Jacksonville’s partners have access to can be conduits to customers. “If I get a list of meeting planners I now have access to 400 prospects that I didn’t have before because I didn’t even know they were coming to my city,” Morgan said.
Meeting planners can help partners secure group business or the patronage of individual visitors, such as by promoting coupons or deals to their event’s attendees. Visit Jacksonville helps partners craft appealing offerings for both groups and individuals.
In addition to providing individual consultations, Visit Jacksonville helps partners reach niche markets and use the tools and resources available to them through monthly “learn over lunch” events. “We help them take advantage of opportunities and maximize what their partnership can do for their business,” Morgan said.
Visit Jacksonville walks members through every website tool, such as where to find the convention calendar and partnership directory. Partners also learn about marketing their companies and selling their products and services as part of consultative orientations that typically include 15 to 20 businesses at a time.
They explore best practices in areas such as website design (“The copy you put on your page should paint a picture for their experience with your business.”); deals (“Deals don’t have to be discounts. It’s about adding value to the experience.”) and working with journalists (“Businesses need to interact with them to get the journalist what they need and to make the business successful at the same time.”), Morgan said.
“The word ‘partner’ talks about how two people or two parties work together for a common goal,” Morgan said. “The last thing we want is for someone to come into our organization and not be able to utilize the tools they have and have invested in.”
Kelly’s Bullard attested to Visit Jacksonville’s commitment to members, noting how team members helped her company post its information and logo to the partnership directory so that other businesses could contact it for staffing needs. “They pretty much hand-held us through the first few months until we learned our way through the waters,” she said.
Businesses can use networking events and the partnership directory to fill their needs, like for transportation, photography or printing, while sharing their products and expertise with other companies. “Any time you can connect with other businesses you can make those connections that lead to other business opportunities,” Morgan said.
Visit Jacksonville’s partnership program provides a voice for area businesses as well, leveraging the organization’s broad reach to promote the area and its businesses across the Southeast and beyond.
“What we do here amplifies everyone’s message,” said Patty Jimenez, communications manager at Visit Jacksonville, “So, if you’re a small company that doesn’t have a marketing team, we become your marketing team. We can put your picture in an ad that’s blasted over New York City that you couldn’t otherwise afford.”
All businesses benefit when Visit Jacksonville promotes the region, Morgan said. “Any time that we can tout the brand of Jacksonville it’s good for the general economic development here.”
Just ask Visit Jacksonville’s partners. They will tell you that you don’t have to be in the hospitality industry to benefit from tourism.