$n$ Surprise, surprise: New tourism promo campaign on deck for WW

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WALLA WALLA -- A partnership with a new advertising and public relations firm is expected to bolster the city's already busy tourism season and build visits during nonpeak times of the year, too.

DVA Advertising and Public Relations is developing a new brand for the community it expects to launch in April, representatives of the Bend, Ore.-based firm said during Tourism Walla Walla's annual meeting in January.

The marketing promotion will succeed the previous "Walla Walla, Surprise Surprise" campaign.

DVA representatives said they hope to increase 2011's occupancy rate by more than 12.5 percent and room revenue by more than 17.7 percent. Doing so should also help achieve other goals, including increasing revenue in stakeholder businesses and city tax revenue.

They also want to develop a year-round marketing plan, increase online and social media presence, leverage and/or create events to attract visitors.

They intend to spread the word through national and regional media, advertisements, the website, social media and direct marketing.

The hope is to streamline all efforts for a visible campaign that builds awareness of Walla Walla among multiple platforms. There are two key demographics: wine enthusiasts between 45 and 64 with no children or empty nests and high incomes; and younger professionals between 25 and 34 who are educated and have disposable income and likely no children.

The focus is on drive markets, such as Seattle, Portland, Spokane and Boise.

"I think what we're going to see is a very united message of Walla Walla," outgoing board President Michele Renie said.

Nearly $300,000 has been budgeted for advertising. That money comes from Tourism Walla Walla, the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance, Power House Theatre and other organizations whose events will be promoted.

The change comes after a year of solid growth in tourism, a new regional signage initiative, and national recognition as the "Friendliest Small Town" in America from USA Today

December lodging numbers are incomplete, but room revenue and occupancy through jumped from $13.92 million in 2010 to $16.24 million through November 2011.

Traffic on the agency's website and Facebook pages also skyrocketed.

"Certainly our goal is to keep it going this year," Renie said.

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