Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce & Certified Visitor Center
We began 2016 where 2015 left off…. with Virginia Tourism Corporation’s DRIVE Tourism Strategic Plan. A team of local partners and the chamber identified 2-year and 5-year projects to aid and encourage business development. From this effort, a $10,000 micro grant was presented to the Town by the chamber in February to supplement the hiring of a professional consultant who will advance the work of the Wastewater Committee begun in 2013. Enhancement projects positively impact the visitor experience. Public rocket launch and sunset viewing areas are indicated on the map in the visitor guide. Two webcams located on The Jackspot restaurant are maintained and hosted by the Chamber and share live, streaming footage looking north to the causeway and south toward Wallops Island engaging sunset and rocket launch viewing experiences from anywhere in the world via the chamber’s website, www.chincoteaguechamber.com! These were installed by Josh Bale as his Eagle Scout Project.
Thanks to the Town of Chincoteague’s Public Works Department and a grant secured by the chamber from Virginia Tourism Corporation, the LOVE chairs in Robert Reed Park were restored after winter storm Jonas destroyed the originals. They continue to be a great source of joy to residents and visitors alike while allowing photo opportunities showcasing one of our beautiful, waterfront green spaces. The Virginia House Appropriations Committee enjoyed them in June at a chamber-hosted dinner.
The Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce had the pleasure of working with the Casey Cares Foundation in Baltimore, MD for a second time in 2016 as we partnered with NASA, Comfort Suites, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and other businesses to provide a complimentary vacation package for a sick child and her family in September. Meghan is 10 years old and has non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Her desire was to come to Chincoteague to see the wild ponies and rockets. We hosted Jaxsen in 2014.
Numerous mentions in online blogs and websites continue to pour in. Notably, USA Today awarded us the #6 spot as Best Coastal Small Town 2016. My Ford Magazine came for Spring roundup and featured Chincoteague’s world-famous ponies with the new Ford Mustang in the July issue. The Discovery Channel, Weather Channel, WRDE on Tour and Travel Channel featured Chincoteague throughout the year with local TV and radio stations showing huge support for Pony Penning activities, which the chamber staff coordinates with the Chincoteague Fire Company. The chamber also worked with Hampton Roads & Eastern Shore Travel Host Magazine, Travel Virginia Magazine, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Family Vacation Critic, and Northern VA Magazine on story and content development supplying photos and editorial, setting up interviews, and securing lodging and dining as needed. We are even working with an award-winning novelist, Bob Adamov, on a fictional storyline set in Chincoteague and surrounding islands for 2018 release tentatively titled Chincoteague Calm!
Our annual 52-page visitor guide and membership directory continues to be the primary response piece to visitor inquiries around the world, either directly to the chamber office or from leads generated from various sources. We distribute 110,000 copies to AAA offices, all Virginia Welcome Centers, Maryland and Delaware Visitor Centers along the I-95 corridor and others. We assist approximately 23,000 people directly per year (phone, emails or in the office), answering questions and directing to local businesses, events, and activities through the chamber/Certified Visitor Center office. An average of 20 annual press releases reach nearly 400 media outlets around the globe and continuous radio advertising by the chamber supports events and activities of all member organizations.
The chamber’s three websites; www.chincoteaguechamber.com (200,000 hits/year),
chincoteaguedecoyshow.com and chincoteagueoysterfestival.com receive top rankings in search engine performance. The primary website, chincoteaguechamber.com boasts a landing page highlighting NASA activities complete with rocket launch viewing sites and a Wedding page driving brides and honeymooners to our beautiful destination. A comprehensive, up-to-date schedule of events aids travelers as they plan their island escape. A Pony Penning Tab offers extensive guidance for the tens of thousands of folks making the yearly pilgrimage to the Pony Swim. Four itineraries (under Visiting) engage an individual traveling alone or a Motor Coach of 60. They are shared on the state tourism website, www.virginia.org as an aid for group planners. More are being planned for 2017.
Social media continues to play a major role in marketing efforts. Over 2 million people were reached in 2016 via Facebook alone. Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube expand the reach even further. Information learned at continuing education conferences, such as Virginia Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives Institute, VTC Visitor Centers Seminar, and VA-1 Tourism Summit enable us to expand our capabilities in technology and social media and marketing skills in general. Please Like us, re-Tweet us, and Follow us to increase this number in 2017 and stay current on all island happenings!
The chamber maintains a presence in the Virginia Travel Guide, Eastern Shore of Virginia Activity Guide, Eastern Shore of Virginia Chamber publication Essentials, and Landmarks of Ocean City & DE Beaches (placed in all hotel rooms in these towns—2 page spread). Festival promotion in Virginia Festivals and Recreation News highlights our three sponsored events (Easter Decoy & Art Festival, Seafood Festival and Oyster Festival) that bring close to 7,000 people to the island annually, generating revenue in the spring and fall shoulder seasons. Additional paid advertising in 2016 included Food & Travel Magazine (spring & summer), Adventure Outdoors (summer), USA Today Back to School (July), USA Today Best Years 50+ Living (October), Quicken Loans National PGA Tour Program, United Airlines Virginia Dossier Project (November—11.5 million readers). New for 2017 is a full page ad and editorial in Horizon Magazine (inserted in Wall Street Journal in January) with 120 complimentary 5-second commercials that will be seen on the ABC Good Morning America Big Screen in Times Square NY during December 12-18, 2016 offering 10 million impressions. Be sure to look for it!
The tourism industry saw growth statewide of 2.4% in 2015 compared to 2014 according to data released by Virginia Tourism Corporation. Accomack County saw an increase of 2.5% with Chincoteague Island being the major contributor. Worldwide presences in notable magazines, tremendous social media marketing campaigns, extensive outreach to travel writers across the globe, radio and TV exposure, and targeted marketing objectives by the chamber are significant components to this growth.
I am excited for all that 2017 has in store. Orbital ATK has returned to flight with a successful launch of Antares in 2016. Two launches are scheduled for 2017. The chamber will be embarking on a new strategic plan involving some 30 stakeholders in the community to fulfill the action plan initiated with DRIVE Tourism. I look forward to another year of growth and new adventures with wonderful community partners. Thank you for your continued support of the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce.
Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce