CVB hopes to increase tours

Bureau continuing to focus on former prison

The Jefferson City Council has just approved the budget for the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau ( CVB ), but Director Steve Picker already has big plans for the money.

At Monday evening's City Council meeting, the council approved a $651,000 budget for 2011 for Picker and his colleagues, which is down about $5,000 from last year.

But despite the drop, Picker said the CVB still plans on making one thing, in particular, its highest priority.

"We are spending a lot of our effort and energy on the prison tours because it really is bringing in a lot of people right now," Picker said.

And the numbers back up that decision. This past season, which Picker said extended from March to the end of October, 11,700 people took the tour - which is up by 275 percent from last year.

Part of the success of the tours, Picker said, is the marketing campaign the CVB has devised, with different billboards along the I-70 corridor. Picker said that while he cannot specifically point to numbers that correlate with the campaign, he said he still thinks it has made a difference.

"They are a little bit hard to track, but the funny thing is we hear people commenting that 'Oh, I saw your billboard" or "Oh, I was driving along and I'm buying tours to the prison because I saw the billboard'," Picker said. "So, we feel we get a pretty good response on those."

As Mayor John Landwehr mentioned at Monday night's meeting, Picker said there are tentative plans to expand the tours out in the spring.

"We don't have all of the details worked out yet, but we are hoping to do a pilot program in the spring," Picker said. "We have talked with the (state) Office of Administration and we are going to put together a concept for next spring."

Picker said he could not give a specific outline of how the tours will be different, he said the hope is to offer "a number of different types of tours."

One of the biggest challenges Picker said he and his staff have, however, is explaining to people that the prison tours is not the only thing the CVB does.

Picker said one of newer places to which the budget will be directed is the website, with a particular emphasis on building a mobile site for smart phones in the near future.

"We would like to also do an interactive map on our website and put our historic tours brochure and our meeting planners' guide online," Picker said. "So, we've got a lot of ideas."

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