The biggest challenge for Georgetown tourism promoters used to be getting travelers to know about the historic offerings, shopping and dining that awaited if you turned off U.S. 17.
But now, more folks know about Georgetown but think it was wiped away by the Sept. 25 fire that destroyed seven buildings downtown along the waterfront.
So much publicity at the time occurred, said Sally Hogan, tourism manager for the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce. People had an impression that a lot of the city was gone.
Hogan is optimistic a new round of online and radio ads touting what Georgetown still has to offer will help set the record straight.
The ads, which will start appearing online and through radio in February, wont mention the fire, just tell potential travelers of Georgetowns historic offerings, shopping and dining and try to entice them with pictures of the iconic clock tower and plates of shrimp and grits.
The ads are a result of $21,000 worth of space in cooperative advertising that the S.C. Parks, Recreation and Tourism department donated to city promoters shortly after the fire. Since the fire, several businesses destroyed by the blaze have relocated and opened in new spots, as the cleanup from the fire continues.
[The goal is to] just make people know that Georgetown is still here and still open for business, Hogan said.
The online ads will reach potential visitors within a 350-mile radius through sites such as Mapquest and on radio through Clear Channel stations, Hogan said.
Promoters waited until February to launch the ads because thats traditionally a prime time for travelers to plan their annual vacations, and the fire happened as the area was headed into the slower fall season. The ads will continue through June. Georgetown also will have an ad in the South Carolina vacation guide.
You want to go out with a strong message when the traditional tourism marketing season begins, PRT spokesman Marion Edmonds said.
But Georgetown businesses arent just waiting for the ads to do all the work. They and the chamber tried several strategies during the holiday shopping period to draw visitors, including staying open from noon to 4 p.m. Sundays in November and December, moving the parade start time so it ends right at lunch time so restaurants can stand to benefit from the crowds and on Dec. 13, businesses stayed open until 9 p.m. instead of closing at 5 p.m., Hogan said.
So far, the strategies seemed to be working, Hogan said.
Small Business Saturday downtown Georgetown was packed. Black Friday downtown Georgetown was packed, Hogan said. And thats not something weve said in the past.
Taking that as a sign, Hogan is optimistic about the coming year, predicting that summer 2014 will be better than the 2013 season.
We are going to come out on an even higher end, she said. Georgetown is well on its way and its been the goal to be a destination. Not something to do after youve done Charleston or Myrtle Beach. We want to be a focal point, not a second thought.
Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @TSN_dawnbryant.