Industry leaders discuss social media impact at HHI/Bluffton tourism summit

Industry leaders discuss social media impact at HHI/Bluffton tourism summit

BEAUFORT CO., SC (WTOC) - Hilton Head was voted the number one island in the continental United States by Travel and Leisure magazine, but what does the island have to do to stay on top?

More than 100 business owners, community leaders and town officials attended a tourism summit put on by the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.

Speakers talked about travel trends, how to keep visitors coming back and how to engage tourists via social media. Data shows that more than 50 percent of visitors use videos, social media or their phone to choose their travel destinations.

Speakers also pointed out the importance of appealing to all age groups. That includes millennials, Generation X, and even matures, which are your travelers that are 60 years of age or older.

There was an emphasis put on media, whether that is using YouTube to market your business or social apps that let visitors get insight into your business before even arriving on the island.

The president of the Chamber of Commerce explained why these kinds of meetings are important in expanding the growth of the island.

"In marketing a world-class destination it's really important that we provide world class speakers and world-class knowledge to our partners, and with our speaker today he will be able to impart the knowledge that our tourism industry will find beneficial. Also, when they're designing their marketing plans, they'll be able to use some of that and incorporate it," said Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce President Bill Miles.

There was also discussion on how pets play a role in travel, whether a resort offers accommodations for pets or not and how technology drives our need to travel. For example, you see an exotic place online you're tempted to figure out how you can visit.

The key speaker Wednesday was Peter Yesawich, who is the CEO of one of the nation's leading experts in travel and leisure marketing.

He spoke about attracting new visitors, keeping old ones coming back and how to engage visitors and residents with media. There was an emphasis on mobile interaction as 40 percent of travel site visits came from the phone so far this year.

But with an island built around a natural environment and easy way of living, Yesawich explained what Hilton Head needs to do stay in the competition with other top rated destinations like Miami or Orlando.

"If you've ever been to Hawaii there's a sense of "aloha" there, and if I asked you to define it you probably couldn't but you feel it, it's in the air. It's in the interaction that you have with people just with the pace of life and my sense is there a unique sensibility of that here on Hilton Head and I would say perpetuate that," said Yesawich, CEO of MMGY Global.

Yesawich says focusing on age instead of income is going to be important for growth.

Most recently, the town has looked into ways to have more visitors on the island through shuttle services, the potential of a second island boasting a five-star class resort, and ways to make sure the other beaches on the island are seeing the surge in tourists as well.

"Differences of age correspond with different media habits, and we all know millennials consume media differently, they're influenced by media differently, and they use media to influence others differently. So I think for the people of this region is to take a really serious look under the hood and understand how that market is transforming everything the kind of lodging we want the kind of lodging we prefer," said Yesawich.

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