100 Years of Advancing Destinations

The Wow Factor: Highlights from the 2015 WOW Awards

Author: Joy Lin
Posted: September 28, 2015
Blog Topics Covered:
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The WOW Awards: Recognition of Exemplary Ideas in Visitor Services, celebrate DMOs' creativity, effectiveness, and adaptability in servicing the many visitors that experience destinations worldwide.

After the inaugural recognition launched in 2014, the WOW Awards Selection Committeeshonor one winning submission for each of the following categories:

  • Most Creative
  • Most Cost-Effective
  • Most Replicable

at the 2015 Visitor Services Summit in Salt Lake City, Utah this week. Congratulations to this year's receipients for outstanding performance in the service of travelers and the destinations they experience.

Most Creative

Travel Lane County
"MIKE the Bike"

From L to R: Charles Jeffers, COO, DMAI; Sally McAleer, VP of Integrated Marketing, Travel Lane County; Chris Lewis, Visitor Sales & Services Manager, Tourism Kelowna, WOW Awards Selection Committee Chair

MIKE (Mobile Information Kiosk Explorer) the Bike is a visitor center bike that engages and inspires. As an extension of Travel Lane County's easily accessible adventure brand, it increases both destination and organizational awareness among visitors, locals, and industry stakeholders. The visitor center bike allows the DMO to bring the tools, resources, and expertise of a visitor center out to trails, venues, sporting events, festivals and even parades. And as a great conversation starter, community leaders now ask for MIKE the Bike by name at events.

Introducing a new audience to the value of visitor services elevates the role of the DMO with a younger, more active and tech-savvy audience values a personalized recommendation and but doesn’t usually frequent traditional visitor centers. Built with a matching grant, sustaining this program only requires staff time. Versatile in design, the bike can be branded with either DMO or sports commission logo.

Locally made and human powered MIKE the Bike is a strong ambassador for both the destination and the DMO.

Most Cost Effective

Visit Norfolk
"Extreme Office Makeover"

From L to R: Charles Jeffers, COO, DMAI; Barbara Gullickson, Visitor Services Manager, Visit Norfolk; Chris Lewis, Visitor Sales & Services Manager, Tourism Kelowna, WOW Awards Selection Committee Chair

Visitation had been declining at Visit Norfolk's visitor center off the interstate, which is 20 minutes from downtown, for years. As a result, the DMO closed the center on January 31, 2015 with a goal to eventually reopen in new development downtown. In the meantime, the city still needed a visitor center, so the CVB administrative office lobby was converted into a temporary establishment.

The DMO installed brochure racks recycled from our old location, added a flat-screen presentation, merchandise for sale, community bulletin board in public access area, 1-hour free parking and extended operations to include Saturday and Sunday hours. In doing so, the DMO managed to maintain our state certified visitor center status -- all for just $1,500.

The largest expense was a state highway sign at $20,000, but wayfinding signs were placed throughout the city at no additional cost. These signs will continue work with future plan for downtown center. Attendance at the newly named Tourist Information Center has already increased 200%.

Most Replicable

Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau
"Access Guide"

To elevate the level of service Chapel Hill offers its travelers with special needs, the Visitors Bureau produced The 2015/16 Chapel Hill/Orange County Access Guide to provide information on how travelers can more easily access services and accommodations, attractions, restaurants and travel services.

The following are some of the many tips and resources included in the guide: Helpful tips on navigating parking, details about restrooms at every visitor destination,descriptions of our hotels’ ADA rooms and suites, facilities with automatic doors, information on how to conduct a self-guided driving tour of the entire county, facilities with telecommunication devices for those with hearing impairments.

The DMO Board of Directors continually monitors the demographic of our average visitor.  Even though Chapel Hill is a college town, the average hotel guest is 49 and getting older, and Chapel Hill is home to medical facilities, recovery homes, and guests who need additional assistance.  Knowing that this demographic exists, and understanding the ADA's desire to help destinations become more accessible by all, products like this are a priority.