The Visit Clarksdale Tourism Commission is using the $189,750 it received in CARES Act funds to promote safe travel to Clarksdale for areas within a six-hour radius.
Expenditures from the CARES Act funds highlighted discussion during the board meeting earlier this month.
“The whole thrust behind on spending these funds is to promote safe travel to Clarksdale and Coahoma County,” said tourism executive director Bubba O’Keefe. “We want people within a six-hour driving radius to know that Clarksdale is open for business, but in a safe manner. The ads and videos that we are using include the term #VisitMS Responsibly and or other terms to promote safe travel protocol. The areas we are targeting include St. Louis, Dallas, Little Rock, New Orleans, Birmingham, Atlanta, Nashville and Memphis.”
The tourism commission received the CARES Act funds in response to the COVID pandemic. The funds must be spent by Dec. 30.
“We feel very fortunate to have secured the CARES Act funding that we have for tourism to fund our Ready to Road Trip marketing campaign aimed at our regional visitors and tourists, many of whom aren’t regular visitors to Clarksdale,” said tourism board president Roger Stolle. “In some cases, we’ll be able to get folks here who have never been here before at least in modern times to check out our operatings of the restaurants and the music and shopping.”
O’Keefe estimated, at this time, 75 percent of the CARES Act funds have been spent. He acknowledged during the pandemic, Clarksdale is targeting different visitors than normal.
“The whole thing is to let people know to travel here,” O’Keefe said.
“The international market is out right now, so we’re looking to cater to the regional area.
“We want to let them know that most of our venues are open and ready for business safely.”
O’Keefe said the commission implemented an array of print ads to help promote Clarksdale in areas such as Franklin and Nashville, Tenn., Little Rock, Ark., Baton Rouge and New Orleans, La. Ads were also placed in regional and national publications such as Southern Living.
Locally, an ad was placed in the Clarksdale Press Register’s Coahoma Living magazine.
Billboard ads have been placed up and down Highway 61. One billboard ad reads, “Ready to road-trip? Shop, dine, stay…safely.”
It also has the hashtag, “#VisitMS Responsibly” and the VisitClarksdale.com web address.
Some of the funds are also being used to help tourists once they arrive to Clarksdale.
A Visit Widget was purchased for tourists to use as an itinerary planner. A Visit Widget is a web widget that maps a city’s attractions for visitors and allows visitors to plan.
O’Keefe said Clarksdale’s Visit Widget can be found at the VisitClarksdale.com website, downloaded on a phone or found at the touchscreen kiosk in the tourism office. He said it shows places to shop, museum, blues music sites, hotels and more.
“Basically what it helps us do is to get information in the hands of the visitor without being on paper,” O’Keefe said. “A lot of the places don’t have printed tourism information. This way we could pull it up on the screen.”
O’Keefe also said videos have been placed on the Visit Clarksdale Facebook page to promote the community. He said the first one reached 31,000 people and had 142 shares.
“We’ve got about six more videos that will be coming out in the next few weeks,” O’Keefe said.
O’Keefe said each week there will be a new video and they will be on Facebook and YouTube.
O’Keefe also said the Visit Clarksdale website is being updated.