USCB students lay out marketing plans for Hilton Head tourism

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comApril 24, 2012 

They want adventure and to stay connected through their smartphones and the Internet. They'll come for getaways with their close friends, for the new experience of night golf or to celebrate their growing family.

Tourism among those in their mid-20s to mid-40s will bring about $16 million in annual revenue to Hilton Head Island, according to students in the University of South Carolina Beaufort's hospitality marketing course.

On Tuesday, about 40 USCB students outlined their marketing plans to representatives of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce to attract such travelers. The presentations were the students' final project for the program.

Many of them said the hefty workload that came with developing an entire marketing plan and working in groups of about eight will prepare them for their careers.

"We had to complete forecasts and do revenue projections," senior Lauren Wunder said. "In real life, whether we're at hotels, resorts or clubs, we'll be prepared."

That was professor John Salazar's goal for the project, the fourth he has overseen. In the past, his students have presented plans for two hotels in Beaufort and to the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce.

"I wanted them to understand the process that goes into developing and creating a marketing plan," he said.

Several of the groups did their own research by creating online surveys and distributing them over social media. They also based conclusions and ideas on others' market research. They considered Hilton Head's advantages and disadvantages -- things like beautiful beaches were weighed against weak cellphone signals and lack of public transportation.

Their plans for attracting their peers varied.

Two groups suggested adding a music festival, perhaps with a major act as a headliner, to the regular rotation of island festivals. Two groups suggested adding a shuttle or trolley so visitors could travel easily to and from hotels and bars and restaurants.

One group created several packages: a girlfriends getaway, a night golf contest, eco-tourism and volunteering, and a trip for young couples expecting a child.

Almost every group contained a technology component, including the creation of a smartphone app with maps and lists of businesses, and QR codes placed on bike trail mile-markers to alert cyclists of nearby restaurants and shopping.

All included advertisements on Facebook, as well as more traditional outlets, such as magazines and TV. The students presented budgets for their plans, some as high as $1 million.

Susan Thomas, chamber vice president, said she was particularly drawn to the vacation packages presented, the idea for a music festival and the use of more technology to market the island.

Thomas said she planned to bring some of the ideas to the chamber's marketing council and gather input and reaction from business people.

Related content

  1. USC Beaufort students participate in research showcase on Hilton Head campus; April 16, 2012
  2. USCB students help plan local entertainment center; Dec. 26, 2011

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