Beaufort News

USCB students design marketing plans for Beaufort-Port Royal areas

A reenactment of the Civil War Battle of Port Royal for the history buffs.

Fast-paced activities, such as skydiving or a zip line, for the adventurous.

A free trolley to get military families from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island to Bay Street after graduations.

Those were among the ideas for attracting more visitors to Beaufort by a University of South Carolina Beaufort hospitality marketing class.

Instead of a final exam, students in professor John Salazar's course designed marketing plans -- with a $1-million budget -- to attract tourists to Beaufort, Port Royal and the Sea Islands and keep them there longer. They presented their ideas to representatives of the Beaufort Regional Visitor and Convention Bureau on Tuesday, with the hope some will be incorporated into the organization's plan for marketing the city.

The students analyzed Beaufort's strengths and weaknesses and compared its marketing strategy to similar cities in other parts of the South.

Nearly all said Beaufort needs to boost its efforts to use social networking and other online media, such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. One group of students pointed out another small town's use of a YouTube channel to let prospective visitors take a virtual tour of the city before they book a trip.

Though the Beaufort visitor bureau has accounts on some social networking websites, those accounts are often inactive, student Alex Kiproff said.

"As far as updating information and letting people know there's a festival going on, it's minimal," he said.

Bob Moquin, executive director of the bureau, said that and other ideas could become part of the bureau's marketing strategy, after the proposals are further vetted.

He liked one group's idea for an interactive "build-your-own-vacation" feature that could be added to the bureau's website. The tool would allow potential visitors to create a personalized itinerary after browsing attractions and activities.

"I think that's more of a unique way to position, rather than say 'Book with us at beaufortsc.org,' " Christy Brewer, the bureau's marketing and public relations manager, told the students. "That could generate a lot of revenue and a lot of traffic for our site."

Brewer and Moquin also liked another group's idea to create a weekend ferry tour of barrier islands, such as Hunting, Harbor, Fripp and St. Helena islands. The tour would package transportation and hotel stays with activities such as beach trips, golf outings and shopping.

Students said the month-long project required many hours of work but taught them more than a test could have. It gave them an opportunity to be creative, student Jennifer Herring said.

"(Professor Salazar) let us take the reins," she said. "He wanted us to experience the real world."

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