Holmes gears up for season using AI tracking, moving billboard

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  • Holmes County has more to offer tourists than buggies.
  • Marketing strategies shared with members include AI mapping.
  • Chamber helps recruit visitors, but it’s the job of area businesses to entertain them.

WALNUT CREEK TWP. − Holmes County is a tourism destination recognized for being in the heart of Ohio’s Amish Country. The Holmes County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau wants visitors to know there is more to the area than buggies. Think Buggies and Beyond as a tagline, suggests Tourism marketing manager Shannon Carter.

Holmes County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tiffany Gerber, right, presents a table of various literature and other information about the 2023 tourism season. Gerber and Shannon Carter, tourism marketing manager, held a kickoff breakfast Tuesday at the Walnut Creek Amish Country Flea Market.

The Holmes County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau (HCCOCTB) kicked off the 2023 tourism season with a breakfast for around 70 members of the chamber to share thoughts and ideas about what is new for this summer season as the tourism traffic heats up in and around Holmes County.

Nearly 70 members of the Holmes County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau along with some visitors from other regional chambers were on hand for the presentation about marketing strategies and other information about the 2023 summer tourism season.

Gerber spoke about some of the partnerships the HCCOCTB has leveraged to take Holmes County’s brand beyond what it has been in the past.

“I have a very specific philosophy in that everyone has their own responsibility when it comes to tourism marketing,” she said. “It starts at the state, and it’s Shannon and my job to get them into the region, and it’s every single one of your job to get them through your door.”

She noted any lodging, dining or shopping establishment is eligible to use the state’s free tourism industry database. A free listing can be created at Ohio.Org/industry. Business owners also can subscribe to BuckeyeLine, the monthly industry e-newsletter.

Buggies and beyond

Carter pointed out that through the state, Holmes County is a designated trail as Amish Country, so if businesses are listed on the state’s site, they will get more traction for events because it is one of the top targets for tourism in the state.

She also noted because Ohio’s Amish Country is close to Amish communities in Shipshewanna, Indiana, as well as Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Holmes County has expanded its brand to Buggies and Beyond, and More than Buggies to attract people who have been to Amish Country elsewhere.

“So, really, we’re more than buggies,” she said. “You can come here for all the usual experiences, but, you can also go to Hummingbird Hill Flower Park and pick flowers, or go to Millersburg and have a glass of wine. We’re trying to incorporate it all.”

The Holmes County Chamber of Commerce an d Tourism Bureau has a new trailer it takes to various events to help spread the message about Holmes County.

A moving billboard with multi-purposes

Doug Burgess has been a member of the tourism council for many years, and he reported how for years whenever they would go to a convention or trade show, they would rent a trailer and load it up, go the show, unload at the show, load it back up to return home and then unload it again.

Chamber member Doug Burgess of Berlin Grande Hotel talks about the importance of giving people something to do and somewhere to go while they are visiting Holmes County.

The Chamber purchased a trailer that no longer has to be loaded and unloaded. \

“It’s a multi-purpose trailer,” he said. “We can have brochures and such in it, and when we take it to a fair, people can walk into the trailer and back out. It has a rubber floor, and has an awning on the side to open as a window to hand out brochures and information. It also serves as a moving billboard.”

The trailer is on display in the parking lot at Dutchcraft Cupboards in Berlin. He noted it was money well spent by the chamber.

Other marketing strategies

Other marketing strategies being implemented include Wander Maps, interactive maps to be placed at hotels, inns and other overnight locations, providing a bar code that offers destinations and directions around Holmes County.

The chamber has joined Place your AI, which tracks cell phone apps,and helps figure out where visitors are coming from, where they stopped along the way and is useful in developing marketing strategies geared at specific target markets.

The chamber is supporting the efforts of author Brandy Gleason and her book “100 Things to do in Ohio’s Amish Country Before You Die,'” as well as Sir Yacht, who is coming to Holmes County to promote hidden gems of Amish Country.

Travel and leisure shows like the Food Independence Summit coming up in Walnut Creek on June 21-22 and the 100th edition of the Holmes County Fair in August were discussed as events where the HCCOCTB will be on display.

LeVonne DeBois, local author and tour guide, shared information about her book "A Taste of the Backroads" with Holmes County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau members at a kickoff breakfast at the Walnut Creek Amish Country Flea Market.

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