The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce received a statewide honor this month for creating a new television promotional channel that airs in local motels and hotels.
“The Welcome Channel” earned the Chamber the 2012 Excellence in Tourism Award for Visitor Services from a trade group, the New York State Travel & Vacation Association. Chamber tourism and marketing director Kelly Rapone accepted the award March 7 at an Empire State Tourism Conference in Albany.
Rapone said the Chamber-run Welcome Channel is the only one she knows of among tourism promotion agencies.
One thing that makes the television spots and promotional videos different than other forms of advertising is it “talks with ones (tourists) already here,” Rapone said.
The Chamber, in years past, relied on front-line personnel in hotels, motels, campgrounds, gas stations and restaurants to provide information to out-of-town guests, she said.
The new channel allows the Chamber to “set the tone” for promoting local attractions and informing viewers about regional ones, Rapone said.
Televisions in all of the participating businesses’ rooms are programmed to default to the Welcome Channel when the sets are turned on. The videos run in a continuous loop and are produced in a style similar to the Travel Channel, Rapone said.
The channel number used as the default setting varies by business and depends on whether the hotel or motel is a cable or satellite television customer. Tent cards placed on tables and nightstands inform visitors about the channel and its content.
The Chamber teamed with LaBarge Media of Canandaigua to work out the technical aspects of the new television channel, which is broadcast through Time Warner cable and satellite communication companies such as DISH.
LaBarge came up with the concept and provided the equipment. Batavia’s Paul Figlow of Figlow Productions created in-house pieces for the hoteliers and some of the paid ads for other businesses shown on the channel.
Businesses and organizations that want to run paid, 30-second commercials on it can contact Rapone at the Chamber at (585) 343-7440.
LaBarge also created the Chamber’s five-minute video as a pilot project. “Welcome to Genesee County” can be viewed on the website www.visitgeneseeny.com.
The website also has a slide show that features local activities and places to go, such as Palm Island, an indoor water park in the Clarion Hotel, and the War of 1812 International Peace Garden Trail.
The number of promotional spots increased quickly once the idea caught on. It expanded in another direction, commercials produced for local businesses such as Darien Lake Theme Park and Clarion Inn and other hotel and motel operators.
“Stuff like that can be really beneficial,” Rapone said.
Hospitality businesses that participate in the Welcome Channel are Darien Lake Theme Park, Econolodge in the town of Pembroke, Clarion Inn, Days Inn, Super 8 Motel and Best Western. That comprises 600 hospitality rooms, including 57 cabins at Darien Lake Theme Park.
Dennis Kohl, theme park accommodations manager for the hotel and campground, said guests have commented overwhelmingly in favor of channel’s content. Visitors no longer have to ask staff or read a hotel business directory or brochure to get information about the theme park or other area attractions, he said.
“What’s nice about it is you get the visuals.
“Kelly did a great job with this. It’s an excellent tool for us to present a fresh message,” Kohl said.
Darien Lake paid for one theme park commercial last summer on the Welcome Channel and is looking to air three more this year, he said.
Kohl said he liked the fact that Alexander native Lydia Dominick, on-air personality for WGRZ-TV Channel 2 in Buffalo, is spokeswoman and narrator for the Chamber promotional video. That provides more local flavor, he said.
The Chamber venture also allows Darien Lake to run commercials similar to regional and national ones done by large hotel chains.
“This is a great way for us to compete with them,” Kohl said.
Chan Patel, owner of the Clarion Hotel in Batavia, was the person who nominated the Chamber for the state award. He was effusive in his praise for the new way to advertise to his customers.
“My visitors like it. They need to know what is in this area,” Patel said.
For example, some Clarion patrons in town for business reasons are not aware of its proximity to the theme park.
“They come back with the family. A lot of repeat business, too,” Patel said.
The Welcome Channel also runs ads for the Clarion’s restaurant and lounge, he said.
The Chamber rolled out the Welcome Channel in June 2011. A problem arose when hotels, motels and the Chamber realized they had to negotiate with Time Warner for a designated cable channel. The system went dark for a couple of months until the issue was worked out and the channel got up and running.
War of 1812 Bicentennial Peace Garden Trail also honored
Genesee County and its Chamber of Commerce was also part of another award this month from the New York State Travel & Vacation Association.
The War of 1812 Bicentennial Peace Garden Trail was recognized by attendees of the 2012 Empire State Tourism Conference as the winner of the first “Conference Attendees’ Award for Excellence.”
The conference took place March 7 in Albany.
The War of 1812 Bicentennial Peace Garden Trail consists of 20 stops of historical interest from that conflict in upstate New York and southern Ontario, Canada. It is also a symbol of 200 years of peace between America and its neighbor to the north.
Batavia is one of the stops on the trail.
The city dedicated its own International Peace Garden Sept. 11, 2011. It is on Main Street, adjacent to the Holland Land Office Museum.
Tourism conference chairperson Suzanne Bixby said in a news release, “Judging by the cheers that went up at the announcement, it is evident that the Bicentennial Peace Garden Trail resonates in the hearts of fellow tourism professionals familiar with the Trail’s efforts to operate and promote this multi-regional program that benefits businesses in remote areas along the trail.”