Building a Distinctive & Purposeful Destination
Visit Bellevue serves as Bellevue, Washington’s official Destination Marketing and Management Organization. Our mission is to stimulate economic growth and development in Bellevue’s visitor economy and inspire memorable visitor experiences.
Over 150 industry and City leaders gathered at Meydenbauer Center on February 27th for the Visit Bellevue Annual Meeting. Attendees heard a recap of Visit Bellevue’s 2019 efforts implementing the first phase of Bellevue’s Destination Development Plan and a glimpse at several new 2020 initiatives. Additionally, attendees enjoyed a featured keynote from Marc Berejka and learned about REI’s new Bellevue headquarters in the Spring District.
Below are some of the key points highlighted at the event.
2019 YEAR IN REVIEW
Visit Bellevue strives to be a collective voice to develop, grow and manage Bellevue’s Hospitality and Tourism community and have a vision and plan to grow Bellevue’s overall visitor economic impact to $2 billion by 2021.
Our priorities are:
- Attracting Overnight Visitors
- Maximizing Visitor Spending
- Branding Bellevue
- Developing and enhancing the Visitor Experience
- Managing the Destination Development Plan
RESEARCH + DATA
Visit Bellevue has implemented a new Market Research program; we invested in purchasing and collecting detailed tourism and market data to inform, monitor and measure our efforts, which will enable Visit Bellevue and our partners and community stakeholders to reach our full potential while informing community decision-making and enriching visitor experiences.
This best-in-class data and knowledge has transformed us. We now have solid information and profiles as to who our visitors are, where they come from, their spending habits, media and communication preferences and travel needs/ expectations. Furthermore, by tracking visitation data to Bellevue and developing industry insights from this information we will be well-positioned to maximize our visitor economy and proactively respond to trends. Visit Bellevue will continue to report on visitor volume, spending, travel behavior, visitor insights, identify product and destination gaps, best opportunities, track the economic impact of the visitor economy and conduct custom research on key Bellevue visitor market segments on an ongoing basis.
After completing our benchmarking research in 2019, Visit Bellevue will now deploy forward-focused forecasting and tracking models to inform future marketing and strategic planning decisions. These tools and information will help position the local travel & tourism industry in terms of market size, growth, sustainability, challenges and opportunities.
BRANDING + MARKETING BELLEVUE
Reframing our narrative as a destination was timely. Bellevue is on the verge of one of its greatest evolutions, as our city continues to grow, develop and gain new businesses, residents, workers and attractions. A strong destination brand allows our community to compete in the global marketplace. Articulating and differentiating our unique characteristics is important when attracting investment, people and capital. In preparation for the next Bellevue boom, we are marketing ourselves to best reflect our unique strengths and spirit.
Our team partnered with Cubic Creative to craft a new image and plan for our destination through a multi-step, 10-month process. The final product was based upon data and research, and extensive feedback from our partners and community members. Several days were spent in-market, conducting an immersive study. We coordinated focus groups, engaging audiences from business and industry leaders to residents and visitors – to understand their perceptions, characteristics and attributes.
That research was collected and threaded together to position Bellevue in a way that aligns with our city’s personality: As the Puget Sound’s premier and preferred meeting, convention & leisure destination that is fun, engaging and dynamic.
Bellevue’s assets straddle the edge. We’re a planned and pristine community, with modern urban appeal—elevated experiences—and filled with adventure. This concept takes ownership of the word “edge” and redefines it as uniquely Bellevue—a sharp boundary of convergence where innovative tech, style, outdoor adventure, and culinary meet. Bellevue – Welcome to the edge!
In 2019, we were also very excited to develop and implement a new destination communications plan. This plan was designed to advance Bellevue’s destination strategies and drive awareness and visibility. We purposefully started this initiative to focus on the growth of earned media, social media and utilization of influencers as positive third party contributed content. We well exceeded our communications goals in 2019, with a total of 278 pieces of earned media placements, up 237 placements from 2018, which had a publicity value exceeding $310,000. Also, in 2019, we generated 92,000 combined total engagement with our social media channels and had 101,000 website users.
2019 was an opportunity to grow and optimize Visit Bellevue’s Sales programs. This included the investment into new prospecting and lead generation partnerships, adoption and conversion to a new CRM system, a new sponsorship program, digital bid proposal system and prioritization of new business development strategies. These new sales tactics encouraged more business by prospecting and closing new leads from around the country in 2019. Our sales team traveled to Washington, D.C., Chicago and Dallas for new proactive sales missions, where the team introduced Bellevue as a premier destination in-market to these regions.
The result: Visit Bellevue Sales team had a historic year and far exceeded all previous sales results. The team generated 304 leads representing 235,000 potential room nights and booked 64,232 total room nights, a record high and 78% increase over 2018. These booked groups will bring over $20 million in future visitor spending to Bellevue.
NEW VISITOR EXPERIENCE & PARTNERSHIP PROGRAMS
Visit Bellevue launched a new, inclusive Partnership Program in Q3 of 2019, to better connect leisure travelers, meeting planners and visitors of all kind with our local and regional businesses. The new program encourages partnership development and engagement that will maximize investment and package Bellevue as a “best-in-class” destination experience.
Bellevue’s visitor economy is robust and growing. The major impacts of tourism help strengthen and diversify Bellevue’s economic position and enhance the quality of life for our community.
LOOKING FORWARD TO 2020
2020 will continue to be a transformational time for Visit Bellevue, as we have set very lofty goals and expectations for our organization. Over the next three years we strive to:
- Increase overnight visitors by 14%.
- Increase visitor spending by 15%.
- Increase overall annual economic impact of tourism in Bellevue to over $2 billion.
MARKETING + COMMUNICATIONS
Our Marketing + Communications team has been hard at work, kicking off 2020 with some very exciting new initiatives. Next month, we are excited to launch VisitBellevueWa.com; our new, best in class website. Our fully redesigned website will be reflective of our destination brand and a great example of our city’s innovative spirit. This initiative will be the cornerstone of our digitally focused marketing strategy, built with best practices in Search Engine Optimization and user experience design to engage potential travelers and drive business to our partners.
Visit Bellevue will also introduce a new addition to our communications program—A digital magazine, Aspire by Visit Bellevue. Aspire will showcase places to eat, drink, play and stay for a perfect Bellevue adventure and provide added inspiration for people to visit our city.
Aspire by Visit Bellevue will be distributed via email subscription on a bi-monthly basis, we will have professionally developed editorial features with powerful photography. We are confident that Aspire will not only attract overnight visitors to Bellevue, but also create awareness, visibility and build positive perceptions of Bellevue as a premier destination – highlighting our cultured, engaging, inclusive, experiential and fun personality.
Our digital focus doesn’t neglect traditional mediums that many of our consumers still find valuable when planning their trips. This year we partnered with Madden Media to craft a brand-new visitor guide that will differentiate us among other destinations and will be distributed down the entire I-5 corridor and other key transient visitor locations on the west coast.
In 2020, we will focus on In-Market & In geo target Areas including: our traditional drive markets: Spokane– Bellingham– Portland, OR – Vancouver, BC, as well as new markets like the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston and Austin, Texas, and intercepting visitors from across the globe who are in the planning stages of a Pacific Northwest / Seattle region visit.
The Visit Bellevue Sales Team will continue to focus on new business development in 2020, and specifically, build weekend-based conventions, events and meetings to address the seasonality that currently exists for our venues and hotels. Visit Bellevue will soon publish a new Meeting Planner Guide through a partnership with Meetings & Convention Magazine, which will be distributed within the March/April issue to 50,000 meeting planners throughout North America.
NEW VISITOR EXPERIENCE INITIATIVES
In 2020, Visitor Experience will be elevated to new heights in Bellevue. We have already begun implementing the Bellevue Tourism Ambassador program, designed to equip our industry professionals with the proper knowledge, tools and resources to best serve our guests and provide elevated, fantastic visitor experiences. We encourage everyone to join your peers and colleagues and become a ‘Certified Tourism Ambassador’. This new program teaches best practices and works together to create a positive visitor experience at every level throughout Bellevue. Classes are held monthly, after which CTA’s are invited to events, activities, networking and educational events geared to keep everyone in-the-know.
In addition, Visit Bellevue is excited to announce this upcoming Summer, we will test a new visitor shuttle service to help develop and expand the tourism industry and improve the visitor experience in Bellevue, Washington. The new service, called The BelleHop, will provide complimentary hop-on hop-off shuttle service on Friday’s – Saturday’s & Sunday’s in June, July & August on a non-stop basis from 10am – 10pm. The shuttle will circulate between 10 stops, delivering visitors and guests to many of Bellevue’s visitor attractions and hotels.
We look forward to sharing more information, details and communications as we continue planning the logistics and official permitting for BelleHop in the coming weeks. Also look for updates about two high-tech kiosks that we will be bringing to downtown Bellevue!
COUNCILS AND BOARDS
Formation of the new Bellevue Events + Festivals Council is underway and beginning in 2020 this council will provide support and strategy to attract, incubate and grow events and festivals that bring overnight visitors to Bellevue. Creating a new events and festivals development fund and encouraging communication between festivals + events will be an important catalyst for economic growth and contributing to the overall quality of life.
Additionally, the establishment of a new Regional Tourism Council will provide cooperation among regional destination marketing and management organizations, which will enable our region to develop more shared product. Initial Partner organizations and efforts include: Visit Bellevue, One Redmond, Woodinville, City of Kirkland / Explore Kirkland and the City of Issaquah / Visit Issaquah. Two additional tourism councils that will be formed in the future include Culinary Tourism & Cultural Tourism.