A new mobile website, a partnership with the Colorado Rockies and promotions in a new market, Omaha, were among the Rapid City Convention & Visitors Bureau's efforts in 2011 to convince more business and leisure travelers to make Rapid City their destination.

Still, many indicators of local travel numbers this year were down over 2010, with factors including the economy, the price of gas and bad spring weather to blame. But bureau leaders told members of the Rapid City Council Tuesday evening that their efforts will pay off in the long run.

In 2012, "We're going to stay in the same markets, because those markets are working," marketing director Stacie Granum told the council in the bureau's annual update to aldermen.

Granum said that in 2012 the tourism marketing group, a division of the Rapid City Area Chamber of Commerce, will expand its presence on search engines, create more marketing videos for targeted audiences like mountain bikers, and use its new mobile website to put up-to-date attraction information into the pockets of travelers. It will remain active in social media here and in its target markets, and look for new "out-of-the box" marketing opportunities like this year's trip to Denver where, in connection with the July 4 Colorado Rockies game, four people dressed as the Mount Rushmore presidents roamed downtown Denver interacting with potential visitors.

The mascots promoted the message that the Black Hills are closer to Denver than people realize, and make a good weekend getaway destination.

"It was amazing how popular they were," Granum said. "People wanted their pictures taken and said, ‘tell us what is going on in Rapid City.'"

The bureau will also use the results of interviews with people who already vacation here to spot trends for future marketing, like the knowledge that people view the Hills as a good spot for multi-generational family trips and that 40 percent of visitors interviewed had children under the age of 7.

Ward 1 Alderman Gary Brown asked what the bureau's two biggest challenges are and heard that the price of airfare and the small number of nonstop flights are among the biggest. Other challenges are the high cost of hotel rooms and the lack of a hotel property with more than 500 rooms, needed to lure a bigger class of conventions to the city.

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For all the growth the bureau has seen over the last decade, there are still millions of vacationers left to reach.

"We're still dealing with, where's Mount Rushmore?" said Lisa Storms, who works with conventions and reunions. "They still think it's in North Dakota."

Contact Barbara Soderlin at 394-8417 or barbara.soderlin@rapidcityjournal.com.

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