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Shhh! Tourists don't want to share the secret

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Vacationers who stumble upon the Waccamaw Neck’s beaches aren’t eager to share the secret with just anybody, and that will pose a challenge to the group trying to market the area to tourists.

A survey of visitors summed up the essence of Georgetown County tourism in a word: Shhh! “We don’t have a brand, and for folks who’ve been here in the past that’s perfect,” said West Herford, director of brand planning for Rawle Murdy Associates, the ad agency for the county’s Tourism Management Commission.

The commission wants to come up with a “brand identity” to help promote tourism. Members say “Georgetown County” isn’t meaningful to vacationers.

A survey of 386 past visitors – two-thirds of whom are women, age 50 to 64, living in the Carolinas and Georgia – found they value the relaxed, understated character of the area’s beach communities. The responses represented “multi-generational vacationers” who generally spend a week at the beach each year. That’s the target audience for the county’s tourism marketing, Herford said.

“These were folks who said, ‘Don’t tell anybody,’ ” he said as he outlined the results for the commission this week. “I know that’s not what you want to hear.”

But commission members weren’t surprised.

In the county’s tourism advertising, “the tone has always been relaxed and understated,” commission member David McMillan said. “It’s nice to know we’re on track.”

The ad agency will now figure out how to convey the “Shh!” concept to potential visitors.

The challenge is to increase awareness without changing the feel of the community, Herford said.

“The people we’re going to attract don’t want it in their face,” he said.

The agency will present its ideas next month.

“I think they’re on track,” said Helen Benso, who chairs the commission.

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