Courier December Courier - Page 17

Tornado aftermath in Joplin , Missouri , 2011
CC FLICKR / TAYMOUR MATIN : bit . ly / 2lVdjGa traveled to the Smoky Mountains for generations , often more than once a year . We saw an immediate influx of visitors in town , not just to gawk , but to spend money and support their favorite mountain town . The CVB launched an aggressive marketing and PR campaign within our top feeder markets , featuring a new testimonial commercial filmed in Gatlinburg . The campaign also included well-placed digital advertising , social media and media blitzes .
Courier : Were there any silver linings ? Claude : Unity has been the hallmark of our recovery . We had an outpouring of support that created a neighbor-helping-neighbor dynamic when those most affected were reeling from their losses . That unity continues to be evident as tourism officials in Gatlinburg , Sevier County , Sevierville and Pigeon Forge have worked closely together in the past year to overcome the perception that this area was destroyed .
Simms : Joplin has had positive infrastructure improvements , new facilities , new restaurants and a state-of-art hospital to replace the one that was destroyed , plus a first-class high school . The CVB and the city are proud of how the community and the region came together in the aftermath .
Heywood : It could have been much worse . Also , we were able to get more eyeballs on the destination , and we got a lot of attention . There were a lot stories that wouldn ’ t have been written otherwise , and there were improvements to the World Trade Center that would never have been done were it not for the storm . Our organization is better prepared now for any crisis in the future .
Don ’ t think you ’ re immune to these storms . Be proactive . Have a plan , have a crisis task force , and practice so you ’ ll be ready to respond .
— Chris Heywood , NYC and Company
Courier : What advice would you give to other communities ? Heywood : Don ’ t think you ’ re immune to these storms . Be proactive . Have a plan , have a crisis task force , and practice so you ’ ll be ready to respond . It ’ s important to have backups for your website and email servers ; ours are in another part of the country . Communicate effectively and in real time , and make sure everyone knows you ’ re open . We work with other destinations , and we advise them to have a crisis plan with checklists and contact information for their board of directors , members and media .
Claude : Never doubt the goodness of people . You are not in it alone , and if you need help , ask .
Simms : Preparation can never be underestimated . Joplin continues to look at what other communities have faced — and learn from them . The city shares best practices and has held recovery summits and seminars through the local university . When applying this to tourism , Patrick and the Joplin CVB staff can point out the differences between people facing an event in their hometown and travelers who are dealing with disaster while in unfamiliar surroundings . Following the tornado , the CVB worked to help find hotel rooms for residents who were displaced . Now , the CVB would also consider the impact on guests in the community and look for ways to assist them .
You can connect with these members by email : lori . simms @ ded . mo . gov , cheywood @ nycgo . com and marci @ gatlinburg . com .
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