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Events Calendar for Tourism Websites

The success of tourism websites is boosted immeasurably by collaboration between the site managers and the local tourism industry. A best practice principle to keep in mind is that the tourism website does not belong to the economic development department – it belongs to the community.

You can see this principle in action by examining event calendars. Most tourism websites offer a calendar of events on their home pages to show prospective visitors what time specific products will be offered in coming weeks or months. But many of the event calendars are nothing more than that – stand alone calendars! Website visitors can search only by clicking on dates. If they do not find an event of interest listed for a given date they could easily change their plans about coming to your community.

Worse yet, visitors might not find a listing in the calendar for an event that they already know will be taking place. If the events calendar is incomplete, what does that say about the relationship between the economic development department and the producers of tourism products that are important to the local economy?

It’s an important question. Event calendars are critical to the success of tourism websites because they convert viewers to visitors by interesting them in participating in an event.

The challenge to the website operators – typically employees of economic development departments who have many other responsibilities – is keeping the event calendar accurate and up to date, providing all the relevant information about all events happening in the community.

A solution can be found by inviting the local tourism industry to participate directly in helping to maintain the event calendar. This can be done by using a content management system that enables authorized users to easily provide information to the editors of the events calendar or even to update the calendar directly.

For example a restaurant hosting a jazz evening can post the event online themselves. This approach ensures freshness and completeness of content provided that the economic development department has taken steps to ensure that operators know how to promote their own events.

When this works well it can produce a rich flow of information that becomes one of the distinguishing competitive features of the website. For examples, consider the two competing websites of Niagara Falls tourism organizations in the Canadian province of Ontario and the US State of New York.

Both Tourism Niagara in Ontario and the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation in New York have websites with event calendars and related information that constitute much more than mere listings of dates. They offer numerous search options, in-depth details about individual events, links and maps.

On the Ontario side, visitors to www.tourismniagara.com are told, “As you plan your Niagara vacation, you will be amazed by the many attractions, restaurants, festivals and great places to shop throughout Niagara.”

The site backs up this boast with an events section that overflows with information. Visitors can click the button labeled Festivals and Events to search for activities by date, location and type of activity. Each listing is linked to a full page description of the event, complete with contact information for the organizers and links to related websites.

On a recent day there were no fewer than 78 separate events listed this way. Clearly the information has been provided by the event organizers. On every page of the Festivals and Events section they are offered an e-mail link by which they can send their information to Tourism Niagara. Here is an excellent example of a collaborative environment that helps produce a website of great value to tourists.

To add such value on your community’s tourism website it may be appropriate to set up themed calendars. You can organize the calendar to display events for young people, for families, for tourists interested in particular types of events, for culinary attractions, for Halloween or Christmas.

At www.niagara-usa.com, the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation effectively communicates to target audiences and gives each audience easy access to the events calendar. The site has sections devoted to activities for meeting planners, tour groups, shoppers, fishers, wedding planners, and tourists interested in specific attractions such as parks, museums, golf or wine tours.

On every single page, the events calendar appears on the right side so that, with one click, a visitor can see if events are taking place on any given date relevant to a themed activity. Like their Ontario counterparts, the website managers offer to their tourism community an e-mail link to provide the extensive, up-to-date information that gives the site its value-added appeal.

A collaborative environment such as displayed by the two Niagara Falls tourism organizations opens up a growing number of possibilities for providing information that entices tourists. With today’s technologies it is possible to offer visitors an itinerary tool, so that they can click on events they find in the calendar and insert them directly into an itinerary, complete with imbedded maps, that they can download or print to guide their visit.

It’s all in the cause of delighting your website visitors and inspiring them to come to your community. If you invest resources to build and maintain a collaborative community to produce an excellent calendar of events, the spinoffs can spread throughout your website and indeed throughout your tourism marketing program.

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