Just a year after its creation and agreeing to pour nearly a million dollars into it, the Gila County tourism and marketing website, discovergilacounty.com, has left the county’s control. The nonprofit, Discover Gila County, Inc., now operates the site.
The board of supervisors originally agreed to pay Cameron Davis and Razor Thin Media, LLC $390,000 to develop and market the site. The site went live Feb. 14, 2019.
This past December, the BOS voted to turn it over to Discover Gila County, Inc., a private, nonprofit entity created in November 2018 and officially recognized as a 501(c)(3) March 8, 2019. Davis is an employee of the nonprofit.
Deputy county manager Jacque Sanders said Discover Gila County, Inc. has ensured that the marketing initiative had sustainability and representation throughout Gila County. With the transfer, the nonprofit will manage the tourism site.
Sanders told the board the benefits of having the site managed by a nonprofit entity is that it can now qualify for private donations and grant opportunities to assist with expanding the effort into a financially self-sustaining effort.
At the same December 2019 meeting when the transfer was approved, the board also agreed to pay up to $150,000 per year from county economic development funds to the nonprofit for the next four years.
Between the initial costs of development and the operation by the nonprofit for the next four years, the board of supervisors is making a total investment of $990,000.
Discover Gila County, Inc. has been meeting regularly to assist with decisions related to current and future efforts, and the board members have been involved in the promotion of the tourism and marketing initiative. Tourism and marketing initiatives are typically managed by nonprofit agencies or entities, Sanders said. As a nonprofit, Discover Gila County, Inc. accepts tax-deductible donations for promoting tourism in Gila County. Since the entire effort is largely creating content for the various online platforms, including the website and the social media platforms, licensing these platforms to the nonprofit is necessary for continuity of effort.
“There are clear indicators that show that the tourism effort is gaining attention with tourists both domestically and abroad and is having a positive impact on the economy in Gila County,” she said.
Davis, in an overview of the site presented to the board, said the site has more than 500 pages, 4,000 photographs and 200 videos. As of Nov. 15, 2019, it had 16,000 unique visitors; 66,000 page views; the average visitor viewed 4.2 pages per visit and spent about three minutes on the site.
He added about 87% of visitors are new to the site each month, with most of those living in the U.S., primarily Arizona, but also California, Texas, New York, Nevada, Illinois, Colorado, Florida, Washington and New Mexico. The site has also had international traffic, with India leading the way, followed, in order, by Germany, Canada, the U.K., Mexico, the Philippines, Australia, France and Russia.
The site is promoted on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Davis said Facebook is the site’s top social platform and has 5,000 followers since launching in February 2019 and 23% engagement. He explained “engagement” is a viewer showing they like the entry, make a comment or view videos.
“That is incredible. Google says the standard level of engagement is .09%,” Davis said.
While Davis shared Facebook and website views in the presentation, partial reports from the Arizona Department of Revenue show the revenue possibly generated by the effort.
The Roundup looked at sales tax amounts from the most likely sources where visitors would spend money: bars and restaurants and hotels and motels in Payson and Globe. The comparison is for the months of July, August, September, October and November in 2018 and the same period in 2019, which represents before and after the site went live in February 2019.
Overall sales taxes increased, however, there were a few months in which they went down.