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Tourism group will make lemonade from bloggers' sour view of city
YUMA, ARIZONA – It's a lesson that many "celebrities" might have passed along: It doesn't take much positive publicity to attract attention from those with less kindly intentions.
In the case of Yuma, Arizona, a sunny border town that enjoys an annual influx of snowbirds nearly doubling its population, a short feature in Sunset magazine touting an array of local features as a perfect day trip spawned an online "review" that trashed some of the same spots and referred to Yuma (in one of the more reprintable terms) as an "armpit" not worth a visit.
But the negativity of the article has not only spurred scores of Yuma fans to post rebuttals, it's been the catalyst for a new marketing campaign by the local tourism promotion agency.
"I see a silver lining to all of this," said Susan Sternitzke, executive director of the Yuma Visitors Bureau. "After all, these bloggers themselves say in their so-called review that 'Suddenly, inexplicably, Yuma is the It City' – a title we're more than proud to claim.
"I guess these writers want to create controversy and stir the pot because Yuma is getting national attention," Sternitzke added. "We say, bring it on – Yuma deserves the attention and in fact, we're creating a new marketing campaign around them calling us 'The It City.' "
The new focus on Yuma is not all that inexplicable for those who've been paying attention, Sternitzke says. In the last year, the Yuma community has rallied to save its two state parks from closing and launched a new agritourism initiative. The riverfront redevelopment projects spotlighted in the Sunset article – part of a master plan developed by the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area – earned the Governor's Arizona Preservation Award in 2009.
"Visitors love Yuma's authentic experiences, the new agritourism programs and the generous and interesting people that live here," Sternitzke said. "Like the rest of the state and nation, we've had some rough economic times in the last couple years, but new visitors are coming daily, hotel occupancy rates are up and revenues are up. Yuma is moving forward."
And the community that's number one in the state for lemon production knows a few things about making lemonade.
"We want to focus on the positive, not the negative," said Kristan Sheppeard, YVB's director of agritourism, sales and marketing. "So we're asking that folks who like and enjoy and support Yuma call our office at 928-376-0100 and pledge a dollar to support a positive, new campaign.
"If we raise $4,000, we'll place a billboard in downtown Phoenix, conveniently located where the blog writers can see it on their way to work, saying 'Phoenix blog hails Yuma as "The It City". Come see why. www.visityuma.com,' " Sheppeard added. "For every extra $4,000 we collect, another billboard will go up, so that they won't be able to get to work without seeing Yuma."
Sheppeard also noted that YVB staff will answer its phones with "Thank you for calling Yuma, the It City. How can we help you?" – and following up with an explanation if people ask.
The message? Don't mess with Yuma – folks here are proud of their town, and how it's worked to preserve its history, embrace its historic riverfront and celebrate its agricultural roots.
Sternitzke also noted that YVB plans to create some special opportunities for the businesses singled out in the negative review to shine, by selecting dates in the future where YVB will ask supporters to turn out and shop or dine there. She suggested that supporters "like" Yuma Visitors Bureau on Facebook or follow @YumaArizona on Twitter for continuing updates on the It City/Yuma pride campaign – as well as other events and news.
Yuma Visitors Bureau markets the Yuma area within the travel and tourism industry and to the general public. The nonprofit is funded in part by City of Yuma hospitality tax revenues. Direct travel spending in Yuma County totaled more than $577 million in 2009 and supported nearly 6,000 jobs. Travel spending in the county also generated more than $36 million in state and local taxes.
The Yuma Visitors Bureau is always happy to assist members of print, digital and broadcast media, either on assignment or pitching an idea with a Yuma angle.
Media Relations Specialist Ann Walker can suggest itineraries and facilitate visits, or provide you with the inspired details to help nail down an assignment. We pride ourselves on always going "above and beyond."
You can download background and "anytime" materials below; dated press releases appear "most recent first" at left. Call or email us for photos and B-roll video.
YVB periodically hosts group and individual press trips, and is glad to partner with other Arizona or California DMOs to coordinate a visit to several regions.
For more information, contact Ann Walker at 928-376-0100 (office), 928-210-9044 (cell) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your interest in the Yuma area.