Havasu continues as a vacation destination

October 12, 2018

Convention & Visitors Bureau President and CEO Terence Concannon doesn’t view his team’s role solely as the marketing engine of Lake Havasu City’s tourism machine. “Yes, we want visitors to Lake Havasu, but it’s more than that. Once they see all we have and how friendly our citizens are, we hope they’ll come back to stay and reside.”

Concannon moved to the city fifteen months ago and found Havasu to be “the most gracious and kindest place” he’s ever lived. “The thing I love about Havasu is that everyone has pride in the city. There’s a real sense of community pride. People have an affection for Havasu because they chose it. Very few were born here.”

“While I love to walk in its shadow every day, Lake Havasu City is more than our amazing London Bridge. It’s also the lake,” he noted. “You can experience every kind of watersport possible, and our beautiful surroundings offer tons of opportunities for soft and wild adventure.”

For years, people associated Havasu with topless co-eds on Spring Break. Concannon said that perception is changing.

While Havasu is still the “West’s Biggest Spring Break Party,” it’s much more. Families are discovering that there are a lot of activities to enjoy in a city with 400 miles of stunning coastline, 60 miles of navigable water and 300 days of sunshine a year. According to a recent study, couples and families now comprise two-thirds of annual visitors.

Measuring the effectiveness of the CVB’s tactics is a challenge since it’s impossible to count the tourists who come to the city and even harder to put a revenue number on them. Concannon believes there is one reliable measurement that can point to the success or failure of his efforts—bed taxes.

The CVB is funded primarily by restaurant and bed taxes. Locals pay restaurant taxes; however, about 99% of the bed taxes are paid only by visitors. By that measure, their efforts have been successful. The bed tax revenue stream has increased year over year for over five years.

Director of Consumer Marketing Jason Castellucci is the chief engineer of the marketing engine, deploying strategies and tactics geared to maximize each marketing dollar.

Castellucci managed the development of the website, GoLakeHavasu.com, which took 18 months and was a “labor of love.” The brilliant colors and pictures on the site create an urge to leave the computer, put on a swimsuit and head for the lake. The vibrant, eye-catching pages are easy to navigate and jam-packed with information without looking cluttered. There are even two 24-hour webcams streaming live video—one view is from the London Bridge Resort, and the other is from the Visitor’s Center.

There’s more than the website in Castellucci’s toolkit. Tactics used for destination marketing campaigns include TV commercials, print, and digital ads, and public relations campaigns. The Los Angeles area is the primary focus. Phoenix, Las Vegas and San Diego are also targeted. He’s able to buy advertising on TripAdvisor through a cost-sharing program sponsored by the Arizona Office of Tourism.

He added that the demographics of Havasu’s visitors are getting younger and younger. Recent overnight visitors averaged just 39.3 years old, compared to those who visited overnight three or more years ago whose average age was 49.3.

The number of Millennials who visit has increased more than any other group. They usually travel as two or three couples or even larger groups of adults. This mirrors the overall trend in U.S. travel, particularly among Millennials, who like to vacation in “friend groups.”

Director of Travel-Trade Industry, Jackie Leatherman, plans events and assists groups with theirs.

“All we need to do is get people to come here,” she said. “Havasu sells itself.” She knows they will feel the family atmosphere and see for themselves that there is a lot to do.

Her goal is to create a consistent “year around benefit,” by working with event organizers to bring in a steady flow of revenue to local businesses. For example, she reached out to the Amateur Athletic Union to see if they were interested in holding tournaments here. “In June we hosted the AAU’s Arizona chapter for indoor and beach volleyball tournaments,” she said. “The event organizer said they did not garner as many players as originally expected for the tournament because many families reported that they didn’t believe there was much to do here and that it was only a spring break destination.”

Leatherman went into action and showered them with the plethora of tourist amenities the city offers, from walking tours to boating tours to recreational sports opportunities. After the tournament, the event organizer reported that many of the families were surprised at their pleasant experience. It was a success. They’re coming back in 2019, and she expects the tournament to grow. As it grows, revenues to city businesses will increase as well.

When speaking to Concannon, Castellucci and Leatherman about their work, a word keeps popping up in the conversation: passion. Their passion for Havasu is contagious. That passion for the city and its people fuels the marketing engine and motivates everything they do. Havasu is their city too, and they have its best interests at heart.