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DeSoto County Tourism plays up the attractions such as Jerry Lee Lewis and the softer side of life.

Tourism is economic development for DeSoto County

By JULIA MILLER

Sitting right across the border from Memphis, DeSoto County Tourism is hoping to capitalize on its growth with a new marketing campaign: “South of the Ordinary.”

“We have the extraordinary things to offer,” Executive Director Kim Terrell said, “We have that small town feel.”

DeSoto’s tourism office created a countywide strategic plan in 2016, and at the top of the list was a new look. Together with Sullivan Branding, recognized the big name destinations in their area and then listed what they have to offer that’s different. Shopping and outdoor entertainment stood out.

Keith Goldberg, Sullivan Branding’s executive creative director, said tactilely they created a two-prong approach. First, they wanted to appeal to tourists regardless of whether or not they were coming to the region. Goldberg wants people to realize DeSoto County could be a destination in its own right. Secondly, DeSoto County could easily become an addendum to one of the many destinations in the area.

“This is going to mix it up for you and make it a little more exciting,” he said, especially for those searching for an unplugged trip. “You can get away from the frenetic pace of life or even the frenetic pace of a Memphis vacation.”

Goldberg said some of the major regional city destinations, such as Memphis, Nashville, or even New Orleans, all have an urban feel with an emphasis on different genres of music. DeSoto County is unique because it has all that and more. Destinations like Circle G Ranch, Elvis and Priscilla Presley’s honeymoon spot, and Jerry Lee Lewis’ Nesbit work alongside the Mississippi Blues Trail to appeal to music lovers. Meanwhile, the best crappie fishing in this part of the South, a variety of shopping options and Civil Rights markers give tourists something extra to enjoy.

“It’s a lot of quirky, cool types of spots,” Goldberg said.

Since DeSoto County Tourism opened its doors in 2002, marketing has seen an explosion in ways to reach possible visitors.

“We want to hit consumers at every possible touch point,” Goldberg said. “There used to only be one or two or three ways to reach a consumer. Now, there are almost infinite ways.”

From online to billboards, Sullivan and DeSoto County have created a cohesive campaign, so that they not only reach more people more frequently but are also sending a consistent message.

“It says a lot about your brand’s ability to deliver on its promise,” Goldberg said.

Terrell said one of the more unique aspects of the new website is its planning help. When you visit the event information, the website suggests places to eat or stay in the area. This particular aspect has helped locals and tourists alike.

“People have said I hadn’t thought about that restaurant, or I didn’t know it had opened,” she said.

DeSoto County Tourism has already seen success, and they hope the new campaign continues that growth. When the office opened in 2002, there were 1,500 rooms across 21 hotels. Now they have 3,200 rooms in 42 hotels, with two currently under construction and scheduled for a 2018 opening. In 2015, $306 million were spent by visitors to DeSoto County. That number was up to $336 million in 2016.

“Tourism is economic development, and we are good stewards of our budget,” she said.

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