Baker County Oregon Attracts Visitors through Flickr
Strategy: Be Creative (More with Less), Collaborate in New Ways, Take Advantage of Tech
Type of attraction: Tourism Organization
Summary: Enticing travelers to choose a destination is easier when they can actually see the beautiful sunset on the water or the elegance of historic downtown buildings or the liveliness of a local festival.
Enticing travelers to choose a destination is easier when they can actually see the beautiful sunset on the water or the elegance of historic downtown buildings or the liveliness of a local festival, but creating a large collection of photos can be a costly undertaking for a tourism bureau.
“We are so visual – people love to look at photos. People want to see what the heritage tourism attraction looks like,” says Timothy Bishop, Baker County Oregon’s tourism and marketing director.
To create an extensive, high quality – but low cost – photo library, Bishop turned to Flickr™, an image and video hosting website managed by Yahoo! and available to users at no charge.
“We started using Flickr as an opportunity to create a high resolution photo archive,” says Bishop. “Flickr is a site that a lot of avid amateur and professional photographers use, so we get a much better quality of photos.”
Bishop began by creating a Flickr page for Baker County Tourism, which markets under the brand “Base Camp Baker.” The home page states that the site includes photos “showcasing the magnificent scenery, beautiful vistas, festivals, events, attractions, landscapes and communities of Baker County Oregon and people enjoying this eastern Oregon county.”
In addition to posting his own photos, Bishop began soliciting images from other photographers. The result has been tremendous – almost 700 photos capture the region’s beauty, history and activities for visitors.
“Flickr is a social network,” Bishop notes. “Once you have a Flickr page, you can join other groups and share photos. We submit photos to other groups we think are relevant. For example, Travel Oregon (the state’s travel office) has a photo page, and we make sure we are represented.”
The Flickr site has been a great help to many of the county’s attractions. “We have small museums that have taken very few photos,” Bishop says. “For example, one site has hosted a ‘historic Christmas parlor tour’ for 26 years but doesn’t have any photos. I can create a page for those kinds of events. We can say to our Facebook and Flickr friends ‘we are looking for photos of this event…if you have them please send.’ They get excited to post their photos, and they become part of the sales force.”
As the Baker County tourism Flickr site has become established, Bishop finds that it is getting lots of use by travel publications, websites and other promotional outlets. “People pull photos off to use on blogs or websites,” Bishop says. “Our photos are also used in American West Lifestyle and other magazines.”
Bishop advises considering any restrictions that need to be included with the photos. Flickr allows users to identify how photos can be used. “Some of our contributors include restrictions like asking for a photo credit. Our tourism office photos are free with no restrictions. We want people to use them!”
Bishop has also invested considerable time in outreach to local attractions to train staff and volunteers in creating social networks through Flickr and Facebook, noting that the more people involved in a network, the better it works.
An added benefit for many heritage attractions has been recruiting young people – who are very familiar with social networking – to maintain an attraction’s Facebook and Flickr pages. “Many sites have older volunteers, so this has been a great outreach tool to engage the next generation – suddenly you have an advocate,” says Bishop.