Chamber director talks tourism in 2018

By Jeff Smith

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Janet Wetovick-Bily, executive director of the Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce, gave a presentation to the Friends of the Library on Jan. 10 about the work the chamber is doing. She also gave a list of the events happening in Hill City throughout 2018.

“The Hill City Main Street Merchants, our various organizations and all of the helpers and volunteers involved do an amazing job of coordinating and producing the events for which Hill City is known,” Wetovick- Bily said.

She said Hill City is richly blessed with people who love what they do, value community and excel at hospitality.

“We concentrate on promoting and executing our events well and and growing our audiences and attendees,” Wetovick-Bily said.

Coming up next month is the Tour de Chocolate, Polar Bear chili cook-off and minnow races. This summer there are also popular events like the Sculpture in the Hills, Art Extravaganza and Wine, Brew & BBQ.

There is usually half a dozen events happening every month throughout the year. During the summer months something is usually happening every weekend.

Wetovick- Bily said in addition to events being fun, a great experience for attendees and a draw for tourists (near and far), well-managed events offer a host of economic and social benefits to communities.

Among the benefits are: sales and recognition for Hill City businesses; growth for the local economy; recognition and identity to an organization or group and to Hill City. Events also foster community pride, teach new things, are opportunities for volunteerism, and strengthen relationships as well as communities.

Wetovick- Bily said the tourist season starts in March and the peak tourism season is in summer of course.

According to experts in the tourism industry, the area is expecting a good year for tourism.

Wetovick-Bily noted that people are planning their vacations earlier based on the requests that have already come in.

“That means that we have to be ready earlier,” Wetovick- Bily said.

Although it is cold out now there are still some people that come to Hill City and the area during the colder months. The people that come during the off-season are usually bucket-listers and empty-nesters.

“In the summer it’s all families and people who want to experience the outdoors,” Wetovick-Bily said.

The Lawrence & Schiller Marketing and Advertising Agency is going to be a huge help in bringing more visitors to Hill City. They already work with South Dakota Department of Tourism and the Black Hills and Badlands Tourism.

Wetovick- Bily said they can optimize Hill City’s marketing efforts. The markets they go into are the ones where visitors are coming from.

“They are also exploring outreach into Canada and Texas and there is an international marketing drive too,” said Wetovick-Bily.

Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin were all the states that Wetovick-Bily listed as where many of the visitors to the area are coming from.

The Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce also does familiarization tours. These are groups of journalists, bloggers, photographers and tour operators that are either from places around the globe or around the United States that explore the area. There are lots of opportunities to showcase Hill City.

There are a number of fantastic business partners that have helped the chamber give these people a good experience.

“They can go back to their country and encourage their people to come visit us,” Wetovick-Bily said. “Through their writing or through their booking of tours they encourage others.”

The Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce goes into 2018 with 191 members.

There is a significance to why the chamber of commerce is aptly named the Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce and not just the Hill City Chamber of Commerce. Communities in the Southern Hills like to support each other plus cross-promote the different events. Wetovick-Bily likes people to start their vacation in Hill City but has no problem with cross-promoting.

“We help people find other options in addition to their experience here in Hill City,” Wetovick-Bily said.

Today, the chamber sees around 17,000 interactions in a year. Back in 2011 the amount of interactions recorded was at 9,656.

Most of the interactions are with visitors and Wetovick-Bily has also drilled down on the type of interactions with visitors.

Wetovick-Bily is learning how to better help businesses when construction takes place. She has been talking with women who were involved in  the Mt. Rushmore Road renovation in Rapid City. Their partnership will make it easier in understanding how businesses can be prepared for the sidewalk construction.

“The Chamber and Economic Development Council partner together on many things and right now we are exploring ways to develop resources that will help our businesses and community as we prepare for the upcoming sidewalk construction project,” Wetovick-Bily said.

Among the ideas are a survival guide for businesses and a rehearsal party so businesses can be better equipped when construction is happening near their businesses.

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