• Walla Walla travel industry launches ‘Peace of Mind Pledge’

    May 15, 2020

    The questions about travel have already started rolling into Eritage Resort from potential visitors. “People want to know when we can start to book reservations,” said Terra Luthi, who manages the luxury wine country destination. In preparation she plans to join a movement out of destination marketing organization Visit Walla Walla called the “Peace of Mind Pledge.”
    Announced this morning, the campaign is intended as a demonstration by local businesses of their commitment to the health and safety of guests. The pledge is voluntary and rolls out well before economic reopening phases that authorize nonessential travel. But Luthi, also a board member for Visit Walla Walla, said tourism and hospitality operators “want to keep Walla Walla top of mind while giving local businesses a platform to demonstrate their commitment to reassuring travelers that Walla Walla is a safe and healthy community eager to welcome them.”
    The initiative, bolstered by support from the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce and Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance, asks lodging properties, restaurants, wineries and breweries, tour operators, activity providers and other businesses, to demonstrate their commitment to meet — and possible exceed — best practices as they emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic closures.
    Those include many of the practices that will already be issued by local, state and federal operations as well as trade organizations relevant to each business. They also include acceptance of the additional cost to businesses that will come as a result of prioritizing health and safety, implementing health and safety policies and protocols specific to individual businesses and employees, and increase transparency in the process.
    More than a dozen businesses have already committed after the offer was extended Thursday.
    Justin Yax, partner and public relations principal for Visit Walla Walla-contracted firm DVA Advertising & Public Relations, said health and safety concerns will likely be one of the biggest hurdle destinations will face with return of leisure and group travel.
    Organizations like Visit Walla Walla “have the ability – and the credibility – to assume a leadership position with regard to traveler reassurance, and according to research are second only to ‘friends or relatives’ when it comes to who travelers trust to provide them with the information they need to travel safely right now,” Yax said.
    “In the case of Visit Walla Walla, the Peace of Mind Pledge brings together partners from all corners of the Valley’s tourism industry, unites them around a critical need, and delivers it from a position of trust and authority that helps mitigate down one of the biggest barriers to travel right now.”
    Under Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phased approach to reopening, broad nonessential travel could begin to return late June at the earliest.
    Travel research firm Destination Analysts, which has published findings of its Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Report every week since March 13, reports more than 70% of American travelers are excited to return to travel when they feel it is safe, the Peace of Mind Pledge announcement said.
    “There’s no question that consumers will be making their travel decisions in the coming months based in part on the safety of a destination, whether real or perceived,” Yax said. “Eventually I believe programs like this will become the rule rather than the exception, but right now Visit Walla Walla is one of the few destinations I am aware of that is doing so. That says a lot about the community, and the individuals and businesses who rely so heavily on tourism.”
    Walla Walla is well-positioned for recovery in that it’s home to wide-open spaces and driving distance from major markets where weekend getaways are more likely to be part of initial travel plans for visitors than longer vacations.
    “This is what our travelers are going to want,” Luthi said. “We want people to stop wishing and start traveling.”
    For more information on the program, visit wallawalla.org/peace.
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  • COVID-19: A Resource for Destination Marketing

    As the COVID-19 virus situation changes daily, we are all increasingly aware of its current and potential impacts on global and domestic travel. The travel industry, including destinations, airlines, hotels, attractions, and more are anxiously monitoring the situation to determine how to address and respond to consumer safety and concerns.

    While the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on the domestic travel industry remain uncertain, it is clear that due in large part to constant media coverage, speculation, and misinformation spread across multiple channels particularly social media, have fueled a sense of worry and fear among the traveling public.

    The U.S. Travel Association currently lists COVID-19 as a low risk situation, and has not issued any travel restrictions, advisories, or warnings in the U.S. That being said, most major media outlets are recommending delaying or canceling any non-essential travel. In response to heightened fears in a dynamic and quickly evolving situation, DVA recommends that DMOs take some simple yet important steps to help travelers stay informed, educated, and active.

    It is also worth noting that while many travelers have and will continue to alter or cancel their travel plans, we believe there are a few silver linings to be found:

    • Travelers with plans to visit larger metropolitan cities may forego those plans in favor of visits to less crowded, more wide open destinations.
    • Travelers with existing air travel plans may shift their focus to destinations within driving distance, and may be more likely to drive greater distances than they might otherwise.

    With this in mind, DVA has provided the following resources, recommendations, and materials to help you navigate the short- and long-term uncertainties surrounding COVID-19 and its impacts on leisure, business, and group travel.


    1. Make sure you, your team, and your stakeholders stay updated and informed. The World Health Organization is a great resource to help cut through the media clutter.
    2. Let travelers know that you are still open for business, though consider keeping advertising spend relatively flat for the next few weeks as the situation evolves.
    3. Be a vocal advocate for safe and responsible travel. As part of responsible messaging, we recommend you address the travel concerns within your region. Presently, Oregon is considered low risk. Dedicated content addressing this on your website will help contain fears of traveling.
      • Should you choose to post information on your website, we would also recommend a Facebook post to support this information. You can ‘pin’ this post to the top of your page.
      • If messaging is placed on your site, be sure to include contact information, so travelers can seek more information about the situation in your region.
    4. As this is a rapidly evolving situation, be sure your team is nimble in messaging and able to address the situation as it evolves and impacts are felt in your region.
    5. Consider shifting your messaging to drive markets, rather than flight markets.
    6. Address this situation with your constituents. If travelers are canceling their plans to your region, it is not because they are going somewhere else, but rather they are being cautious about the unknown impacts this could have on themselves and their families. While we recognize many local hotels and businesses cannot take a similar stance on cancellations as many major US airlines, some degree of understanding will pay itself forward in the times ahead.


    1. As media coverage continues to fuel consumer anxiety, now is the time to avoid pouring fuel on your marketing fire. We don’t recommend significant increases in spend until there is a little more clarity around containment.
    2. Be aware of your holistic messaging efforts. Campaigns, posts or other communications should be considered for relevance in the face of the current climate. We do not want to appear tone deaf, indifferent, or ignorant of the situation at hand.
    3. While the topic is uncomfortable, we don’t recommend ignoring the situation. Providing clear, transparent information, providing resources, and communicating a message of safe and responsible travel will show your commitment to the health and safety of your visitors and their families.


    World Health Organization – Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak

    World Health Organization – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) travel advice

    Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

    Travel Oregon – COVID-19 Travel Information

    U.S. Travel Association – Emergency Preparedness & Response: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

    AAA Travel – COVID-19 Information for Travelers

    Travel + Leisure – Everything you need to know if you’re traveling during the Coronavirus outbreak

    CNN Travel – Travel advice for Coronavirus: everything you need to know

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  • Results, Accountability, and the Demise of Vanity Metrics

    After receiving a record number of proposal submissions from potential presenters, DMA West, a regional membership organization comprised of more than 145 DMOs, chose DVA to serve as a featured presenter at their 2019 Tech Summit. Their annual Tech Summit, held March 20-22 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, focuses on digital and technology strategies for destination marketers and is one of their most widely attended events of the year.

    “Results, Accountability, and the Demise of Vanity Metrics” was the topic of DVA senior digital strategist Will Gryna’s presentation. As clients search for new and better ways to monetize results and metrics, and demonstrate real ROI to members and stakeholders, traditional “vanity” metrics such as site traffic continue to decline in importance. 

    Gryna touched on a number of topics relevant to metrics and reporting, including:

    1. Unique tracking challenges DMOs face
    2. The cost of incomplete tracking
    3. What complete tracking looks like
    4. Business outcomes of complete tracking
    5. Capturing best audiences
    6. Reporting on the most meaningful KPIs

    You can view the full presentation here.

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  • Sunset Magazine and Travel + Leisure stories worth more than $3.6 million to DVA tourism clients

    As destination marketing organizations continue to place greater emphasis on monetizing their marketing efforts, generating editorial coverage and social media promotion from journalists and influencers remains one of the most efficient and cost effective ways to demonstrate significant ROI. We have always believed in the power of a proactive and sustained public relations effort as part of a broader marketing strategy, and we continue to shift marketing dollars into public relations for our DMO clients.

    And if early returns are any indication, 2019 is off to a great start with regard to earned media for DVA’s destination clients thanks to two major editorial features in Sunset Magazine and Travel + Leisure.

    Visit Walla Walla kicked things off with an 8-page “Tasting Wine, the Walla Walla Way” feature in the February issue of Travel + Leisure, resulting from wine editor Ray Isle’s visit that DVA pitched and coordinated for the fall of 2018. That story reached an audience of 969,266 subscribers and nearly 3.2 million unique visitors per month, with a value of $2.6 million.

    Sunset followed suit, with a 10-page feature on the Santa Ynez Valley in the magazine’s Feb/Mar issue that reached an audience of 1,262,532 subscribers and more than 2 million unique visitors per month, with a value of more than $3 million. Titled “The heartland of Santa Barbara wine country is buzzing with new energy,” this feature was the result of Luke Sykora’s mid-2018 media visit also pitched and coordinated by DVA.

    Combined, the two features reached more than 2 million subscribers and more than 5 million unique visitors per month, and generated more than $3.6 million in value.

    You can find the full articles here:

    Travel + Leisure – https://www.travelandleisure.com/food-drink/wine/walla-walla-washington-wine-region
    Sunset – https://www.sunset.com/travel/california/santa-barbara-wine-country

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  • Capturing clicks tops agenda for Walla Walla tourism org

    Originally published by the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, by Vicki Hillhouse, January 17, 2019

    How best to leverage digital media wasn’t just a timely topic for attendees at Visit Walla Walla’s annual meeting Thursday.

    It’s also been an ongoing endeavor for the destination marketing organization that had one of its best years for media exposure in 2018.

    Creating content that takes followers behind the scenes of business is key to engaging customers in a social media landscape that is far beyond collecting “likes,” said Will Gryna, senior digital strategist for marketing firm DVA Advertising & Public Relations.

    Gryna told the standing room only crowd gathered at Reid Campus Center at Whitman College to think of what they would like to see from business when planning their own digital content.

    How-to’s, offers and unique stories were among the suggestions for content development at a time when engagement is more important than ever in translating to investment.

    The presentation comes just a little over a month after Visit Walla Walla rolled out a new website that includes a direct-booking feature for lodging.

    Visitors who land on the site no longer have to book their lodging through a separate search, Visit Walla Walla CEO Ron Williams explained.

    The feature helps streamline the marketing service that ties in things to see and do, and now where to stay when you’re catching it all.

    Visit Walla Walla, he said, does not get a cut for the service, but does potentially get the benefit of keeping visitors to the site on its platform a bit longer.

    More attention for the town is the overall mission of the marketing organization. Its annual report included a breakdown of marketing recaps from public relations, print and digital exposure, plus traction and resulting impressions and clicks from the agency’s array of Facebook campaigns.

    Outgoing board President Chris Garratt said the organization had about $1.6 million in what is known in the industry as “earned media.” That means attention from editorial coverage that wasn’t purchased.

    In what he characterized as a “fantastic year for media,” stories in a regional, national and international platform brought attention to the community from all over the globe.

    That includes April coverage in fashion magazine Vogue, which captured about 6.6 million eyeballs, Garratt said. After that, Sunset named Walla Walla the best wine region.

    A wine bloggers conference last fall brought 222 writers to town and has so far resulted in at least 209 posts.

    How to translate that into more weekday group and conference visits will be the focus of 2019, tourism officials said.

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  • Brasada Ranch hires DVA to help re-engage with local audience

    In an effort to remind Central Oregonians that one of the best and most relaxing winter travel destinations is in fact only a 20-minute drive away, Brasada Ranch has hired DVA to concept and produce a campaign encouraging locals to look no further than their own backyard for their next “staycation.” As part of the effort, DVA will also implement a public relations campaign targeting local media outlets and residents.

    “Too often, locals feel the need to travel to the Oregon Coast, Portland, or other regional destinations to escape their day-to-day routine for a few days or a weekend,” said Justin Yax, partner and public relations director at DVA. “We’re using this campaign as a way to remind them that you don’t have to travel 3-5 hours by car to find that escape. It’s right here, only 20 minutes away, at Brasada Ranch.”

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  • Mt. Bachelor partners with DVA to help them celebrate 60 years

    Heading into its 60th anniversary season, Mt. Bachelor – North America’s fifth largest ski resort and the largest ski resort in Oregon – has partnered with DVA to help the resort strengthen its connection with the local market, position it among the country’s top ski destinations, and to attract skiers and snowboarders from major markets across the West and beyond.

    DVA was hired largely due to its expertise in marketing resorts and destinations, its experience marketing Mt. Bachelor over the years including the resort’s 50th anniversary season, and its relationships and experience working with travel and ski industry media.

    In addition to concepting and producing creative campaigns for everything from brand awareness to season pass sales, DVA is also managing the digital strategy and implementing national public relations effort focusing on media visits from high profile travel and ski writers.

    “It’s no secret that the winter months are historically the slowest of the year in terms of visitor numbers for Central Oregon, but at the same time the winter product – mainly alpine and Nordic skiing – is one of the best,” said DVA brand strategist Troy Kerr. “With summer occupancy running at or near capacity, there’s an opportunity to generate awareness and interest, and to shift some of that demand to the winter and spring months when Mt. Bachelor can be enjoyed from Thanksgiving through Memorial Day.”

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    Explore Whitefish Selects DVA Following Lengthy Search; New ‘Wander’ Campaign Set To Launch in Key Markets Throughout the U.S. and Canada

    (BEND, Ore.)—DVA Advertising & Public Relations, a Bend-based advertising and public relations agency that specializes in marketing leisure travel destinations throughout the West, has been chosen by Explore Whitefish to develop a new destination marketing campaign for the popular Montana resort town. DVA was awarded the contract following a lengthy review and selection process that included DVA as the only out-of-state agency among five finalists.

    “Whitefish is an authentic and iconic mountain town of the West, the gateway to Glacier National Park, and a charming community with an abundance of marketable assets,” said Mary Angelo, partner and director of client services at DVA. “It’s a great complement to the other destinations we represent throughout Washington, Oregon, California, and now Montana, and we’re looking forward to helping Whitefish further solidify its reputation as a year-round playground for everyone from thrill-seekers to sightseers.”

    In developing Whitefish’s 2018-2019 advertising campaign, which needed to position the destination “at the heart of adventure” while inspiring potential visitors to experience “the wonder of it all,” the DVA team developed numerous conceptual directions before eventually arriving at a ‘less is more’ approach.

    The resulting headline driven campaign, titled simply “Wander,” was intended to quickly and effectively accomplish both tasks with its striking headline and evocative imagery. The campaign was concepted by DVA partner and creative director Gary Fulkerson, as well as senior art director Ryan Crotty. Fulkerson was the lead copywriter on the project, while Crotty was responsible for design and layout, and Mary Angelo provided account management.

    “How do you communicate such an abundance of qualities and attributes, and convey them to an audience in a way that stands out from the competition, captivates them, and inspires them to learn more?” asked Fulkerson. “Sometimes you just have to strip a destination down to its most basic truth, and call to something inside people that speaks to their soul.”

    The campaign will be rolled out in print, digital, and outdoor advertising throughout the U.S. and Canada ahead of the 2018-19 winter season. Additional executions will be developed to promote the spring and fall seasons, and the campaign look and feel will be adapted to other marketing tools including but not limited to the official Whitefish visitor guide, website, social media, maps, brochures, and other materials.

    “Whitefish will only benefit from the outside perspective of a firm with a reputation for successfully marketing and promoting destinations that share similar opportunities and challenges to ours,” said Dylan Boyle, executive director of Explore Whitefish. “At the end of the day, growth in visitation during key times of year will be our biggest indicator of success, and we believe DVA is the right strategic partner to help us get there.”

    About DVA Advertising & Public Relations

    Founded in 1990, DVA is a full-service, 13-person marketing agency based in Bend, Ore., that services clients throughout the West. Some of DVA’s current clients include Ballard Alliance, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Chambers Bay Golf Course, Doubleback Winery & Bledsoe Family Winery, Explore Whitefish, Riverhouse on the Deschutes, Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau, Visit Bend, Visit Leavenworth, Visit the Santa Ynez Valley, and Visit Walla Walla. For more information visit www.dvaadv.com, email hello@dvaadv.com, or call 541-389-2411.

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  • DVA Advertising Public Relations Marketing

    DVA Delivers Keynote Address At Visit Walla Walla 2018 Annual Meeting

    DVA senior digital strategist Will Gryna delivered the keynote address at the 2018 Visit Walla Walla Annual Conference, held January 16 on the Whitman College campus in Walla Walla. Gryna’s message focused on simple digital tactics for individual tourism industry stakeholders, whether hotels, restaurants, wineries, or other attractions.

    Titled “Leveraging Digital for Business Results,” Gryna identified and discussed creative best practices, how small businesses can use their existing data to create the best audiences, and how to track and optimize data for business outcomes.

    This is the second consecutive year DVA has delivered the keynote address at the Visit Walla Walla Annual Meeting. In 2018, agency partner and public relations director Justin Yax presented “The Power of PR – Take Their Word For It.” Yax’s presentation focused on successful tactics DVA has implemented on behalf of Visit Walla Walla, results and outcomes achieved, and how businesses could become involved in the public relations effort. A copy of that presentation can be viewed HERE.

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  • Tour of Walla Walla rolls back into town

    Tour of Walla Walla, the bicycle stage race tradition of two decades, is back on track after cancellation last year.

    More than 300 competitors are registered for this weekend’s races, which take place over three days, starting Friday.

    Race coordinators Michael and Kathryn Austin got a boost with some assistance in marketing from Visit Walla Walla after last year’s race was sidelined from the devastatingly long winter and its effects on travel.

    “Visit Walla Walla got involved with this as soon as it was canceled last year because we were so disappointed that an event that brings in so many people went to the wayside,” Visit Executive Director Ron Williams said.

    With registrations in the past as high as 40, the 307 who had registered by late Wednesday morning was an encouraging sign of success, Williams said. About 300 registrations have been needed in previous years for a break-even event, which includes prize money for respective winners in their categories.

    About 450 people are expected in town for the races, which include Saturday’s downtown Criterium and road closures through central portions of the neighborhood.

    Williams said Visit Walla Walla marketing agency DVA Advertising & Public Relations helped with email marketing and paid social media advertising targeted toward cycling enthusiasts.

    Visit also created a “landing” page to link participants with schedules, critical information and other activities of interest for those coming to support racers.

    See the original story by in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin here.


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