Making Talbot County a Destination

By Sandra Zunino

Thanks to the Talbot County Office of Tourism, Talbot County is no longer a best-kept secret and Executive Director Debbi Dodson is working diligently to keep it that way.

For the past 14 years, Debbi has been marketing and promoting Talbot County and the position is multi-faceted, from working with and encouraging print media to write articles to enticing local television stations to share all that Talbot County has to offer.

Scheduling familiarization tours is just one way to bring media attention to the area. “Writers either come out on assignment or are freelancers who write stories and sell them to national and regional magazines,” she explains.

Debbi also works with motor coach companies cajoling them to include Talbot County sites as part of their trip packages. “We attend some of the motor coach shows so we can reach out to a wider audience and ask them to consider Talbot County as a day or multiple-day trip,” she says.

Reaching out to meeting planners through trade shows, the Office of Tourism once again invites planners on familiarization tours to show off the area’s excellent conference facilities.

Producing many colorful brochures and direct advertisements is also crucial for getting the word out whether through print, digital, video tours and even Facebook. The tourism website, Tourtalbot.org is updated daily. “Technology has opened many new doors,” says Debbi. “We are always looking for new ways to reach out to people – any kind of opportunity to increase the awareness of Talbot County.”

The results of each campaign are carefully evaluated to measure its success. Because the Office of Tourism is a department of the Talbot County Government, it must work with a budget approved by the Talbot County Council. Each year the budget is based on figures generated by an accommodation tax. “It’s really the purest number you can measure,” Debbi explains.

Having worked in Talbot County since the early 80s, including almost a decade as the assistant manager and director of sales and marketing at the Tidewater Inn, Debbi has made many contacts in the hospitality industry, which she says is integral to successfully promoting the various attractions here.

“Being the tourism director is all about networking and relationships,” says Debbi, “whether you are working with the media or creating a new product for your area, it’s all about partnerships.”

As a result, Debbi is on the Easton Main Street committee and the St. Michaels Tourism Board. “A lot of people ask advice on advertising and how to reach out to the press,” she says. “We want to help everyone we possibly can.”

Thanks to her experience, she is a member of the Maryland Tourism Development Board and the Maryland Heritage Area Authority. Both were appointments by the governor.

Debbi works closely with the Talbot County Tourism Board, which serves as an advisory committee. Members of the board are appointed by the Talbot County Council and represent different segments of the hospitality industry such as hotels, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, and attractions as well as representative from the towns and non-for profit organizations.

“It’s just a real pleasure to work with them because they bring in the perspective of each segment of that market they represent so you always have a hands on connections and feel of what’s happening with each one of those markets,” says Debbi. “That’s very valuable to evaluate where we’ve been, what we are doing and where we are going.”

For more information on the Talbot County Office of Tourism, visit www.tourtalbot.org or call 410-770-8000.

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