Family, History, and Nature Together: A Reflection of 2018 from the Tourism Division
As 2017 came to a close and we looked upon 2018, we, the Tourism Division of 3, had no idea just what 2018 would bring. We definitely didn’t expect 2018 to be such an award winning year! The past twelve months have brought such joy and pride to us as a team but to our community as well!
A Quick Look Back
As January 2018 rolled in, we were just over 3 months after the devastation of Harvey. Baytown was recovering nicely; however, when Harvey struck the Tourism Division had to change tracks quickly! We normally spend our days promoting the community to visitors (and everything that falls under that big task)! When Harvey struck our community we had to pull all advertising immediately because, for example, advertising Pirate’s Bay is fruitless when it is closed. We weren’t without tasks though, as the tourism team spent the next few months helping the volunteers (via the United Way) find the resources they needed – they are, after all, visitors! So when 2018 dawned on us, our marketing plan had changed from “we are closed,” to “we are recovering” to “Yes, Baytown is open for business!” As the Tourism Division charged forward, changing our language and designs to fit the current atmosphere, we also picked up some very big projects in an effort to recharge our community and propel it out of the feelings left from the long days during recovery. These projects have, quite literally, changed the landscape, the language, and gained local and statewide media attention. Today, more people than ever have heard of Baytown and the great things happening here! It would be impossible to cover them all in just one blog, but here are a few of our biggest 2018 highlights.
Baytown GeoTour Turns 1!
The Baytown Tourism Team became the 4th group in Texas to launch an official GeoTour on March 11th of 2017. The GeoTour is meant to attract seasoned geocachers and “newbies” from all over the world to Baytown in search of 31 small hidden containers placed carefully around the city at places like the Baytown Nature Center and Pirate’s Bay Water Park. To celebrate this hallmark, we hosted several Geocaching events to celebrate. Following the Space Theme from Geocaching HQ’s spring promotion, we held a stargazing class at Yepez Vineyard, a Meet the Martians (the Tourism Team) dinner, and a birthday bash at Town Square that included GPS themed games and out of this world cupcakes! These events were attended by local geocachers and others from surrounding cities and Louisiana. In 2018, the GeoTour had over 2,000 logs, or visits to Baytown caches, and 35 GeoTour completions from all over the world. The map below showcases where people who have completed the tour have travelled from. Eighteen hotel stays and nearly $5,000 has been recorded through dining and retail receipts turned in with GeoTour passports.
For the love of Art-venture!
Additionally, the Baytown Art-Venture was created in July of 2018 as a beta test for Geocaching HQ. They chose Baytown for one of the beta tests, because they had heard great things about not only the GeoTour but the murals that were springing up around Baytown (that we made trackable for Geocachers). The Art-Venture brought Public Art and Geocaching together with 10 Public Art Scavenger Hunt questions. This Art-Venture was an extra lure to bring geocachers to Baytown to complete the lab caches and the Family, History, and Nature Together GeoTour. It got great reviews! Although it ended with the close of 2018, 65 people have turned in their completed paperwork, but over 1,036 participated in some portion of the Art-Venture!
Love Where You Live
The first ever Baytown Public Art Program was kicked off in late 2017 with a Public Art Visioning Committee. This committee is made up of local community influencers including individuals from the Art League of Baytown, Lee College Art Department, Sterling Municipal Library, City of Baytown Parks and Recreation Department and other locals whose passions are to contribute to the beautification of the community through the arts. This public art program is intended to build emotional connections between residents of Baytown with their community, and build on the mantra “love where you live,” in hopes this love will be contagious to everyone who visits Baytown.
The first mural called “Solitary Journey” was completed at the Sterling Municipal Library by Armando Castelan. The next mural was completed in partnership with the Art League of Baytown; it was an all-encompassing face lift for the Art League building located on Texas Avenue completed in early May.
The next project was the unveiling of the beautiful Umbrella Alley in the Downtown Arts District. In the past, the alley was filled with broken concrete and graffitied walls, but now the Umbrella Alley is occupied with colorful umbrellas that swing back and forth in a whimsical limbo; the alley walls are getting a splash of color as a mural comes to life that focuses on the highlights of Baytown. The artists working on this mural are students from the Lee College Art Department which is located at the end of the Downtown Arts District. This collaboration among downtown partners has garnered regional responses, and brought special attention to the Downtown Arts District area and the business’s that are located there. The Umbrella Alley was featured on major news stations KHOU 11 and ABC 13, as well as in the Houston Chronicle, Beaumont Enterprise and several Baytown Sun articles. The Umbrella Alley unveiling also coincided with the first ever Food Truck Festival and Sidewalk Art Contest event that we planned and executed with Parks and Recreation staff. Nine artists created chalk masterpieces and over $700 was raised for the Rising Stars, an adult special needs art program. As a result of the well-attended event and Umbrella Alley, public art pictures flooded social media. The alley has quickly become one of the most popular backdrops for photographers and visitors alike in Baytown. We have seen hundreds of photos shared across social media featuring the Umbrella Alley.
More recent additions to the Public Art Program include the Eddie V. Gray Wetlands Education Center alligator mural cleverly painted on the side of a connex storage container and the colorful Downtown Arts District mural that showcases the recently renamed Texas Avenue area. A Mini Mural project began in December of 2018 and includes installing mini mural vinyl wraps onto traffic cabinets, which is the silver box seen at intersections used to control the traffic signal at intersections in Baytown. The first mini mural is located at Baker & Emmett Hutto Blvd. The mural features a runner with the Fred Hartman Bridge and a Baytown water tower in the distance, with quotes to inspire people walking, running or biking along the trail on Emmett Hutto.
In 2018 we hosted our first in-depth digital online advertising campaign in an effort to promote our, now, ever-growing public art. Monies from the Houston First Tourism Incentive Program Grant, which we were awarded in Jan. 2018, were used in this campaign. We teamed up with several of our local partners, including the SpringHill Suites, the Baytown Art League, Yepez Vineyard, and Wazabi Sushi Bar to create a weekend overnight package that focused on the arts and events in the Downtown Arts District during the fall of 2018. The advertisements heavily promoted #iheARTbaytown as well. The campaign’s advertisements were seen by 4.7 million people all over our nation. As a result of that, over 13,000 individuals clicked to the www.visitbaytown.com website, before the campaign ended in December.
Talk about a lot of work! The projects we facilitated in 2018 took many hours of research, coordination, networking and teamwork within our community. Launching public art projects, promoting packages, and running a GeoTour are no small feats but because we work with so many passionate people in the Baytown community, these projects worked and were successful. To our surprise, our tourism peers recognized several of our projects at various annual conferences. We brought home multiple awards and recognitions.
At the Texas Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus Annual Conference in August, the Baytown Tourism Division received numerous awards within the IDEA Fair. The Umbrella Alley was awarded the People’s Choice and Judges Choice Award for best National Travel and Tourism Week Promotion. The Public Art Visioning Committee was voted People’s Choice Award for Best Cooperative Marketing promotion. Furthermore, the Harvey Recovery Resource Site won the People’s Choice award for Best Mobile Site/App. The Umbrella Alley also brought home both the Judges Choice Award and People’s Choice Award for the Spirit of Downtown at the Texas Downtown Association Annual Conference in Corpus Christi.
We are so appreciative for all of the positive feedback from our peers and the community. The Baytown Sun has followed and reported on each success, producing no less than 4 articles on the umbrella alley alone not to mention articles about our awards! The website visitbaytown.com hosted 20,786 visitors in 2018 and the VisitBaytown Facebook page gained over a 1,000 new followers. That translates as 2.25 million impressions, which means how many times a post or our page was included in someone’s newsfeed or as an ad.
We couldn’t be happier after a tough ending in 2017! We are absolutely thrilled to roll into 2019 and experience moving into the almost renovated Brunson Theater, Baytown’s first Tourism Information Center, promote the Brunson documentary and begin several new projects we have up our sleeves! Watch out, 2019 is going to be exceptional!
Barb Wooster, Baytonian
Anna Yowell, Tourism Coordinator
Sheree Cardwell, Tourism Marketing Specialist
Grey Scott, City of Baytown Human Resources Manager
John Britt, Historian & College Professor