Needless to say she’s been busy! This week her latest brainstorm – the Taos Pocket Guide launches. It’s a handy fold out guide to galleries, shopping districts and everything else anyone visiting Taos might want to know about.
Robert Cafazzo who wears too many hats to recount here, but definitely has his finger on the pulse of our little town puts it this way:
“When you develop a great love for a place, you want to share the reasons you love it with the world. That’s why I write about Taos, give historic tours of Taos and own a gallery in Taos. Two Graces Plaza Gallery has been a one stop shop featuring Art, Books, & Curios since 2003 in Ranchos de Taos in the shadow of the San Francisco de Asis Church. Ranchos de Taos is the southern gateway into Taos, where artists come to photograph and create paintings of the historic San Francisco de Asis Church. It remains an active church where parishioners and the community come to worship. The new Taos Pocket Guide will give you ideas for all sorts of things to do here and show you why Taos is much more than a day trip.”
Clearly it was time for another check-in with Alyson. My questions are in italics.
How did you get the contract?
I had to apply to win an RFP for the Management of the Website and APP that came out in January of 2017. I won the RFP and was awarded the management contract in April 2017.
Taos.org has been on the World Wide Web for 9 years, launched in December 2009. Prior to that the site was called TaosVacationguide.com managed by Taos Webb, owned by Janet Webb. In Dec 2015 Alyson took over the management of the site after Janet Webb retired.
I’m not sure people know that there is no payment from the Town of Taos for this position.
Remuneration comes from having her Booking Engine on the website and being able to monetize the website by creating opportunities to promote businesses within the site.
An easy way to understand the booking engine is to liken it to being an Expedia but brought local. We have a call center and answer calls about lodging in Taos from 8am to 10pm 7 days a week.The benefit of this is that visitors get a local on the phone that knows what they are talking about…even though I have an accent I often point out to callers that I have live in Taos for 15 years.
My focus this past year has been to increase the number of visitors coming to the site by optimizing the website so more people find the site in organic searches.(she’s a pro at SEO) and fine tune the pages, get great content on the site, great imagery and be able to create an Enhanced option for Taos businesses that has an impressive selection of real benefits. I couldn’t sell something I didn’t believe in. I also like to.show results that are true.
The website itself has always had an element of payment associated with businesses being listed, is that not so?
That’s how the website pays for itself. To pay a developer to manage the site would cut into the marketing budget which is only around $400,000 per year and managed by Karina Armijo (Tourism and Marketing Director for Taos)
The problem she saw in the past with the old website was that as it was entirely “pay to play” for businesses so many areas were not correctly represented on the site. For example dining only showed 3-4 restaurants, whereas the current site displays over 90 places to Eat & Drink.
The Mayor, Dan Barrone, left most of the website design up to Karina’s skills but had a few requests…He wanted every business that is tourism related to be listed on the site in a free element.
What is the free element?
A listing that’s free gets 240 characters text, 1 image, phone and address.
Whats the benefit to a free listing?
The free listings show visitors that Taos has a lot to offer in all areas. For example we have 92 restaurants listed, over 60 galleries, over 70 shops. But the businesses do not really get a direct benefit as the free listings do not have a web link to their websites.
What have you developed as the Enhanced Package?
It used to be quite expensive to be listed on Taos.org – over $495 for a restaurant listing, $895 for Recreation and up to $2000 for lodging. Thais why there was not a lot of participation in businesses other than lodging and recreation.I have slashed the advertising rates by well over 50% so that I can get more businesses participation. I have recently developed a super affordable package for businesses to Enhance their free listings.
For $125/year businesses get a web link added to their listing, they get included in a web page dedicated to their area, they get listed on the APP and they get in the new printed product called a Pocket Guide.
If they want to have more of a presence on the site she has partnered with taoStyle to get a highly discounted rate for blog posts which she can then distribute throughout the website on each page. This keeps visitors engaged.
Can you tell my readers a little about the “area” pages you now developing?
The way the site is currently set up is 1 page for shopping in Taos with all 70 + shops listed, 1 page for galleries, 1 page for all the restaurants. I believe this is good to show a visitor that we have a lot of cool shops, galleries and restaurants but not really ideal for someone to get an idea of where to actually gravitate towards if they are interested in something in particular.
I am creating a Shop & Stroll section that will display all areas in Taos and surrounding places to visit. Pages are being made for Bent Street, The Plaza, Kit Carson Road, Ledoux Street and Guadalupe Plaza, Paseo Norte and Sur in the Historical District, and John Dunn Shops. Each page has a write up, a little history about the area, a slide show, most have videos than listings of each business in that area.
This way a tourist can look at Arroyo Seco page for example and know that they could spend a day there and Eat & Drink plus visit the sites, maybe make some pottery and possibly a hike to the Waterfall. All of this used to be found in multiple pages on the site but were not condensed onto one page…more like each area has its own story.
How would you describe this pocket guide you are making?
I recently was given the opportunity to attend two Trade Travel and Adventure Shows in Dallas and Denver. I had one months notice and wanted to have a promo piece that I could give to tourists that they would notice, hopefully not throw away – and read. I had seen a Pocket Guide that the Pueblo produced and visualised a Pocket Guide made for Taos. This piece was designed so the visitor can get a visual impression of what Taos has to offer.
(The foldout piece was so successful at the show that she went through the 10,000 copies and decided to present an idea for a Taos Pocket Guide to be included in her Enhanced Listing.)
What does the guide cover?
I want the Pocket Guide to be a brief display of what the town has to offer but in a comprehensive piece they can use to plan their stay whether it be ½ a day for a week. The front side shows an area map which I discover was hand painted by a Canadian painted for the Town. A committee was formed to review the map and make sure the design was correct, in particular, “ the “look” of the town and its areas. On one side are all the “Hot Spots” a tourism would want to go to or see on their visit, a description on the spot and important information. The other side shows the Historical Museums of Taos with their information and images.
The flip side shows listings. “It has all the areas with each individual business listed in that area, where you can eat & drink based on what you are looking for; breakfast, lunch, a bar, New Mexican, a Brewery. It has Day Spas, massages, Outdoor Recreation, Pet Services, grocery stores, Real Estate Agents, (in case the Mountain calls you), important information, a hospital anything a visitor would possibly need to find out. There is also an event calendar for the year.
Laying it out this way gives a clear picture of what an area offers. Shop, Stroll, Eat, See. People can gravitate towards an area based on their needs and wants. Many people come here to Taos for just the day and a comprehensive view of what we have in each area here will give them a picture of where to go along with our landmark sites and museums. It makes their travel day efficient!
How has it been working with Karina Armijo this past year?
I marvel at her delegating abilities. Shes sourced local workers for nearly every role she has.
“In the small time .Karina has been in her position she has developed an incredible set of tools to Market Taos. She got the website re-designed, developed Branding, We have an APP in Taos,got Air B&B to collect Lodgers tax from rentals, hired a PR company called Waite & Co. to the list goes on.
What she is achieving is incredible and I say kudos to her for her focus and drive. I believe that the way she works with people allows them to be creative. She doesn’t control or micro manage and is clear with communication.
It’s a real pleasure actually…I love my job.
Top photograph taken of Alyson at the John Dunn Shops by Bill Curry
Other images thanks to Aly’s. and my iphone