October 15, 2018
SHOP TALK

Stephanie Ramey is transforming $900K into heads in beds

Photo | Brad Kane
Stephanie Ramey, executive director of Discover Central Massachusetts

Founded: 2015

Employees: 4

Age: 33

Born: Worcester

Residence: Worcester

Education: Bachelor's degree in communications, Worcester State University

In April, Stephanie Ramey was promoted from corporate and events sales manager to executive director of Discover Central Massachusetts, becoming the second leader of the young tourism promotion agency, which took over from Destination Worcester.

How's the new gig?

It doesn't even seem like a real job. I get to promote a place I really care about. It is more of a passion at this point.

We are the state-designated tourism bureau supporting Worcester and 34 surrounding towns from Sturbridge in the west, part of the Wachusett area and as far east as Shrewsbury.

What are your immediate goals?

One would be to keep the momentum going in the event market. It is getting the word out to corporations and meeting planners – and even sporting events – this is the ideal location for them to host meetings, events and conferences. There is a lot of economic impact tied into hosting an event: hundreds of hotel rooms, multiple days and people get to explore the area.

I have really been pushing on this idea there is more to the city than the walls of the convention center and to really get people to explore the city. It is a lot easier now than it was 5-7 years ago because we have more restaurants and shops to connect the different parts of the city.

How can you connect the city for visitors?

We are working with a company called Visit Widget and are launching an itinerary-planning widget. People can go into these preset itineraries like exploring the POW! WOW! Worcester murals and then add things like which restaurants they want to eat at, and then the widget will map them out. It is sort of a solution to the challenge of walkability in the city.

It is really important to highlight the businesses and restaurants not just in Shrewsbury Street, the Canal District and downtown but in places like Main South and Grafton Hill. That shines a light on the neighborhoods because we have a lot of great cultural experiences there.

How much funding do you have?

We have more than $900,000 in total funding: $500,000 from the city, $260,000 from the state and the rest from memberships, advertising, grants and fundraisers.

We are a membership-based organization. That means our members get a little more exposure on our website, which is trending up tremendously right now. They get a little more exposure in the content we write, which is not to say we only write about our members. That is just added revenue for us.

Will the surrounding towns eventually provide funding?

I've been making more of an effort to work with the towns and cities on specific campaigns so they know what we are all about. We just worked with the Sturbridge Tourist Association and Yankee Magazine. Now, that relationship will grow.

For the other towns, that will take time, but we will continue to work on those relationships.

What metrics do you look at for success?

Year-over-year, our website traffic is up over 80 percent. It is killer. We are getting close to 50,000 pageviews per month. That will allow us to tastefully incorporate advertising in the future.

People seem genuinely interested in the content. I am always curious as to what are our top-performing articles. Hiking is our No. 1 article; craft beer is in the top seven; and family-friendly things is still in the top five.

Heads in beds is obviously an important metric. What we've been seeing from hotel occupancy is it has been trending up. The last report I saw showed we were at about 76-percent occupancy. Year-to-date, demand is up 20 percent from last year.

How will the Pawtucket Red Sox moving to Worcester help with promotion?

The PawSox for me, it is an added element that defines the Canal District as a destination. When you think about it – whether you are a sports person or not – you have the ability to go the new public market to Crompton Collective to shop to BirchTree Bread Co. to get something to eat to Table Talk Pies to grab some fun goodies. Without leaving that district, you can spend a whole weekend there.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Editor Brad Kane.

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