HOTSEAT: See Shore: 'pursuing' the almighty tourist dollar
Heading up the Charlottesville Albemarle Visitors and Convention Bureau is not just about handing out brochures. Mark Shore has a degree in tourism. He drops industry terms like "meeting delegates" and "leisure travelers"– and notes the former spend more here at a convention than the latter at a "destination market."
And he explains the role of "wikification" for this area's myriad attractions in the recent unveiling of a $65,000 investment in the "pursue Charlottesville" brand strategy. After 22 months of research, it was clear that to visitors, the area is Charlottesville, no matter how often Albemarle plasters its name on joint ventures.
"Visitors go to Palladio or drink wine at Veritas– if you ask them where they were, they say they had a great time in Charlottesville," he says. "For us, it's about capturing their dollars, not them remembering Albemarle, Nelson, or Orange." And when the consumer decides the brand name, that's wikification.
His last job was at the visitor's bureau in Cabarrus County, North Carolina, home to the former Charlotte Motor Speedway, now branded– in a decidedly non-wikification manner– into Lowe's Motor Speedway.
"The recognized features of this community make it an easier sell," than Cabarrus, he says, "so you're not starting education from ground zero." For instance, international visitors know about Monticello, thanks to its presence– and UVA's Central Grounds– on the UN's esteemed list of world heritage sites.
Shore also worked at Wilmington's biggest historical attraction, the U.S.S. North Carolina. And he spent six years working in hotels.
He knows well that those visitors he entices to spend the night in a hotel will spend more locally than a day-tripper.
And there's another incentive: about 85 percent of the Charlottesville Albemarle Visitor and Convention Bureau's budget comes from the lodging tax.
"It's the ultimate way to be on commission," says Shore who defends what some are calling the $65,000 logo.
An investment of $58,000 "really was for the research– where visitors are from, how long they stay, what they come for– not for the creation of the logo," he says. And that brand strategy will help the bureau make wiser, more cost-effective choices in spending its $200,000 marketing budget. "You have a second to capture their eye," says Shore, "when they're flipping through a magazine."
Drawing those visitors brings in "more dollars that citizens would have to pay otherwise," says Shore.
The competition is tough, with Fredericksburg and Roanoke also angling for tourists. "Our competitive market is the whole of Virginia," he says.
The tourism chief's own favorite local tourist spot? Shore leans towards "simple pursuits" outdoors in the countryside, such as hiking or apple picking with his family.
Sitting in his corner office overlooking the Downtown Mall, the Pavilion, and the bureau's future home in the Transit Center, Shore also admires the "vibrancy" of the Downtown Mall. "I have seen a lot of well-done, re-done downtowns, but this one has people– that sets us apart," says Shore.
At least that was already done before he got here in 2001.
Why here? For me to move up in my profession meant a new city. A college town or mountain town were some of my criteria. Who knew it would be love at first sight?
What's worst about living here? I can't find Sundrop at the grocery store.
Favorite hangout? Vita Nova for great pizza, and it's easier to people-watch without being watched back
Most overrated virtue? Tranquility
People would be surprised to know: Last year we adopted a child. I spent five weeks in a one-bedroom apartment in Karaganda, Kazakhstan with my wife and three biological kids, and nobody had a meltdown.
What would you change about yourself? Take more risks
Proudest accomplishment? I'm pretty proud of the research we've done for the City and County to be more effective in our marketing, but I'm equally proud of the tourism work I was able to do with our sister city in Pleven, Bulgaria.
People find most annoying about you: If you plan to present more than three things to me, you'll need to write them down. My wife will confirm this applies to grocery lists as well.
Whom do you admire? The everyday people in our community who overcome life's adversities and keep such positive attitudes
Favorite book? Business– First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham. Personal– The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning
Subject that causes you to rant? People who never learned to play nice in the sandbox
Biggest 21st-century thrill? The speed of innovation
Biggest 21st-century creep out? Have you ever seen Mr. Noodle on Sesame Street?
What do you drive? '95 Toyota Corolla
In your car CD player right now: Jeremy Camp
Next journey? I'd love to travel in the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] again soon.
Most trouble you've ever gotten in? I can neither confirm nor deny the rumors, but no animals were harmed, and no law enforcement officials were involved.
Regret: Not spending more quality time with the people in my life
Favorite comfort food: C'ville Market's trail mixes
Always in your refrigerator: Blueberries
Must-see TV: The Andy Griffith Show. All life's moral lessons can be learned here.
Favorite cartoon: Dilbert
Describe a perfect day. I wake up and have my coffee before any of the kids get out of bed.
Walter Mitty fantasy: I'm a CIA operative posing as a tourism professional.
Who'd play you in the movie? Ben Stiller
Most embarrassing moment? I came home from work in suit and tie and the kids (neighbor kids as well) had the skateboards out. I thought I would show them dad's cool skateboard moves. The doctors and the x-rays assured me nothing was broken.
Best advice you ever got? Learn to drink your coffee black– it will make life a lot easier, from Mom.
Favorite bumper sticker? If everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO