by nathan oster and jade smith
A brainstorming session that brought together in one room owners of local lodging establishments and chamber of commerce officials produced several fresh ideas for promoting Greybull to tourists around the globe.
Sue Anderson, who in her role as the executive director of the Greybull Area Chamber of Commerce will be asked to carry out the wishes of the group, called the meeting “a very positive” first step.
More meetings are planned.
The purpose of them, according to chamber officials, is “to open lines of communication” and improve the working relationship between the chamber and area merchants, many of whom were in attendance at the 2 p.m. meeting on Friday.
Ernie Smith, a member of the chamber’s board of directors, led the meeting, with help from Selena Brown, who facilitated the discussion.
Attending were chamber representatives Sue Anderson, Sherri Emmett, Julie Owens, Jade Smith and Julie Bilbrey along with Myles Foley and Lori Davis of the Historic Hotel Greybull, Michelle and Marissa Maas of the Sage Motel, Sharon Shafer of the Antler and K-Bar motels, Cor and Maria Bijvank of the Greybull KOA, Marian VanGrinsven of Maid Marian’s B&B, Wendy Lannon of the Greybull Motel and Sharon Willis of the Yellowstone Motel.
In total, they represented all but two of the lodging facilities within the chamber’s service area.
Bijvank may have been the most vocal in the lead-up to the meeting, saying he felt the chamber has not be effectively marketing the town to tourists. By meeting’s end, he said he felt better, calling it “reasonably productive” and saying he hope that it leads to more meetings of all the town’s lodging establishment owners.
“We need to talk about what we want from the chamber,” he said. “These are our businesses, and what’s good for our local economy is good for everybody who lives here.”
Bijvank made a presentation to the group on Friday, sharing informational materials he has developed for his campground guests. The intent of all the brochures was simply to answer the question, “What is there to see and do around Greybull?”
These publications highlighted several activities, including sightseeing and day trips from Greybull, hiking, fishing, motorcycle tours, jeep trails, geological sites and about the wild horse range. Attendees commended Bijvank on his ingenuity, with several of the lodging representatives asking for copies of their own of the brochures to distribute to their guests.
“The brochures worked fine for me,” said Bijvank, who said his numbers for this past season were down by about 2.6 percent. “I’ve found that it’s easier to keep them one they are here than it is to get them in.”
Bijvank said motel owners saw even sharper declines in their business. While he doesn’t feel like the chamber helped all that much, the biggest factor, he said, might have been the additional motel rooms that were added in Cody. “I think that had a big effect on the overflow of people going to Greybull,” he said.
Early in the meeting, Ernie Smith read the chamber’s mission statement, which is, “to advance and enhance the lifestyle of Greybull area businesses and people. The chamber of commerce will work to attract new businesses and promote Big Horn County and the town of Greybull.”
Additional ideas that came out of the meeting included:
• Putting more area activities on the chamber-managed community website, Greybull.com;
• Creating a greater presence on Facebook and other social media;
• Putting catchy slogans on buildings and signs;
• Branding the “value” of staying in Greybull in terms of it being more that just a place to spend the night; and
• Scheduling activities during the summer months that would give visitors something special to do at night in Greybull.
The group also showed a great interest in getting the Museum of Flight and Aerial Firefighting back up and running, as it has long been a “must see” for visitors.
Interest was also expressed in perusing the possibilities of a combined museum featuring the area’s geology/paleontology, airplanes and military exhibits. A board will be formed in the coming months to work with the chamber on reopening the Museum of Flight as soon as possible.
Other topics discussed included special music/theater events and area activities that may not be as well known such as caving and geo-caching.
The group also agreed to push for more signage that would help motorists entering Greybull from the east, via U.S. Highway 14, to navigate the complexities of Greybull Avenue. The group believes a lot of tourists mistakenly end up in the right-turn lane, which requires them to turn once they reach Fifth Street and before they even get to the stoplight.
Bijvank said he believes the ideas, if implemented, will make a difference in future years.
Anderson agreed. In an email to chamber members on Monday, she said she’s already working on developing a separate Greybull Area Chamber of Commerce page on Facebook and, in a follow-up interview, said she is going to push for a professional to give the chamber’s website a fresh new look, like the one that was recently done to promote Thermopolis (thermopolis.com).
The next meeting of the lodging/restaurant owners and chamber officials is tentatively set for February. If you would like to become involved in the marketing of Greybull, contact Ernie Smith, 765-2368, or Anderson, 765-2100.