The Leland Tourism Development Authority recently completed its strategic plan for the 2018 calendar year, setting the path for its restructured department to move forward with new initiatives for attracting visitors.
The strategic plan was approved at the authority's board meeting this month, said Jackie Harlow tourism and marketing coordinator for the town of Leland. Harlow began her role with the town in October, a newly created position for the town that compliments the restructuring of the TDA.
Through a town contract of services with the TDA, Harlow is working with the board to implement the objectives of its new strategic plan. As part of the restructure, the TDA board also increased from a five-member to a nine-member board last summer.
Michael Callahan, a council member for the town, is chairman of the TDA board. The town council member slot as TDA chairman is part of the new structure, Harlow said. Other board members are a variety of representatives from the tourism business community.
“Leland has experienced exponential growth,” she said, and with it, the town is expanding tourism-based marketing initiatives.
TDA initiatives in the new plan include a branding campaign, visitors guide and travel promotions, as well as highlights for some of the town's cultural and historical assets such as the Leland Cultural Arts Center and the Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson state historic site.
“Visit Leland. Life is good here,” the slogan for the TDA, was trademarked in August, Harlow said. The plan is to develop the town's branding campaign to support that image, she said. The TDA will also produce the town’s first “all-in-one” publication for Leland’s tourism industry.
“There is not one publication that will tell you everything ... so that is what we are working on now,” Harlow said. “As Leland has been growing, with that brings new opportunities specifically with economic development, which brings more attention to the area and business to the area resulting in more tourism to the town.”
The types of businesses that are developing and opening in the town – big-box retailers, new grocery stores and other services to the town – has expanded the reach of the town to outside tourists and its increasing population.
Leland has had several new construction projects in the past year, including the development of Aldi
and Harrington Square
, part of a mixed-use project with 30,000 square feet of restaurant, retail or office space.
“Things are really starting to move as far as economic development, and that eventually increases tourism,” Harlow said.
The town averages about $150,000 in room occupancy tax revenue a year, including revenue from two hotels, Brunswick Forest vacation rentals and Airbnb properties in the town, Harlow said. That revenue has remained "fairly steady,” she said. The new initiatives could increase that tax base in the future, she said.
“We’re trying to set that foundation that we can build upon," Harlow said.