C&O Canal Trust: Plan Your Visit Web Section and Mobile App
When I began my position at the C&O Canal Trust, I set a goal to make the C&O Canal Trust's website the one-stop shop for information on visiting the C&O Canal. Because the National Park Service's staff is so small due to cuts in federal appropriations, this is a role we fill in meeting the needs of Park visitors. I created a Plan Your Visit website section and companion C&O Canal Explorer mobile app, which contain over 800 points of interest along the C&O Canal's 184.5 miles. They also point visitors to the ten Canal Towns, four counties, and three Heritage Areas our Park passes through, thereby driving tourism off the towpath and into the surrounding communities, which enriches the experience for the Park's visitors and stimulates economic development. During the Park's 50th anniversary in 2021, I am working with the Maryland Office of Tourism and Development and the four local tourism offices (Montgomery, Frederick, Washington, and Allegany) to create a national "C&O Canal Experience" marketing campaign. In collaboration with the Canal Towns Partnership, we have launched a C&O Canal Libations Trail, and have other trail itineraries in development. The anniversary has yielded a flurry of media attention in both regional and national publications.
I have increased website traffic 492% over seven years through a variety of strategies, but have relied heavily on content marketing through our website. We feature a variety of content on the website: the canal's history, natural and cultural resources, recreational opportunities, trip-planning tips, and more. We use social media and search engine optimization to then drive traffic back to our website. I recently added a Donation Widget to the blog template to monetize our blog traffic more directly. I monitor Google Analytics to determine what content is performing well and use that to guide my content calendar. I also work closely with the state and county tourism offices to keep them informed of upcoming events and activities that they can publicize for our mutual benefit.