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SML chamber seeks to keep track of visitors | Local News

The Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce strives to get a more detailed picture of visitors to the lake each year to better educate potential tourists and future residents about the area.

Since February, the chamber has joined the business services company Datafy which can provide a variety of details about people visiting an area. The company uses GPS tracking installed as part of several cell phone apps to see who is coming to Smith Mountain Lake, where they are going and how long they are staying.

Andy Bruns, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the information is an invaluable tool for better understanding tourism in the region. He said Datafy can break down details like a visitor’s income and even how much they spent during a visit.

While there may be concerns about companies using GPS tracking information, Bruns said the technology is currently being used by a variety of companies. “We’re just leveraging what’s already there,” he said.

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Datafy does not provide the names and addresses of each visitor. The national sales department only provides general information that can help companies in marketing.

Bruns said Datafy can provide visitor data as early as February 2018. He said the chamber is currently analyzing the data to see what useful information can be found. He said the four years available set a good example of tourism before and during the pandemic.

“We’ve had two terrific tourist years because of COVID,” Bruns said. Lakeside tourism has increased dramatically, with people looking for more spacious places to visit closer to home.

In an effort to keep lakeside tourism booming, Bruns said the chamber is working to expand its advertising this year. Publicity has been cut for the past two years due to the chamber’s funding being cut after several of its annual events were canceled over the past two years.

“We scaled it down a bit,” Bruns said.

Typical chamber marketing involves advertising in regional magazines or placing brochures at key locations in Virginia. Bruns said that with Datafy, the chamber can be more targeted with its marketing to get more bang for its buck.

“With the same amount of money, I can reach hundreds and hundreds of people digitally,” Bruns said.

Datafy can provide information about people who have visited other lakes, but have never visited Smith Mountain Lake. Bruns said he can even use the data to find out what kinds of people regularly visit the lake and advertise directly to similar people.

“We’re going to be able to slice and dice that data,” Bruns said.

The advertisement will go directly to the person the chamber is trying to reach. It would be seen in advertisements on websites that a person visits on their phone. Bruns likened it to someone buying a product online and then having the product appear as an advertisement when visiting other sites.

Bruns said the targeted advertising campaign is expected to begin in the coming months as the lake enters its summer season.

Datafy can break down details like a visitor’s income and even how much they spent during a visit.

Andy Brun, Executive Director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce