In 2012, the small resort town of Fairfield Bay decided it was time for a change.
Tired of the reputation as a quiet community, community leaders realized they needed to grow Fairfield Bay and quickly. After all, Fairfield Bay has a lot to offer, including the added beauty of the Ozark Mountains and a pristine, 40,000-acre lake.
The leaders embarked on an aggressive tourism development campaign. First, a research program was initiated that identified what features attracted people to the area, why they moved and stayed, and identified key influencers and ambassadors. The research helped the city discover Fairfield Bay’s five core essences: natural beauty, lifestyle, safety, value and community.
After defining what is most important to its community, Fairfield Bay got to work rebranding. It had a new website built, produced new maps, brochures and postcards, as well as utilizing video and radio to reach its audience. The city also launched four signature events (Bloomin in the Bay in May, Surf the Bay in June, 4th of July and Oktoberfest with Storyfest at the Bay in October) that will become mainstays in the community.
Once the groundwork had been laid, the public relations outreach gained traction and Fairfield Bay added more signature events. The city also formed partnerships with statewide entities to further raise awareness. Partners included Arkansas Parks and Tourism, Arkansas Arts Council, Arkansas Living magazine, photographers, local and state politicians and others.
“Fairfield Bay’s growth is a direct result of incredible partnerships that support Fairfield Bay,” Mayor Paul Wellenberger said. “Today, the TV, radio, print and digital awareness and direct response campaigns are bringing people from Memphis, Mississippi, Little Rock, Conway, Dallas, Tulsa and more.”
Beyond this, Fairfield Bay worked on developing content that would go beyond the typical community website.
The Fairfield Bay team worked on developing a Fairfield Bay app for reaching the 21st century audience. The city also offers BayVenture Cards that entice visitors to shop and play in the community. When families complete all 10 items on the card, they receive a family prize. These different approaches allow Fairfield Bay to stay engaged with visitors and let them know of opportunities and events in the future.
These efforts have produced a domino effect of positive change in the community. In 2018 Fairfield Bay welcomed in its sixth straight year of sales tax growth and the highest number of new home starts in 17 years.
The buzz around Fairfield Bay reached out-of-state investors who decided to build a $6.4 million hotel in the city. The city also boasts a new conference and visitor center, dog park, marina upgrades with new slips, biking and hiking trails and 90 miles of newly opened ATV trails.
And the hard work has paid off. Wellenberger said, since the community invested in professional marketing and reopened the conference center, taxable sales increased from $19,007,866 in 2012 to $24,586,200 in 2017.
“The benefits are truly too numerous to mention, but one of the sweetest is the renewed sense of pride and excitement felt within the community,” Wellenberger said. “Bringing more people in boosts the local economy and is helping Fairfield Bay renovate and expand the resources that make our community such a wonderful place.”