It has always been challenging to entice visitors to come to Andersonville. The park’s story is tough. It involves subjects that are both complex and horrible. Many families seeking things to do in their leisure time can be put off by what a visit to Andersonville entails. Often, when visitors to the park learn that the site is the location of the National Prisoner of War Museum, they are pleasantly surprised to learn that the mission goes far beyond the Camp Sumter story.
These challenges are why marketing the park and the museum are so important. During the summer, the park and the Friends took a major step towards attracting more visitors. At the Friends of Andersonville annual board meeting in September, the board voted to support this project. We’re moving forward on several fronts. Gia is working with the Georgia Department of Transportation to update and improve signs placed by the state 20+ years ago that guide travelers to the park. The Friends consulted tourism professionals in Sumter County and the state agency responsible for tourism for advice. They have guided us towards vendors that specialize in this work. Although social media and other new forms of promotion capture lots of attention, research reveals that 70% of visitors are still influenced by brochures. Many hotels have brochure display racks in their common areas where travelers can pick up a publication that offers basic information about that attraction.
The Friends and the park will develop a rack card that will be placed in 120 locations along the Interstate 75 corridor. The rack card will also be distributed to the State Visitor Information Centers where the interstate highways enter the state. These nine centers draw visitors (13 million last year) mostly from travelers who need a restroom break but take time to peruse the racks of brochures. Another statewide brochure will feature Andersonville and the Museum and will be distributed in over 700 locations in the metro Atlanta area. Both of the brochures will feature a QR code that will allow visitors to use their phone to get a direct link to the National Park Service website where information about the museum, history, driving directions and much more will further encourage visitors to come to the site.
Ted Turner had a saying he repeated on many occasions. It was, “Early to bed and early to rise. Work like hell and advertise.” Since the National Park Service is not allowed to advertise using federal funds, that’s where the Friends of Andersonville can help. As we follow Ted’s advice, our goal is to attract more visitors to come and learn the important story of prisoners of war and their role in winning the freedoms we all enjoy as Americans.