UPDATE: Vancouver loses contest to host social media conference

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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The Hilton Vancouver Washington is out of the running to host a conference on the use of social media in the tourism industry after local tourism boosters failed to convince enough local residents to seal the deal with their votes.

The Vancouver USA Regional Tourism office had been ranked second out of 16 possible conference sites by organizers of the 2012 Social Media in Tourism Symposium, or #SoMeT12, the nonprofit said Monday. But in a daylong vote on #SoMeT’s Facebook page that’s part of a competition for the convention site, Vancouver lost out to Pocono, Pa., taking it out of the running.

Undeterred, the Vancouver USA Regional Tourism office, in a tweet to the Columbian, thanked people for voting for Vancouver and said it was "game on" for the 2013 Social Media in Tourism Symposium.

Organizers of the symposium — led by Think! Social Media, a boutique digital marketing agency, are using a bracket format to pit destinations against each other. The locations receiving the most votes on #SoMeT’s Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/SoMeTourism) move up to the next bracket until two are left. Then organizers of the symposium will choose the winner.

Knoxville, Tenn., which ranked No. 1 out of the 16 initial possible locations, defeated Irvine, Calif., in the first round and will face the winner of Kansas City, Mo. versus Cleveland, Ohio, in the second round which runs April 2-5.

Pocono, Pa., which defeated Vancouver in the first round, will face the winner of North Kentucky versus Baltimore, Md., in the second round. The bracket-style competition will last through April 12. Then a final winner will be chosen.

The Vancouver USA Regional Tourism office promoted the vote throughout the day on Facebook and Twitter. “This is an exciting opportunity to be competing for this symposium, which would not only boost the local economy but provide an educational opportunity in the field of social media, which is constantly evolving,” Kim Bennett, the office’s president and CEO, had said in a news release. “We hope to put Vancouver on the map as a leader in this industry.”

The symposium will be held Nov. 7-9. It’s a workshop for marketing organizations, hotels, resorts and other tourism-related businesses that want to learn about how social media are influencing promotional activities within the travel industry.

Jill Daniel, marketing and communications manager for the Vancouver tourism office, said organizers of the symposium initially received 19 applications nationally to host the event.

That list was whittled to 16, and Vancouver — the only West Coast finalist — ranked No. 2 based on certain criteria, including hotel room rates, the availability of Wi-Fi and proximity to an airport. It was also important for an applicant to have previously hosted a similar social media event.

Daniel said more than 200 people are expected to attend the 2012 Social Media in Tourism Symposium. She estimated the event would have a direct economic impact on the community of $175,000.