Missoula will learn if it is the next city to host the Social Media Tourism Symposium (SoMeT13US) Tuesday, April 2, after a head-to-head matchup between Missoula and Huntsville, Alabama. Voting will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The symposium will take place the first week of November.
The final piece of the Top Two was decided Thursday with Huntsville’s landslide victory over Cleveland, Ohio, bringing in 7,400 votes to Cleveland’s 6,426.
The Garden City was victorious when Missoula faced Branson, Missouri, Tuesday in the first round of Final Four voting. By a vote of 4,953 to 4,250 Missoula earned its spot in the final round.
Missoula previously beat out Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the Elite Eight voting round, and came in second place in overall voting in the first round. Huntsville will be Missoula’s toughest match yet, having brought in the highest vote numbers in every round so far.
Of a potential matchup with Huntsville, Missoula Public Library’s public relations director Mary-Drew Powers said, “It would be like our national parks against NASA.”
Businesses and organizations have been busy trying to get out the word about the competition.
Tourism coordinators say if Missoula wins they would expect the symposium to bring in over $250,000 to the local economy -- not to mention the long-term impacts of having 300 to 400 social media influencers boasting about Missoula as the place to visit.
“The one thing that's great about social media for tourism is that it's a really affordable tool to help spread the word,” said Tia Troy, the public relations manager at Glacier Country Regional Tourism Commission. “Basically we'd be getting millions of dollars in free advertisement that going to be promoting Missoula and promoting Montana and that's only going to bring more people here, so make sure you get online and vote.”
Barbara Neilan, the executive director of Destination Missoula, agrees the symposium would offer an abundance of free advertising and press for Missoula without the expensive pricetag.
“The community who lands this conference gets huge national press that we couldn't garner by having to pay for it. We just couldn't afford to do it,” said Neilan.
Representatives for tourist attractions like A Carousel for Missoula say the effort now will be worth it if Missoula wins the opportunity to host the symposium.
“If those people are coming to find out what Missoula is about, most of them are going to wind up at the carousel at some point,” Theresa Cox, executive director for the carousel, said. “If they're sending out tweets, putting stuff on their Facebook about the carousel, then more people learn about the carousel."
You do not have to live in Missoula or Montana to vote, so tourism coordinators encourage you to tell out-of-state friends and family to cast their votes too.
When voting resumes you can cast your vote by going to the SoMeT13US Facebook page.