CORPUS CHRISTI – The Texas AgriLife Extension Service nature tourism program is offering a new online marketing platform, guide training and certification program for Texas fishing guides and coastal tourism service providers.
“Tourism is vital to the Texas Gulf Coast economy and we are providing tools and training that will help enhance the gulf tourism industry and better inform and market those involved in it,” said Miles Phillips, AgriLife Extension nature tourism specialist in College Station.
Phillips said AgriLife Extension will be expanding its Market Maker online market and marketing platform as a free service to connect fishing guides and other tourism providers with customers. The agency will offer its Wildlife Guide Training and Certification Program on Sept. 27 at the Corpus Christi Marina.
“Market Maker was originally designed to provide an easy match between buyers and sellers of food products,” said Phillips, who will be implementing the use of the platform for recreational fishing guides and other coastal tourism providers. “For example, a restaurant wanting to buy fresh local blackberries could find a blackberry farmer through Market Maker. But now the platform is being expanded in Texas and across the Gulf of Mexico to include more tourism-related businesses.”
Phillips said saltwater fishermen, corporate travel planners, event managers, convention and visitors bureaus and others wanting to hire guide services will be able to easily find one that fits their needs and destination criteria.
“Market Maker is essentially an online marketplace developed by AgriLife Extension and currently in use in at least 17 states in addition to Texas,” he said. “
Phillips said while the expanded Texas Market Maker system is not yet active, it is currently possible for businesses to preregister their fishing guide or other coastal tourism service into the database. The preregistration website is http://register.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/main/coming_soon/food/48
“Once the business data is input and the site is active, somebody in Dallas who wants to catch redfish in Galveston could log in to Market Maker, click on the Saltwater Fishing tab, check the boxes for ’Galveston’ and ’redfish’ and instantly receive phone numbers, business profiles and, if available, website links for guides offering redfish services out of Galveston,” he said. “This would be done without having to scroll through endless pages of guides looking for somebody that meets their criteria.”
Phillips said guides and other tourism service providers must input their own information into Market Maker.
“For example, fishing guides will need to click the boxes corresponding to where they provide guide services, what type of fishing they do, what kind of fish they target and provide business contact information such as the phone number and website, if they have one.”
The system is free and training on using the system will be provided by Agrilife Extension and Sea Grant Extension, he said. Funding for the expanded implementation was made possible as part of a grant funded by the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission.
See http://naturetourism.tamu.edu for information and to register for the live workshop and online materials.
“Guides who obtain certification from the Corpus Christi Convention and Visitors Bureau based on passing this training will be included in a major marketing effort by the CVB,” Phillips said, adding that more information could be found at http://www.visitcorpuschristitx.org/listings_certified_all.cfm