New director takes helm of Washington tourism

Published 10:17 pm Sunday, August 26, 2018

When it comes to the economic health of the city of Washington, tourism plays a large role in keeping the blood pumping. From merchants and lodging to recreational opportunities and Carolina Avenue chains, everyone benefits when people come to town.

A new face in town, Erin Ruyle started in her new position as director of the WTDA earlier this month, bringing new ideas and a new sense of energy to the office. Originally from Fairfax, Virginia, Ruyle brings with her an extensive resume in public relations, marketing and event planning.

With both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sports management, Ruyle began her career in athletic communications as the sports information director at Southwest University, a division three school in Texas. Since then she has held positions in marketing and communications at Texas Tech, the City of Georgetown, Texas, and Duke University.

When her husband took a position as an assistant golf coach at East Carolina University, the position at the WTDA seemed like a good opportunity to try something new in her field.

“A lot of my experience has been in marketing, communications and special event management,” Ruyle said. “This opportunity is a way for me to use my skillset in a different manner. I’ve been selling experiences, per se, for my whole life, so this is a new type of experience I’m selling.”

While her first few weeks have been spent learning about Washington and making connections with key players she will be working with in her role, Ruyle’s welcome has been a warm one. Moving forward, she hopes to extend this same sense of welcome and hospitality to those who might choose to visit Washington.

“I really want to drive home our marketing efforts digitally,” Ruyle said. “When I came, I assessed several needs from an outsider’s perspective. One of them was really enhancing our social media efforts, not just constantly pushing out promotional methods, but engaging with our customers and using outside of the box marketing methods to engage and communicate our message with them.”

In addition to digital marketing, Ruyle also sees a need for updating the WTDA website, and hopes to establish a library of strong photography and videography to help effectively market the city’s message. In enhancing these strategies, Ruyle hopes to see the city tap into the millennial market, bringing young visitors into town.

“They’re a group that travels a lot, and the way they find their information is on their phone and social media,” Ruyle said. “They’re a group we should really keep in mind and make sure they can receive our marketing message.”

With a wide variety of organizations working for the betterment of Washington, Ruyle also hopes to play a part in collaborating with groups such as the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce, the Washington Harbor District Alliance and others who want to see Washington thrive.

“We’re much stronger as a unit than as individuals,” Ruyle said. “It’s really easy to get siloed and only focus on tourism. If we share something the Chamber posts, and they share what we post, our audience has just expanded tremendously. It’s the same thing with events, working together and not silo-ing ourselves, working together to plan a great event.”