Episode 193:

Kathy Casstevens is the Marketing Director at Starved Rock Lodge. She is also a photographer, tourism professional, and lover of nature. Kathy launched GnatTravel a year ago to promote travel in a different way. She is also the chair of the LaSalle County Tourism coalition.

Destination on the Left is joined by Kathy Casstevens, the Marketing Director at Starved Rock Lodge. During our conversation, Kathy shares her journey into destination marketing and talks about how she has used creativity and collaboration to market Starved Rock Lodge on a shoestring budget. She provides a bunch of tips and insider hacks for marketing that will drive results at any destination, and she walks us through the content strategy that helped bring over two million visitors through Starved Rock last year.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Kathy’s journey into destination marketing with Starved Rock Lodge
  • How Kathy has used creativity and collaboration to highlight Starved Rock’s unique features and make it stand out from the crowd
  • How Kathy leverages digital photography to drive visitor traffic at Starved Rock
  • Different platforms Kathy is using to share Starved Rock’s massive digital photo library
  • Systems and processes Kathy has in place to manage her content strategy
  • How Kathy has been communicating with the press during lockdown
  • Different collaborations that have helped Starved Rock Lodge grow its visitor base

Starved Rock Lodge

Kathy Casstevens is the Marketing Director at Starved Rock Lodge in Utica, IL. She joins Destination on the Left to share her journey into destination marketing and talk about how she has used creativity and collaboration to market Starved Rock Lodge on a shoestring budget. During our conversation, Kathy provides a bunch of tips and insider hacks for marketing that will drive results at any destination. She walks us through the content strategy that helped bring over two million visitors through Starved Rock last year, and discusses some of the exciting projects on the horizon that aim to generate even more traffic next year.

What Makes You Unique?

Starved Rock Lodge is nestled in the heart of Starved Rock State Park in North-Central Illinois. It is such a unique place because it completely disrupts the rolling meadows and cornfields with 18 glacier-cut canyons, seasonal waterfalls, and unbelievable views. The lodge sits atop an 80 ft bluff overlooking Starved Rock on the Illinois River. And as you can imagine, there is a lot of material to work with in designing a marketing campaign that sets Starved Rock apart from the pack. Last year, they had over two million visitors come through their destination, and as travel and tourism start to pick back up, they plan to do more. Photography is one of the primary tools Kathy uses to accomplish that goal.

Build Your Content Library

When Kathy started working at Starved Rock Lodge, they literally had ONE digital photo. Now, they have a digital library of hundreds of thousands. With such an unusual landscape in an unsuspecting geographic area, being able to show prospective travelers what makes it unique is vital to their marketing efforts. Over the years, Kathy has expanded the range of platforms Starved Rock uses to promote its massive digital photo library, and she is able to reach a significantly greater audience through apps like tik tok, Instagram, and a handful of others. Staying organized is a challenge in and of itself, but if you can build a massive content library of your own, there is so much you can do with it at any given time.

Episode Transcript

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