"Visit Florida," the state's official tourism marketing arm, has been busy this year trying to keep consideration high in the face of a double whammy: the recession and the Deepwater Horizon spill. To the extent that they impact the Sunshine State's tourism, both issues are -- it is hoped -- setting like the sun over Cedar Key, but the organization has been keeping up its marketing efforts.
This month, "Visit Florida" ran a "Great Visit Florida Beach Walk" involving some 3,700 volunteers walking on 850 miles of Florida beaches, and a Washington, D.C. event -- the Florida Seafood Celebration at Florida House on Capitol Hill.
The beach walk program includes an online photo gallery at VisitFlorida.com, where visitors can vote on their favorite beaches from among around 5,000 taken by people at the event, and enter for a chance to win a trip to Florida, a Mazda Miata sports car and a $5,000 gift card. A spokesperson for "Visit Florida" says the site has gotten about 20,000 uniques since Nov. 6, and is getting 500 daily uniques. Last week's culinary event in Washington involved three top chefs from Florida preparing signature dishes using Florida seafood.
Next up is perhaps the most critical campaign: the winter-tourism campaign to bring vacationers south. The effort actually reprises last year's "Your Florida Side," but with slight tweaks reflecting consumer focus group data. The effort, via DDB Miami, comprises print, TV, out of home, and interactive elements. Print features images of visitors on beaches, rides at theme parks, boating, kayaking, and images of small towns and historic spots, matched with English and Spanish active-verb headlines like "Awaken," "Unleash," and "Embrace."
The effort, set to run January through April, includes two TV ads that show people having fun in a pastiche of Florida destinations, from beaches to clubs. The ads end with the person awakening from a daydream to his or her snowy or rainy urban setting, gazing at a "Visit Florida" billboard. The campaign is focusing on the state's "Super Six" domestic markets: New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, D.C.
Chris Thompson, president and CEO of "Visit Florida," says tourism is picking up again slowly with improvements in the third quarter versus last year, particularly from overseas visitors. He tells Marketing Daily that in the third quarter, tourism saw a 0.6% uptick, although domestic traffic was down slightly.
"International was up double figures," he says. "After two tough years, we started to see a rebound at the end of last calendar year in the number of folks visiting. Even after the Deepwater event, volume is heading back in right direction; we are cautiously optimistic that the trend will continue."
Thompson says that even through 2008 and 2009, Florida's tourism volume never dropped that dramatically, falling less than 1%. "That's a great testament to the strength of Florida as a brand, to the 80 million visitors who come every year and the hard work to keep Florida top of mind."
He says winter tourism is especially important to south and central Florida, and that the Your Florida Side campaign has delivered. "It's one of the best campaigns we have ever had when you look at ROI. When we first ran it, we got $147 for every dollar we spent. But during the course of the summer, in the midst of the oil spill, we wondered if it would resonate." He says the only big changes are in some of the verbs in print, "but the overall campaign is going to remain."