In launching a $12 million ad campaign, the Bahamas deviated from the tried-and-true formula of highlighting sun and sand, broke away from the sea of sameness and instead chose to zero in on why people travel rather than where they want to go.

Reasoning that a large segment of its target market is composed of overstressed, unhappy, overworked and undertanned consumers, the campaign offers a remedy in the form of a "Bahamavention" which, according to Vernice Walkine, director general of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, "is an action taken by concerned friends and family members to get a loved one the help and recovery only a Bahamas vacation can give."

By featuring easy-to-relate-to characters, the ads stimulate the emotions associated "with the desperate need to escape from everyday life and routine in a humorous way," Walkine said.

One TV spot portrays a soccer mom who is irritated with her husband and violent toward a soccer coach until a group-led Bahamavention convinces her to head to the Bahamas for a vacation.

Another spot reveals a man known as "Frowny" who smiled for the first time in years after his Bahamavention.

In a third ad, a family does a Bahamavention with their father, who is unaware of his constant yelling after talking on his cell phone all day.

The ads introduce Bahamians as experts who embody a less stressful and more balanced life.  Bahamian residents appear in the ads, extending a personal invitation to vacation in the Bahamas.

The Bahamavention ads are running in newspapers and consumer publications, on national and cable TV channels and on New York subway trains.

A late-night, 30-minute infomercial, designed as a spoof on the traditional infomercial, will feature a somber-voiced narrator and pathetic characters whose concerned loved ones perform Bahamaventions.

A new Web site at www.bahamavention.com, which is scheduled to go live the week of Dec. 11, "is a tongue-in-cheek call to action where browsers are diagnosed by Bahamian 'experts' to determine their causes of stress. In all cases, the prescribed remedies are vacations in the Bahamas," Walkine said.

The site will be linked to the Bahamas tourism site, at www.bahamas.com.

The campaign will run through April.

"The creative elements in this campaign are designed to remind the millions of Americans who have gone too long without a vacation of the benefits of taking time off -- and that the Bahamas is the ideal vacation destination for that escape," Walkine said.

She said air and sea visitor arrivals for 2006 for the Bahamas are "pretty close" to the figures for 2005, which totalled approximately 5 million.

"Air is up, cruise is down this year, but there's not a major change in either category," Walkine said.

Right now, the Bahamas is in the midst of a building boom that stretches from the Out Islands to Grand Bahama (Freeport) and New Providence (Nassau, Paradise Island and Cable Beach areas).

"By 2010, we will have added 50% more rooms throughout the destination, bringing the totals up to more than 14,000 rooms," Walkine said.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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