You could say the spotlight is about to shine on Florida's $65 billion tourism industry. Visit Florida is poised to launch a major tourism marketing campaign that will include the agency's first-ever nationwide television commercials promoting Florida as the "Sunshine State."
The crux of the multimedia campaign, called "Sunshine," will be three distinct television commercials targeting the general, Latino and African-American markets that will hit the airwaves in the first quarter of this year. The campaign also will include print and online ads.
Visit Florida's portion of the campaign's budget will be $16 million, with additional funds coming from the state legislature.
Shedding light on niches
Karen Kirksey, a Visit Florida spokeswoman, said the campaign underwent extensive research during its development, including testing before two African-American focus groups in Atlanta.
Kirksey said the commercials and the overall campaign were "well received" by the focus groups.
Kirksey said the campaign provides "a prominent reminder that Florida is the Sunshine State," a moniker that appeared on Florida license plates as early as 1949 and was adopted as the state's official nickname in 1970.
The print and TV ads emphasize beach scenes such as kids frolicking on the shore, two fishing buddies reeling in their catch, a lazy hammock scene and a father and son playing in a pool.
A print ad targeting the Latino market shows a couple embracing with the message "Ven a Brillar," or "Come shine," and the tagline "The sun isn't the only thing that shines brightly here."
In all cases, the ads will direct people to the state's revamped consumer Web site, at www.visitflorida.com, which now features blogs, image- and video-sharing capability and personalized trip planners, among other features.
"The new Web site raises the bar for promotion by using interactive and rich media content to engage travelers," said Leon Corbett, Visit Florida's director of advertising and direct marketing. "It offers far more than the usual static imagery and simple listings of information."
Among the Web site's features are blogs and videos hosted by 10 Florida-based writers who specialize in specific areas of interest to travelers, including sports, the arts, shopping, nightlife and family vacations.
Hopes high for a strong winter
The new campaign and Web site come at a time when Florida's $65 billion tourism industry might be heading toward one of its strongest winter seasons in years. A strong summer season included an early arrival of snowbirds, who began flocking to Florida several weeks earlier than usual and continued coming.
According to Visit Florida, some 21 million people vacationed in Florida during the third quarter of 2007 (July through September), up 4.8% compared with the same period in 2006.
During the third quarter, domestic visitors accounted for the lion's share, or 93.7% of total visitors, while overseas visitors accounted for 5.1% of the total and Canadians made up the remaining 1.2%.
Canadian travel to Florida in the third quarter of 2007 was particularly strong, reflecting a 6.8% overall increase compared with the same period in 2006. Visit Florida is currently running a radio and Web campaign north of the border touting the strength of the Canadian dollar.
According to Visit Florida, among the chief reasons for the increase in international travel to Florida is the weak U.S. dollar, which has made vacations to such popular Florida destinations as Disney World and Miami's South Beach more affordable than ever for international visitors.
In addition, 2007 marked the second straight year without a major hurricane to discourage people from visiting.
CVBs up the ante
Local tourism promoters have beefed up their efforts, as well.
The Jacksonville & the Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau, for example, recently unveiled a new name, logo, direction and advertising campaign.
The bureau's new name, Visit Jacksonville, is accompanied by a new logo and tagline, "Visit Jacksonville. Where Florida Begins," as well as a $1.3 million advertising campaign that includes ads in national and international print, online and broadcast outlets.
Visit Jacksonville also recently rolled out a more interactive Web site, at www.visitjacksonville.com.
Orlando, meanwhile, is fine-tuning its existing two-year, $68 million advertising campaign with a new message, "Say Yes to Orlando." The "Say Yes" campaign will largely be a print and online effort.
The Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau's "Say Yes" campaign is aimed at mothers 25 to 54 years old and at families with a minimum household income of $60,000.
To contact reporter Jorge Sidron, send e-mail to [email protected].