Although she wasn’t expecting “hard numbers” until November ended, Virginia Haley, president of the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau, said this week that she has been hearing lots of positive responses to a US Airways in-flight magazine advertising section about Sarasota.
Haley has been collecting anecdotes from the exposure.
“I’ve heard from people far and wide, commenting on it,” she said.
For example, a group of Washington, D.C., residents attended Sarasota Ballet performances Nov. 18, at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Haley said, after having read about Sarasota in the magazine.
From what she had heard, Haley said, those audience members originally had planned on a trip to another Florida destination before they read the US Airways magazine piece.
Haley also has heard that one business is planning to relocate to Sarasota from New England, thanks to the advertising section.
Haley had worked with 27 local organizations to create the 50-page article, packed with photos and text about Sarasota, so it would be ready for an estimated 3 million US Airways passengers in November. Not only is US Airways one of the major carriers for Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, it also has a strong presence at Reagan National Airport, in Washington, D.C., Haley said, which explains the attention from that area.
Another story, Haley said, came from a member of a national arts organization whose office is based in Washington, D.C. The person apparently had been so enthralled with the Sarasota piece that he had taken the magazine with him when he disembarked from the flight during which he had read it, she said.
He shared the information with members of that organization, which led to discussion of its holding a national conference in Sarasota.
“There’s been really, really neat conversations,” Haley said, since the magazine section appeared. People have been saying they knew Sarasota had a strong cultural tourism reputation, she added, “but (they) had no idea of the level of offerings in the community.”
Haley said the SCVB set up a special 800 number and website address to use in the article, so her staff would be able to determine how many calls and website hits the SCVB received as a result of the exposure. The first numbers will be generated after Nov. 30, she said.
In the meantime, Haley will be making a presentation on airline magazine advertising when she travels to Orlando in mid-January for the U.S. Cultural Tourism Conference; the state of Florida is hosting the meeting this year. Haley said about 30 of the 150 conference participants are expected to travel Jan. 14 to Sarasota to see the community for themselves.
“One of the great things about this conference,” she said, “(is) that they do a lot of field work.”