The beachgoers laughed as the breeze blew through their hair, and when a hint of thunder sounded, they said they hoped that rain could wait another hour. Although morning joggers, wearing tank tops, shorts and sneakers, pounded the sand along the shores, and early-risers sported bathing suits, many members of this crowd of beachgoers wore double-breasted suits, slacks and dress shoes. This clearly wasn’t an ordinary day at the beach.
During a meeting of the Sarasota County Tourism and Economic Development Board Thursday, May 13, many business owners expressed concern about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and its effect on tourism in the Sarasota area. Although oil is not projected to spill into Sarasota’s coastline, many businesses — hotels in particular — have been fighting that perception. After the meeting, a group of business owners and officials began to toss out ideas about how to fight that perception, and the plan for a YouTube video was set in motion.
The group formed an informal ad hoc committee, led by The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort General Manager and President Katie Moulton and Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota General Manager Jim McManemon Jr., which began making calls and sending e-mails to local leaders. They hired Swain Film & Video for the project, and by 8:30 a.m. Monday, May 17, the crowd of more than 20 businessmen and women strolled onto Lido Key’s newly renourished beach. One by one, they strapped on a microphone, smiled for the camera and told potential visitors why they love the Sarasota area.
Michael Saunders, founder and president of Michael Saunders & Co., stepped up and said she has been selling the area since 1972.
“Not only do we have beaches but we have culture and we have a heart and soul. It’s a great place to be for a vacation or for a lifetime,” she said with a smile.
Andrew Vac, president of the St. Armands Circle Association and owner/broker of Re/Max Excellence, received phone calls and e-mails Friday about appearing in the video, and he immediately knew he wanted to be a part of it. He, too, has heard from concerned business owners, particularly those in the hotel-and-motel business, who have gotten phone calls and/or cancellations because of the oil spill. Describing St. Armands Circle as “the jewel shopping mecca of Sarasota County,” he urged people to visit for the weather, shopping, beaches and people.
Moulton also told visitors why they should experience Sarasota area’s beaches.
“We have thousands of hotel and lodging options,” she says. “The beaches are beautiful … now is the time to come.”
Moulton is one of the people who spent the last four days pulling the video together. She said that the Colony has gotten calls from concerned guests, although the resort has not had cancellations.
“People are hesitating,” Moulton said after the video shoot. “Europeans in particular don’t understand that Florida is so large, that if there is oil in the Panhandle, they don’t need to put off their plans here.”
Longboat Key Town Commissioner David Brenner was at the meeting when the idea was born. He wasn’t part of the committee that planned the video, but he liked the philosophy behind the idea to dispel the myth that oil is headed to local shores.
“I think the best part is that some action was taken instead of a lot of talking,” Brenner said.
Lighting problems meant that Brenner had to repeat his part twice. But his message was the same each time.
“My wife and I have been coming to this area for 20 years,” he said, as a cloudless sky provided the background. “Today is no different than any other day … the beach is clean, the water’s clean, and we have a ton of things for you to do.”
Filming wrapped up after a little more than an hour, although additional residents, including ESPN sportscaster Dick Vitale, were scheduled to appear on film later in the day. Scenes will be put together into a two- or three-minute YouTube video, which many participants plan to link to their personal and business websites, along with their Facebook pages.
After each participant told viewers why they should visit the Sarasota area, there was one final scene to shoot. Those who wore sandals and flip-flops huddled together with their arms around one another.
Putting their best feet forward, they smiled for the camera and said in unison: “We’re always barefoot here.”
Contact Robin Hartill at email@example.com.
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