With Sarasota County having recorded its best summer ever in 2011, in terms of tourist tax collections, the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau has asked Village merchants to help it keep the momentum well beyond season.
SCVB President Virginia Haley told Siesta Key Village Association members this month that her board of directors had challenged the staff “to make sure we top (last summer).”
Although Dr. Beach — Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, of Florida International University — will name a new No. 1 beach in May, Haley said, “When we have the No. 1 beach designation, we keep it forever.”
The only factor that could cause the beach to lose the designation, she said, would be the failure to keep maintenance efforts at the high level that has been the norm on Siesta.
“What we’re really interested in is any kind of summer promotions,” Haley said during the SKVA’s regular meeting Feb. 7. “Anything that you have going on, we want to keep pushing that out (to the public).”
Haley told the group that SCVB staff members took Leatherman with them in July to London, to promote Sarasota County. His appearance generated about 41 million media impressions, she added, referring to the number of people who read or watched video footage about his appearance.
“(He) really, really was a big hit in the (United Kingdom),” she said. “I think we saw the payoff (last) fall,” she added, with a 16% increase in vacationers from Europe in Sarasota County.
Referring to the traditional two-week English school break in the fall, Haley added, “I think Siesta Key turned British during that time.”
Haley said the SCVB just had completed a run of television commercials in key northern U.S. markets. Each commercial ended with a tagline referring to the No. 1 beach ranking.
Because the SCVB was able to grab the web domain “numberonebeach.com,” Haley said the organization had been able to drive Internet traffic to that page, “(which) promotes all the different activities on Siesta.”
However, she said, probably the most effective initiative the SCVB had pursued was a Google keyword campaign focused on the No. 1 beach.
Journalists are continuing to come to Sarasota County to write about its tourism offerings, Haley said. The beach distinction probably had brought more of them to the area than ever before, she added.
Moreover, she said, she may host a writer now, but a story might not run until October or November, meaning there will be more coverage in the months ahead.
“We’ve been able to bring a lot of travel wholesalers to the Key in the past six months from the U.K and Germany … That’s good for future bookings,” she said, because Europeans typically take longer vacations than Americans do.
Haley said that the SCVB even had used Siesta’s No. 1 ranking to promote the marriage vow renewal ceremony, which is held on the public beach every Valentine’s Day.
Some people had asked her whether the promotions actually had made that much difference, because of all the news coverage of the No. 1 ranking. The SCVB’s research had shown that those promotions had achieved a 63% increase in the media reach beyond what the normal news stories could have accomplished, Haley said.
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- I know it SCVB's job to promote tourism, but I hope they will gve some thought to quality of life issues for those of us with homes here, such as noise, traffic, garbage, etc.
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