Public-Private Partnerships Key to economic recovery
County Commissioner Doug Coward, interim Tourism Manager Larry Daum and CEO of Comet Creative (formerly Blair Advertising) George Byfield unveiled plans for the 2008-2009 budget year which runs from October 1 to September 30, 2009.
James Turner, Executive Vice President of the Grand Bahama Island Tourism Board was at the event and commented on his initial visit to St. Lucie County. "I was pleasantly surprised," he remarked. "There is a lot of support among the public and the private sector for a partnership with the Grand Bahama Island."
After touring the County earlier in the day, Mr. Turner shared his impressions: "There is so much diversity in St. Lucie County. There is a lot of potential here… a lot of potential." He admitted that previously on visits to Florida, he had driven past St. Lucie County on the way Orlando or back south to Ft. Lauderdale, a hub for Bahamas flights, and chose not to stop. "I just didn't know what was here. You truly are a jewel."
Commissioner Doug Coward stated that the next steps are for delegates from St. Lucie County to visit Grand Bahama Island and to discuss a proposed memorandum of understanding. "We are very excited about the possibilities," said Commissioner Coward.
George Byfield, CEO of Comet Creative (formerly Blair Advertising), the agency of record for the St. Lucie County Tourist Development Council, outlined more elements of the County's new marketing strategy to increase visitors to the area. "Marketing now is different from marketing in the past. It is more personal, it is more segmented," he said. "And efforts today need to be engaging and evoke customers' emotions."
"Before we were mass marketing to everyone, trying to reach them all with one blanket message," said George. "that doesn't work." The County will now focus on segments of the tourism market with specific messages geared toward that audience. "St. Lucie County appeals to divers, cultural tourists, film buffs, art lovers, kayakers, boaters, sports fishermen, golfers, New York Mets fans, even Baby Boomers, and more," said Mr. Byfield. "Each market requires its own message, specifically mentioning attractions that appeal to that audience."
Advertising messages will include traditional media as well as new innovative means of reaching out to potential customers through mobile phone technology. Also of note are plans to advertise the County on with vehicle wraps on U-Haul trucks. "In the Northeast right now they are getting pretty cold," explained Mr. Byfield. "and they are thinking of moving south. They will see our U-Haul with photos of fun in the sun, and want to visit us."
The County will also offer more services to engage visitors before and after they arrive through a user friendly website, an online call center using Skype Technology, mobile web access, tailored vacation solution packages, and a central information hub for local events.
The cornerstone of the County's effort is public-private partnerships that jointly market the area as a premier lifestyle destination. Mr. Byfield pointed out that this will help the area's economy, not only because visitors spend money here, but they become residents as well, and that every 100 tourists roughly equals one travel-related job in Florida.
Part of the new public-private strategy includes plans for the official St. Lucie Travel Guide to be distributed internationally in an effort to make potential visitors aware of all that St. Lucie County has to offer. For the millions of travelers who pass St. Lucie County on their way to Orlando or Miami, the Guide will be placed at service stations off of the interstate to entice them to stop and stay in the County. The County will contribute to the cost of the publication and local businesses are joining in to advertise as well.
"In the past the County has had a brochure that simply lists hotels and attractions," said Carol Archebelle, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Comet Creative. "Now we will have an entire guide devoted to them." The Guide will have in-depth articles on St. Lucie attractions, including the PGA, the "unspoiled beaches" of Hutchinson Island, the Savannahs, the Sunrise Theater, among others.
Highwaymen artist Kelvin Hair, son of Highwaymen artist and founder Al Hair, unveiled the painting he created with fellow Highwaymen artist Al Black for the cover of the first issue. "Inside will be an article on the Highwaymen, directing visitors to their gallery where they can view and purchase paintings." Future issues will also feature artwork from local painters.
Larry Daum further encouraged local businesses with a stake in tourism to join in the County's efforts. "The County has a $250,000 advertising budget," he said, "and we are running ads in fishing magazine. Who else should be running ads in fishing magazines? Boat manufacturers. Do we have any boat manufacturers here in St. Lucie County? Yes, we do. They should be running with us, because together we can run a larger ad and make a bigger impact."
Letters of interest soliciting private industry marketing partners were sent out from the County in
August. Michelle Valvano of Perfect Drive Golf Villas was the first partner to step up to the
plate. "For me it was an easy decision," she said. "As a business owner for me it was an easy decision to partner with the County. With them I can do so much more than I can do on my own."
The event is sponsored by PGA Golf Club, Morgan Stanley, the Sunrise Theatre, Volo Aviation, Coca-Cola, Port. St. Lucie Civic Center and Southern Eagle Distributors.
For more information, contact Comet Creative, Inc. at www.cometcreativeinc.com
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