2016: A Year of Firsts, Records, Awards---and Yetis

Saturday, December 30, 2017 - 12:00pm

St. Pete/Clearwater (December 30, 2016) - Record-setting bed tax and visitation, industry-leading marketing campaigns, first-ever cooperative partnerships, national awards---and another viral winter marketing campaign---were just a few of the highlights of 2016. As we count down the hours until we welcome 2017, here's a snapshot of just a few of the initiatives and some impressive results that made 2016 such a success:

Record Growth, 6th Percent Bring $50 Million In TDT for 2016

Two years after officially being deemed a high-impact tourism county---one of only six in the state---Pinellas County legislators voted to levy an additional percent to Pinellas County's TDT for every room night, effective Jan. 1, 2016. The additional percentage has generated more than $7.5 million in bed tax through October, which, together with record growth, is expected to push the cumulative 2016 total past the $50 million mark by year's end.

ADR Growth Among Top In State; Visitation Tops All-Time High

October 2016 was the 38th consecutive month of year-over-year bed tax growth for Pinellas County, and dating back to 2013, 60 of the past 61 months have shown increases. The historic stretch is buoyed by one of the fastest growing Average Daily Rates (ADR) in the state, which shows the St. Pete/Clearwater brand generating higher yields industrywide. While the annualized ADR has grown by an impressive 33% destination-wide since 2011, the ADR for March, the bellwether of local tourism, has grown a whopping 47% in that same time period, from $134 to $199.

Latin American Representation Expands, Visitation Follows 

Earlier this year, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater expanded its in-market representation in Latin America with six contracted representatives working the following markets: Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay; Peru; Chile; Panama and Central America; Colombia; and Costa Rica. These in-market reps are overseen by VSPC's in-house Latin America team, which added two new sales reps this year, as well. And through just three quarters of 2016, Latin America visitation was at an all-time high, up more than 25% year-over-year.

Boston Joins Wintertime Blitz; Chinese Campaign Debuts

In 2016, VSPC expanded its winter-time marketing efforts to include Boston, alongside Chicago and New York City, blanketing commuter rail cars and fully-wrapped trolleys with warm-weather imagery and messaging, an effort that resulted in more than 50 million impressions and was complemented by digital and guerilla marketing initiatives. Also this year, VSPC debuted the destination's first Chinese-language advertising in concert with ramped up promotional efforts with Visit Florida, including a four-city sales and marketing mission in China and hosting more than a dozen familiarization trips for travel agents, tour operators and media here at home.

National NPR Goes Year-Round; UK Debuts National TV Ads

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater launched the destination's first-ever domestic, year-round national campaign, hitting the airwaves of National Public Radio. The non-traditional, informational radio reads ("This message brought to you by Visit St. Pete/Clearwater who remind you...") hit the more than 900 NPR stations across the country, reaching more than 28 million highly-targeted listeners every week. Also in 2016, VSPC launched a national TV campaign in the UK, partnering with British Airways and re-cutting the domestic TV spot into a market-specific  TV spot, which features a British voiceover. It was all part of a month-long "You Need Sun" campaign spreading sunshine to gray, rainy UK.

Partnership with Uber Becomes Blueprint for Ride-Share Giant

A first-of-its-kind marketing initiative in Chicago between Uber and VSPC, "Warm Up Wednesday", greeted Chicago Uber users throughout February with free rides---some of which were equipped with virtual reality headsets, hand warmers and long-sleeve shirts---as well as the chance to win a trip to St. Pete/Clearwater. After unprecedented engagement in the app week-over-week, Uber Chicago declared it the most successful campaign to date---and even reshaped some of its campaign strategy to mimic the initiative moving forward.

Industry-Leading Virtual Reality, 360 Video Bring National Awards

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater's groundbreaking new 360-degree video portal was the first of its kind for destination marketing organizations in the U.S., allowing users to manipulate video by either dragging the cursor on their computers or physically moving their mobile devices to explore immersive experiences in 360 degrees. Between the portal and the more than 15 custom-made 360-degree videos, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater established itself as an innovator in the increasingly-popular tech space, which resulted in a Silver W3 Award for Innovative/Experimental Tourism Marketing. The W3 Awards are the first major web competition that pits Fortune 500 companies and international agencies against smaller firms.

Meetings Team, Director Receive Pair of National Honors

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater's Meetings & Conventions team was recognized as one of the elite DMOs in the southeast by Successful Meetings, who honored their outstanding work in the meetings industry with a Pinnacle Award, which is voted on by decision-makers planning meetings, events and conferences in the U.S. and worldwide. Department Director Suzanne Scully received a separate honor by being named one of three recipients of the European Cities Marketing scholarship by Destination Marketing Association International.

Yetis Continue Viral Success; 5 Million Impressions Worldwide

Joining a long list of creative and viral-worthy marketing stunts---from mythical Manaphin to cold-weary snowmen---a pair of yetis stole the hearts of millions as part of this year's winter marketing blitz. A three-month effort saw Yetis roam the streets of Boston, Chicago, London and New York City with a simple unbranded message of YetiLovesSun.com. The website hosts a montage of images and a video of yetis enjoying a getaway to St. Pete/Clearwater. In total, the fun-loving yetis generated more than 5 million impressions in real life and across digital channels.

Gulf to Bay Magazine Received Top Honor In State Awards

Gulf to Bay magazine, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater's oversized glossy destination publication with annual distribution of some 600,000, won a gold medial for Best Special Publication and a bronze for Best Cover at the annual FNAME Creative Excellence Awards. The Tampa Bay Times, which publishes Gulf to Bay  for VSPC, is a member of The Florida Newspaper Advertising and Marketing Executives, which is an industry association of newspaper media companies throughout the state of Florida.

Join Us For A Sneak Peek At 2017!

Now, who's ready for an even better 2017?! Be sure to join us from 4-7 p.m. on January 23 for our largest industry gathering every year, the Annual Marketing Meeting, taking place at the new Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach. We'll unveil a new look and feel for 2017 advertising and share just a few of the things we have in the works to keep St. Pete/Clearwater area tourism going strong throughout 2017 and beyond.

Happy New Year!

- Team Visit St. Pete/Clearwater