February 10, 2010 TDC Meeting Recap

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dear Industry Partner:

Below you'll find a few highlights from this month's Tourist Development Council meeting. Due to several special presentations made at today's meeting, there was not enough time to present the individual monthly departmental reports live, but they are all complete and posted to our industry website, PinellasCVB.com. As always, we invite you to attend the meetings in person or view them at your leisure online at PinellasCounty.org.

For calendar year 2009, the St. Pete/Clearwater area fared better than eight other major Florida tourism destinations---including Miami, Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale---in room rates, and placed in the top three in occupancy. This according to Smith Travel Research, whose recently-released 2009 numbers show that the St. Pete/Clearwater area also beat statewide averages for both occupancy and room rate last year. Across Florida in 2009, average occupancy was down 7% and room rates fell by more than 10%, but locally those numbers were down by 5.4% and 6%, respectively. The CVB's data and research provider, Walter Klages, also reported that, for the month of December 2009, total area visitation was up by 2.2% and occupancy was up slightly by 1.6%. While January 2009 numbers are expected to decline year-over-year due to Super Bowl visitation in 2008, upward trends are expected for late February and March of 2010.

As part of the CVB's comprehensive marketing and advertising plan for FY 2010, major media initiatives have been launched in top feeder markets for the months of February and March.

In February and March in Chicago, 1,329 elevator screens in 91 separate office buildings will be airing specially-designed VSPC Ambassador ads, generating more than 7.5 million impressions. Also in the Windy City, 13 corporate delivery trucks will bear St. Pete/Clearwater advertising through the end of April, for a combined impression total reaching approximately 22 million consumers. As an expansion of our Midwest advertising this March, VSPC will also air Ambassador TV spots in the Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and St. Louis markets.

New York:
Station Domination kicks off a month of guerilla marketing in NYC with the launch of the Union Square station domination campaign. The installation will emphasize our area's proximity to NYC with a simple tagline---2 1/2 HOURS IN THE AIR CAN CHANGE EVERYTHING---and is expected to reach 5.6 million commuters. In concert with the Station Domination campaign, VSPC will be running full page color ads twice a week throughout March in AM NY, a widely-read newspaper distributed to subway riders as they enter and exit all major stations.

As part of this winter's New York City advertising campaign mentioned above, VSPC is partnering with JetBlue, who will provide eight lucky winners with roundtrip airfare as part of the month-long sweepstakes promotion. This advertising outreach, which marks the first time VSPC has partnered directly with JetBlue on a co-branded promotional campaign, will pair the VSPC logo with the JetBlue logo on all sweepstakes collateral, as well as branded sandwich boards and caps worn by the AM NY "street teams" that distribute the papers. Currently, a total of 20 nonstop flights are offered between NYC area airports and Tampa International, seven of which are offered by JetBlue.

February 8th was the kick off to VSPC's trade advertising in Travel Weekly, a popular trade publication that is delivered to more than 40,000 travel agents across the country each week. This campaign, which will run through the end of August, has a specially designed cover wrap and includes an incentive for travel agents to book pre/post stays at participating hotels in the St. Pete/Clearwater area for their cruise clients who cruise from the Port of Tampa. Agents with confirmed bookings receive a $25 Visa Gift Card as an incentive to book rooms in the area.

As part of our continued website refinement efforts, ongoing qualitative consumer usability testing is being conducted by Miles Media in coordination with the launch, and research findings will be incorporated into the website in the coming weeks. In addition to its cutting-edge navigation and design, the new website boasts all new videos and articles, increased visibility for partners through enhanced detailed listing pages, a new booking component, new maps and many additional other features.

Special thanks goes out to the local tourism industry for making Florida Huddle a resounding success. The hoteliers who rolled out the red carpet for these VIP's on the opening night--- Sandpearl Resort, The Clearwater Beach Hilton, and the Sheraton Sand Key---got things off to a great start. The next night, the brand new Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa hosted an evening to remember. The Marriott Suites Clearwater Beach on Sand Key proved to be a fantastic partner as well---as did the host hotel for our media breakfast, the Holiday Inn Suites on Clearwater Beach. Thanks also to Dr. Hank Hine and the Salvador Dali Museum for providing the keynote at the media breakfast and sponsoring the media room. We also extend our gratitude to the Loews Don CeSar, the Renaissance Vinoy and the Sandpearl Resort for hosting our international pre-Huddle FAM groups.

Thanks also to members of the Pinellas Board of County Commissioners and the Tourist Development Council for clearing their calendars to make time to attend functions and show support for the industry. The event could not have been a success without transportation and logistical support provided by the City of Clearwater, whose dedication to the event made everything run smoothly.

As we mentioned today, we're fortunate to have a local industry that comes together so willingly and effectively to promote our common cause---growing sustainable tourism in Pinellas County---and for that we are eternally grateful.

Again, these are just a few highlights of the meeting. Also, as a reminder, in addition to the streaming video of the entire meeting available from PCC TV, you can view all of the CVB's individual monthly departmental reports on our industry web site, PinellasCVB.com.

David Downing
Assistant Director
Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater