Florida Hotels -White Sands Beach Resort
Visit Florida fighting oil spill image
Jeff Gerry, co-owner of the Anna Maria Island resort, says live streaming beach cameras, photographs and status updates have been key marketing tools since the BP oil spill six months ago.
“We have three beach cameras and we’ve had a couple people hold their weddings in front of the beach camera,” Gerry said. “It helps show that the beaches are still nice and the water is crystal clear.”
Visit Florida officials say a misperception lingers since the April 20 incident in the Gulf of Mexico. So the state’s tourism bureau is hosting a statewide marketing campaign that will enlist the help of media-savvy residents and tourists.
On Nov. 6, Visit Florida will call on Floridians and tourists to take photos and videos of their favorite beaches and upload them to visitflorida.com. The goal of the project, titled Share a Little Sunshine, is to showcase a real-time depiction of all 825 miles of Florida’s beaches.
“There’s still a direct correlation between the misperception as it results to the (oil spill) impact and the intention to visit Florida,” said Will Seccombe, chief marketing officer for Visit Florida. “It’s incumbent upon us to correct those misperceptions — and what better way than to get out and prove to the world there’s 825 miles of beautiful beaches to enjoy.”
The survey results reported the following:
n 15-17 percent were less likely to want to visit Sarasota, Bradenton, Naples, Marco Island.
n 19-20 percent were less likely to want to visit Northwest Florida.
n 15 percent were less likely to want to visit Miami Beach.
n 12 percent were less likely to want to visit the Keys.
“It’s a statewide challenge and it really needs a statewide response to show every one of our miles of beaches are clear,” Seccombe said.
Shortly after the BP oil spill, the Bradenton Herald initiated a special online report titled Our Manatee Beaches. The report showcases local beaches with staff photo galleries, live webcams and allows readers to upload beach photos.
Elliott Falcione, interim director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, wrote to thank the Herald, saying the exposure “played a vital role in combatting the perception that our beaches were contaminated by the BP spill.”
The Bradenton CVB is notifying the local tourism industry of the Visit Florida project in an effort to gain local participation, Falcione said. Since the oil spill, the CVB has also been regularly updating its website with photos and videos that illustrate oil-free beaches.
Islanders say they are open to yet another project that will do the same but on a statewide basis.
“I think it’s a good way to get the tourist’s perspective of the beach,” said Mark Davis, owner of the Harrington House Bed and Breakfast in Holmes Beach. “It can’t be a bad thing if you’re showing the beach to everyone out there.”
June occupancy declined 1.4 percent in Manatee County, July dropped 0.6 percent and August declined 1.9 percent. September rebounded with a 2.4 percent increase and islanders hope Visit Florida’s project will help tourism build locally.
“I think it’s going to be great exposure,” said Mary Ann Brockman, president of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce. “It’s just become second nature for tourists to look at webcams and photos while they’re on our website. I’m hoping a lot of the visitors do the same at Visit Florida.”