Coast This Holiday
Campaign promoting holiday tourism on Alabama Gulf Coast
GULF SHORES, Alabama — Alabama Gulf Coast tourism officials are promoting a new marketing campaign that urges everyone planning to celebrate a “white Christmas” this holiday season to visit the sugar-white sands along the warm Gulf beaches.
The “Coast This Holiday” marketing campaign kicked off just before Thanksgiving and will continue to New Year’s, said Linda Whitlock, director of the Alabama Gulf Coast Chamber. The campaign is a joint effort by the Gulf Coast Chamber and South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce to draw visitors back to the area after the BP PLC oil spill, Whitlock said.
“We wanted to do a promotion for our businesses for holiday shopping,” she said. “We wanted to do something that would incorporate our Foley, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach triangle.”
The chambers have set up a Web site, coastthisholiday.com, that includes a list of special events going on in south Baldwin during the holidays.
“It kicked off last week, right before the Thanksgiving holiday shopping,” Whitlock said of the Web site. “It really is nice and there is a lot going on; the Christmas parades and Christmas in the park and the Coastal Chorale, South Baldwin Community Theater, things at the zoo, all kinds of stuff.”
The campaign is aimed at residents in other parts of the state, Gary Ellis of Compass Marketing said. Ellis is working with the chambers to set up and run the campaign.
“It’s geared toward Alabama residents since those are our most loyal visitors,” he said. “The message of the campaign is that we’re still open for business and they should consider coming on down.”
While some visitors come down for post-Thanksgiving sales at locations such as the Tanger Outlet Center, many people are not aware of all the local holiday events and attractions, Donna Watts, director of the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce, said.
“We wanted them to know that there are a lot of special things going on here and they might want to come back or come for Christmas holidays because that can be very special on the Gulf Coast too,” Watts said. “We want to continue to remind our market that we are here and that we welcome them with open arms and the beaches are wonderful, even if it is wintertime, and the food is delicious here.”
While many events are going on, November and December have the smallest number of visitors, Whitlock said. The summer tourist season is over and the largest number of winter visitors, or snowbirds, do not arrive until January.
Gulf Coast/Orange Beach Tourism, the area convention and visitors bureau, is working on marketing efforts to bring people back for the largest part of the season starting next spring, Whitlock said. In the meantime, efforts such as “Coast This Holiday” can promote the region and remind potential visitors that the area is attractive year-round, she said.
“That’s why we’re trying to build that and get the word out that we are here that it’s a great place to shop and come down and spend a few days here, spend the Christmas holidays here and bring the family,” Whitlock said. “The season, historically, has been Memorial Day to Labor Day, so we’re hoping to extend that season that much further and make a bit of an impact for our retailers.”
Whitlock said the money for the campaign came from funds intended to promote the BP claims process. When the Gulf Coast Claims Facility took over the reimbursement process, some money was left in the BP marketing fund. That money is being spent on holiday marketing efforts, she said.
Ellis said the campaign began with a “soft opening” in local media, including newspapers, radio and television, last week. The campaign is now being extended to outlets statewide.