MANATEE -- Elliott Falcione has set his sights on the Republican Party, but hes not running for office.
The executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau has crafted a marketing plan he hopes will draw GOP visitors to Manatee this summer.
Nearly 50,000 out-of-state journalists, delegates and party volunteers will flock to Hillsborough and its surrounding communities for the Republican National Convention from Aug. 27-30 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Tourism officials compare the events economic impact to that of the Super Bowl -- putting thousands of people in hotel beds, filling seats at restaurants and selling tickets to area attractions.
Just a short drive south, Falcione is working to ensure Manatee County and Anna Maria Island enjoy a share of that stimulus.
The Tampa and St. Petersburg area already is our No. 1 feeder market, Falcione said. When you add a convention of that magnitude to the mix, we wanted to make sure we increased the awareness of our destination.
The visitors bureau has formulated a plan to spend $75,000 of its $2 million annual marketing budget on the Republican National Convention.
The package includes two billboards on Interstate 275 near Tampa welcoming GOP visitors, an advertisement in the events official visitor guide and another in Politico Magazine.
Falcione hopes to capture overflow once hotels closer to the venue are booked.
But his primary goal is to draw convention visitors to Anna Maria Island for a day trip or to lure them to the convention bureaus website, where hes confident they will book a return stay with their families.
The events demographic also plays right into Manatees hands.
The average age of Anna Maria visitors is 52, with a household income of about $100,000. The delegates and party donors invited to the national convention closely fit that profile.
Its a perfect opportunity to increase our market share to a target demographic, Falcione said. We hope to plant a seed in their minds so they go to our website, find out about the destination and book a vacation back.
Falcione said many Manatee hotels, especially those near Interstate 75, already are reporting strong reservations for that week, which traditionally falls in the heart of summers slow season.
Denver, which hosted the last Democratic National Convention in 2008, reported a regional economic impact of $266.1 million. Similarly, the Minneapolis-St. Paul host committee said the 2008 Republican National Convention generated nearly $170 million in new money for the local economy, according to information provided by those cities.
Im not going to tell you this will work, but its a great idea, said David Teitelbaum, a hotelier on Anna Maria who also sits on the Manatee Tourist Development Council. From a direct marketing point of view, its certainly worth a shot.
Tourism is one of Manatees biggest economic engines, bringing nearly three million overnight visitors annually to the county, many whom are repeat guests.
Tourism stakeholders said the biggest challenge always is getting visitors here for the first time. They hope the convention helps.
Many will get the opportunity to explore the area, and they may want to stay a little longer or come back, said Ashok Sawe, owner of the Palm Tree Villas in Holmes Beach. It happens all the time.
Josh Salman, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @JoshSalman