Special Reports

Beach marketing efforts ramped up in face of spill

HOLMES BEACH — The Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau is ramping up its marketing efforts in light of the BP oil spill.

The local tourism bureau is seeking $600,000 from BP to launch advertising about clean beaches in Manatee County. In addition, bureau officials are meeting with tourism operators in the South and Germany to raise awareness that Anna Maria Island has not been affected by the April 20 spill.

“We need to continue to beat the drum so that everybody knows we’re a nice clean place to come to visit,” said Elliott Falcione, executive manager of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau during a tourism industry meeting at Holmes Beach City Hall on Wednesday.

The Bradenton tourism bureau organized the meeting to give local businesses an update on the initiatives it is pursuing to market Manatee County as an oil-free destination to tourists.

On July 18, Falcione will accompany local business leaders to Frankfurt, Germany with the primary goal of securing a contract with Condor Airlines to run flights to the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport.

However, during the three-day trip, Falcione said he and Viriginia Haley, executive director of the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau, plan to meet with tourism operators to market Manatee and Sarasota counties.

“While we’re there we will sit down face to face and raise awareness about our tourism destination,” Falcione said.

The trip to Germany comes after Kerri Alderson, sales representative for the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, recently visited 19 AAA branches throughout the South.

Alderson said she met with AAA managers in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee to advertise Anna Maria Island and Bradenton to drive markets and tourists who typically vacation in the Panhandle, where oil has come ashore.

“We wanted to let them know we are a long ways away from the oil,” Alderson said.

Kristen Moriarty, owner of Almost Heaven Kayak Adventures, said her Sarasota business saw a 30 percent increase in June from June 2009 as a result of tourists rearranging travel plans.

“Much of that 30 percent increase came from people who had booked vacations in the Panhandle and decided to come here or were those who decided to come here earlier just in case we are hit,” Moriarty said.

The Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau is now considering its options for the $600,000 it is hoping to receive from BP.

The tourism bureau on June 22 requested the Manatee County Commission to write a letter to BP requesting the funds.

Falcione said the convention and visitors bureau is considering spending the money on a web camera to be installed on a lifeguard stand on Bradenton Beach as well as advertising targeting tourists within driving distance. The ads would be launched before the school year begins.

Falcione, however, asked the estimated 15 tourism business owners in attendance to implement their own initiatives for marketing that Anna Maria Island has a 1 percent chance of seeing any oil, according to a study released Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“We’ve got to work together on this,” Falcione said. “Spread the word to your colleagues in the industry.”

David Teitelbaum, board president and rental manager of the Tortuga Inn, Tradewinds and Seaside Inn, said he is using social networking, websites and web cameras to market his Anna Maria Island resorts.

“We have been promoting clean beaches to our list of 20,000 customers,” Teitelbaum said. “We’re constantly communicating with our customers and our websites are so important with that.”