BRADENTON – “You’ll be back.”
That’s the new message that Manatee County tourism officials will be sending to visitors, the Tourist Development Council (TDC) learned Monday.
The county’s current marketing brand (“Real. Authentic. Florida.”) will not change, said Dave DiMaggio, of Aqua, the county’s tourism marketing consultant.
The brand shouldn’t change unless the community it represents changes, agreed Elliott Falcione, director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).
“Do you expect the characteristics of Anna Maria Island to change? Hopefully not,” he said.
The new slogan will not only target first-time visitors, but continue to target tourists who already have been to the destination, DiMaggio said.
Unlike catch and release fishing, he said, “We’re not going to let them go.”
Most tourism destinations advertise “Please come visit,” he said, adding “We’re going to move beyond that,” persuading visitors that their first visit won’t be their last.
“We’ll be telling them before they come, while they’re here and after they leave that they’ll be back,” DiMaggio said.
To that end, Aqua plans to create for the county an online streaming radio station so that visitors can stay connected to the destination after they return home, he said. In addition, a new e-commerce site will offer merchandise branded with the county’s tourism brand and slogan, and a new mobile app will promote upcoming events. Another feature will count down the days, hours and minutes until a visitor’s vacation begins. A new magazine, Bradenton Gulf Islands Today, will feature stories about events, restaurants, visitor profiles and other information twice a year.
Beyond tourism, the goal is to get visitors to buy property or businesses in the county, DiMaggio said.
“After the third visit, they’re fantasizing about moving here. After the fifth visit, they’re actually looking for real estate or businesses,” he said.
Facebook presence growing
The county’s social media presence also will expand this year, said Kevin McNulty, president and CEO of Netweave Social Networking, the county’s social media consultant.
Netweave will add YouTube advertising to the county’s tourism tools and make its social media accounts compliant with federal ADA regulations to assist the disabled in accessing digital information, including providing alternative text for images and captioning videos, he said.
The county’s Facebook audience increased by 20% in 2019 over 2018, approaching 70,000 followers, McNulty said.
2019 tourism update
Manatee County tourism reached a milestone in 2019, with just over $1 billion in economic impact for the first time, said Anne Wittine, of Research Data Services, the county’s tourism consultant. The figure represents a 5% increase over 2018.
Visitation was up 8% for the year, with occupancy up 2.2%, primarily from the Florida, Midwest and European markets, she said.
December 2019, economic impact jumped by 14.2%, visitation was up 11.2%, occupancy increased by 8% and the number of licensed transient lodging establishments increased by 3.6%.