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$7M plan aims to bring more tourists to Brevard

Advertising campaign would market Space Coast

The sun rises behind the clouds as fishermen try their luck along the Indian River in Riverfront Park in Titusville, Fla., Thursday, July 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) (Associated Press)

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Brevard County new tourism director is proposing a $7.15 million promotion and advertising campaign for the coming budget year to market the Space Coast to potential visitors, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.

Space Coast Office of Tourism Executive Director Peter Cranis said he is using his experience working for Visit Orlando to help craft his plan for Brevard County for the budget year that begins Oct. 1. Cranis was vice president of global consumer and convention marketing for Visit Orlando from 1999 to 2016.

The plan also incorporates input from members of the Brevard County Tourist Development Council's Marketing Committee, which held a two-hour workshop on the topic last month.

Among the highlights of the plan are a focus on persuading tourists who come to the Orlando area to also visit the Space Coast; marketing to tourists who drive to the Space Coast from other parts of Florida; and attracting families with children whose annual household income is $75,000 or more. 

Other strategies include going after affluent families with more than $100,000 in annual household income; millennials; tourists who fly in to the Space Coast from such key markets as Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina; and international visitors from Canada, the United Kingdom and Brazil.

Cranis sees this as the first year of a three-year campaign to build more brand awareness of the Space Coast to potential tourists.

Tourism is a $2.1 billion-a-year industry in Brevard County, and is responsible for about 26,000 jobs. So the tourism marketing plan is a crucial component of local economic development.

Here are a dozen things to know about the campaign and its funding. The plan was unanimously approved last week by the Marketing Committee after some debate, and now will go to the Tourist Development Council for consideration. It will be part of the 2018-19 county budget that Brevard County commissioners will vote on in September.

Five promotional segments: The plan will have five promotional segments: an "always-on" annual campaign ($1.65 million); a fall/holidays campaign from October through December ($450,000); a winter/spring vacation campaign from January through March ($1.5 million); a summer vacation campaign from April through June ($2 million); and a late-summer/back-to-school campaign from July through September ($400,000).

Cranis said the bulk of the spending will occur from January through June because that's when tourists are planning for vacations that will occur during the peak travel periods.

"You want to fish where the fish are," Cranis said.

Additional money will be spent throughout the year on the Office of Tourism visitor website, media relations, sports marketing, travel to promote tourism and membership dues.

The overall spending is up more than 4% from about $6.85 million being spent in the current budget year.

Funded by hotel tax: The tourism marketing efforts are funded by Brevard County's 5% Tourist Development Tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals, a tax that is projected to raise about $16 million in the current 2018-19 budget year and $16.6 million in the 2019-20 budget year.

The tax also funds other categories of tourism-related spending — for beach improvement, tourism capital facilities, the Brevard Zoo, the USSSA Space Coast Complex, cultural marketing and visitor information centers.

Some familiar themes: The campaigns will have some familiar themes, including the Space Coast having "Orlando's closest beach," space launch viewing opportunities, cruising from Port Canaveral and nature/fishing/trails tourism.

Cranis noted that the Space Coast Office of Tourism needs to be aggressive about promoting its beaches, in light of a well-funded campaign by rival Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, which is heavily promoting the beaches on Florida's west coast with a "West Coast, Best Coast" marketing effort aimed at the Orlando market.

Super Bowl promotion: The Office of Tourism plans to build a four-week promotional campaign in Miami around the Super Bowl, which will held there on Feb. 2.

Cranis said the Office of Tourism will be part of a Super Bowl consumer show in Miami in a joint effort with the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, which will bring a replica of the Mars Rover to the venue.

International push: Cranis said he wants to put more of a focus on attracting international visitors to the Space Coast, particularly from Canada, the United Kingdom and Brazil.

For that effort, Cranis plans to work with Brand USA, a destination marketing organization whose goal is to increase international tourism to the United States, as well as with the KSC Visitor Complex and with tourism marketing partners based in the target countries.

International marketing will account for $200,000 in spending overall.

Media allocation: The biggest single component of the media allocation will be for digital and social media ($1.6 million), including for projects with Facebook, Google and online banner advertising. Other major components include spending for digital television and cable television ($1.55 million), as well as for billboards, particularly along Interstates 95 and 75 ($600,000). A category that includes other "out of home" advertising, including promotions at airports and other transit facilities and other billboards, accounts for $1.05 million of the spending.

Hotelier and Tourist Development Council member Bob Baugher contended at the Marketing Committee meeting that even more should be spent on billboards, since the "drive market" of tourists driving to their destinations is a key for the Space Coast.

Baugher was an innovator of using billboard advertising in his previous management  position at Ron Jon Surf Shop, and still uses billboards extensively to market his Cocoa Beach Surf Co. hotel and retail complex in Cocoa Beach.

Radio promotions: Cranis proposes using about $200,000 of the $350,000 he has budgeted for radio advertising in a new way.

He wants to bring the hosts of popular morning radio shows in key markets like New York and Toronto to the Space Coast to tour the area and to broadcast their morning shows on location from Brevard County for two or three days, promoting the Space Coast in the process.

Cranis envisions the radio hosts bringing on as guests himself, as well as representatives of local tourist attractions like the KSC Visitor Complex and the Brevard Zoo.

Video productions and apps: The Office of Tourism has produced three episodes of a space-themed show, "Rocket Talk," and plans to do more.

It hopes to offer the shows to a cable television network for wider distribution.

Cranis said he is suggesting that the Office of Tourism develop new phone apps to accompany the one it has introduced for space launches. Potential topics include cruises from Port Canaveral and nature tourism.

Luring airlines: Cranis is proposing setting aside $100,000 in the 2019-20 budget for "airline partnership" efforts, to help attract new air service to Orlando Melbourne International Airport.

"I'm a big believer in working with the airlines" directly, rather than through the airport, Cranis said.

Cranis said one current prospect, a midsized airline, in considering coming into the Melbourne market in late-2019 with service to several "second-tier" cities.

New Office of Tourism logo: Cranis said the Office of Tourism needs to consider updating its logo, which features a rocket that has the silhouette of the space shuttle, which stopped flying in 2011. 

Cranis said it might be better to feature a launch vehicle that looks more like the ones that will fly astronauts to the moon and Mars in future missions.

Staffing additions, replacements: Cranis in planning to add a new in-house staff position of public relations manager to work in conjunction with an agency the Office of Tourism has under contract.

He also plans to create a position of travel industry relations manager to work in the  international market, as well as with domestic travel agents and tour operators.

Even with the addition of those positions, the Space Coast Office of Tourism's staffing level will remain below that of similarly sized competitors.

Cranis also is working to fill four existing in-house positions that currently are vacant because of retirements or resignations: assistant director, marketing director, social media content coordinator and digital marketing administrator.

Numbers look strong: Cranis said the Office of Tourism is on target to meet its projections for $16 million in tourism tax revenue for the current budget year, based on the latest-available figures that run through May.

"May Tourist Development Tax was exactly on budget, which is great news going into summer," Cranis said. "I have heard from industry people that June was also a good month and that advanced bookings for July are strong.  All this bodes well for making our $16 million budget. We are now nearly 2% ahead of last year, which was the previous record year for TDT tax collections," with $15.58 million collected.

Baugher said there are three things that make Space Coast tourism more resilient to potential downturn in the economy: having the closest beaches to the Orlando-area theme parks, having the world's second-busiest cruise port and being the home for rocket launches.