Thursday, June 24, 2010

St. Augustine Record editorial: Will 'Florida's Historic Coast' spell higher tourism dollars?

Will 'Florida's Historic Coast' spell higher tourism dollars?
Posted: June 24, 2010 - 12:08am

As St. Augustine approaches 450 years as the nation's oldest continuously occupied European settlement in today's United States, a new brand name is emerging to draw visitors to St. Johns County: Florida's Historic Coast.

We'll still be the Nation's Oldest City but the tourism industry is counting on "Florida's Historic Coast" to give the county an extra bump up when it comes to drawing visitors especially for 2013 to 2015, the grand three-year birthday celebration. Excitement is building for the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Florida by Ponce de Leon in 1513 and the founding of St. Augustine by Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1565. Officials hope visitors will connect that history with St. Augustine and St. Johns County. They hope the words, "historic" and "coast" spell out St. Johns County's place as a multi-faceted vacation spot. We do, too. Tourism is our major economy and we need the economic boost to bring us out of the recession we are in.

The benefit to the county -- St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, the Beaches -- is not only in the expenditures for overnight stays but also other expenditures visitors make. For example, there's the morning coffee and bottle of water, many meals, attractions admissions, sightseeing tours, souvenirs, gas, groceries and the products left behind that are essential to the vacation. A three-day stay, estimated at $500 for a couple, quickly becomes more like $800 with all the above is added in. Add it up yourself the next time you go on a trip.

Florida's Historic Coast will be more than just the slogan in advertisements. If you listen long enough to Richard Goldman, executive director of the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau, and Glenn Hastings, the county's Tourist Development Council director, they will convince you that Florida's Historic Coast's general economy will be the big winner. They hope visitors will generate data for tourism research via surveys and other contact means that will set the pace for the economy's future. The VCB and the TDC intend to use those comments to develop new strategies to bring in more visitors and help the county's overall economic base. We see this research invaluable in this competitive tourism state which will be on the rebound over the next three to five years.

The Florida's Historic Coast slogan was developed in conjunction with the VCB's marketing company, Y Partnership, as part of its annual $264,000 contract. Y Partnership also handles the VCB's media purchases, too. Like the rest of the county, we have high hopes for the success of the new slogan and confidence in the tourism research's value to our future.

St. Johns County hosts about 4.5 million visitors annually. Whatever we can learn from them will improve our economy. County visitors spent almost $712 million here last year. We look for the "Florida's Historic Coast" branding to help that visitor impact grow.

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