Visit St. Pete/Clearwater has launched a new “Rise to Shine” marketing campaign that focuses on visiting Pinellas County safety and responsibly.
The new campaign is designed to help local businesses regardless of whether or not they cater to the tourism industry. It is meant to communicate a message to visitors about this community’s expectations about their role in helping stop the spread of COVID-19.
Latest research on traveler sentiment shows that those planning a vacation want to know what is being done in different destinations to keep them safe. According to VSPC staff, travelers are choosing destinations that have strict safety measures in place, such as Pinellas County’s face covering mandate.
The new campaign is designed to communicate what the county is doing and rebuild consumer confidence that Pinellas is a safe place to visit.
According to a press release from VSPC, Pinellas County continues to lead the state in many tourism metrics since it reopened its beaches. Nearly 50% of the nation’s travelers canceled 2.1 trips on average because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pinellas has sustained severe losses that are evident in the collection of Tourist Development Taxes, aka bed tax, which are charged by local hotels and other short-term rental accommodations.
In March, collections dropped by 48.59%, 89.31% in April and 56.46% in May. The most recent report is for June and shows collections are down by 24.32% compared to last year. Collections from October-June, collections are down 23.06% from 2019.
Forecasts for the remainder of the year show that travel will remain below normal. The county is now moving into the slowest time for tourism, September-November. However, research shows that beach destinations and small towns are the most likely destinations of leisure travelers during the fall and winter months. VSPC would like to encourage travelers to come to Pinellas County.
During an Aug. 18 Tourist Development Council meeting, Leroy Bridges, vice president of Digital & Communications, said the new Rise to Shine campaign is meant to move the county in a more positive direction. He said staff had worked closely with local chambers of commerce and municipalities to focus on sending a message targeting visiting safely and responsibly.
He said many travelers were unsure of requirements and restrictions in place at different states and cities. Travelers also want to know about the cleanliness standards being adopted by different hotels.
“They’re looking for information to determine if it is safe,” he said.
So VSPC developed a campaign that not only was vibrant and uplifting but also helped to communicate safety, including the need to were a mask and physical distancing. The mantra is Rise to Shine, “because in order to shine, we first must rise,” Bridges said.
A variety of marketing materials is available including posters that depict a beach scene, a water scene and one that features the new St. Petersburg Pier. Bridges said they would work well for all businesses in the county.
The posters and other marketing materials communicate the message, “Spread Out. Mask Up. Rise to Shine.”
Other marketing materials include yard signs, restroom mirror decals, restaurant table decals, rack cards, buttons, face masks, Dolphin Trail masks and more. Hand sanitizer and hand sanitizer stations also will be made available.
Bridges said since it is unknown how long the county’s mask mandate might be in effect, there is currently no end date set for the $1.95 million campaign that launched on Sept. 1. Current plans show the campaign continuing through Dec. 1.
“We want people to know we’re open for business, but when you come these are the expectations,” Bridges said.
In other business, the TDC approved a list of elite events that will be sent to the County Commission for funding approval.
Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at email@example.com.