"For us, May through September is not the coolest time in the world to get tourists," says Steve Hayes, exec VP, Tampa/Hillsborough Convention & Visitors Association, as he understated the marketing challenge. "So we ran a campaign during that time and broke away from what we had been doing."
Moving beyond heavy dependence on Busch Gardens collateral advertising, Mr. Hayes extended Tampa tourism media choices to include direct-mail pieces and print ads to get results. Tampa outdoor and heritage options were promoted.
But best of all, the city looked in its own back yard for visitors, advertising in other Florida cities.
"In Miami, for example, people who heard about Busch also heard about Tampa in another way." says Mr. Hayes.
The Tampa group sent out six postcards, one every other week of the campaign. Those postcards arrived the same time ads appeared in the Florida papers.
"The ads reinforced the postcards," he says. "We sent cards to a three-year database of people in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tallahassee and Jacksonville. When they called, our operators were instructed not only to give information but to try and coax a reservation out of them."
The carrot for these in-state tourists was the recent revamping of the waterfront and Ybor City, the entertainment district.
In addition, the association used spot TV in those same markets.
"And for time period of the campaign, 20,000 inquiries came directly into the tourism office, which resulted in more than 3,000 room nights in Tampa."