Tourism is a given. That seems to be the prevailing attitude around town as everyone waits for the “real season” to begin in January. In fact, I will bet that more than 70 percent of all retail business plans are predicated upon a strong winter season that will carry everyone through the summer doldrums.
Perhaps in the past that was a pretty safe assumption, but unfortunately today that is just not good enough. For the past two years, the negative economic climate has wreaked havoc with our local economy. There is no reason to expect a massive reversal of this condition in the next few months. The “crisis” is playing out as I write this column, with terrible local results. Business is virtually at a standstill in many categories.
In fact, the “season” may turn into a disaster if the recession affects tourism in any significant way. As an optimist, I assume we will have an OK “season,” but what is going to happen next summer? To paraphrase Einstein, if we repeat the past, how can we expect different results?
So, let me use my pen (well, really my computer) to create my own bully pulpit and strongly suggest that we need to take a different marketing approach for addressing next summer. Here is my three-point plan:
1. We need a unified communication approach to marketing
We have at least six different organizations trying to define
So here is what I propose. Get all these factions together and have them actually work as a team to combine resources (including money) for the common good. Everybody comes to the table with their constituents, their wallets and their objectives and works together to build a comprehensive, aggressive and impactful marketing effort to promote the greater
How do we execute this plan? Let us use the City Alliance as both a model and the melting pot organization. All of the aforementioned groups will meet as a subcommittee of the
- We already do a restaurant week in early June. Let’s make it a whole month and then include a few other new projects. How about a June Wine Fest and/or move Corks and Forks into June?
- In July, we have the Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix powerboat races. Why not add a Concours d’Elegance auto exhibition and give people a reason to stay longer?
- In August, we could consider a Fashion Week. We could bring in top designers with the fall clothing lines. A friend at SunCoast Bank is looking to create that kind of high-end event in town.
- We could also do a second film festival over Labor Day weekend. It could be an international event or feature independent films, perhaps by working with the Sarasota Film Society.
- We should work with the Sarasota Film Festival to create monthly summertime events, such as tribute weekends that attract people from all over
- We need to work on getting business events to
3. We need to do more European marketing. The Convention and Visitors Bureau and others do some marketing, but we have to make it a priority and unite our efforts to drive summer tourism here. Our story is very strong because it is relatively less expensive to visit here for a vacation than to have the Germans, English or French go to
I do not pretend to have all the answers and some of my suggestions may take more time. But our problems are local. We have our own economic Hurricane Katrina. We cannot expect a bailout from the state or the federal governments.