Lee County VCB reports successful summer performance
The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau (VCB) reported a 16.6 percent increase in visitors staying in paid accommodations for the months of June through August 2009, despite ongoing economic challenges affecting travel and corresponding decreases in competitive destinations.
On an equally positive note, the VCB also reported occupied rooms nights rose 4.6 percent; and average length of stay increased 6.2 percent for hotel/motel/resort/B&B and 9.1 percent for condo/cottage/vacation home for the same three-month summer period. Plus, average occupancy rose 4.5 percent.
“We’re very proud of our performance this summer, especially given the ongoing economic challenges we are facing,” said Suya Davenport, VCB executive director. She cited the recession that began in December 2007, high levels of unemployment, the “AIG Effect” in which companies are revamping the way they plan conferences, upward climbing gas prices, and the H1N1 virus outbreak as just a few of the broad issues impacting travel to the destination.
Davenport attributed the destination’s successful summer performance to hard work by tourism industry partners and the VCB’s aggressive year-round marketing program, particularly the destination’s Summer Sanctuary promotion that spotlighted the area’s unique attractions and vacation adventures with exceptional vacation packages for consumers.
The program generated approximately 29.8 million consumer impressions, and initial results show that the campaign landing page on the consumer Web site at www.FortMyersSanibel.com had approximately 25,000 page views and nearly 17,000 visitors during the promotional time period. Web traffic in general to the site for the promotional time period increased 10 percent over the same time period in 2008.
“Our tourism industry partners really stepped up to deliver valuable vacation offers to consumers in our Summer Sanctuary promotion. Their support made the program a success,” said Davenport.
She also cited the VCB’s successful Internet marketing campaign. After five deployments of an e-mail campaign to the VCB’s opt-in (people opted to receive information) database of more than 125,000 visitors, the organization is seeing an average open rate of 32 percent. Typically a 15 percent open rate for a comparable organization would be a positive success story.
And she pointed to The Beach Brings Balance online sweepstakes for the year, which has generated traffic of 395,439 visitors and more than 14,200 opt-ins, helping to push the VCB’s opt-ins up 20 percent over last year. In 2008, the VCB ran the Treasure Your Trip sweepstakes that helped drive staggering increases in opt-ins, so Davenport is enthused to see that The Beach Brings Balance program is working just as hard and still increasing opt-in rates over last year’s impressive numbers.
But not all of the news for the destination is as positive. Expenditures for the three summer months dropped 10.8 percent, average daily rate was down 10.4 percent, and revenue per available room (RevPAR) decreased 6.3 percent.
“We know we are continuing to face challenges moving forward,” Davenport said. “We’re certainly not resting on our laurels. When developing our 2009-2010 marketing plan, we conducted a comprehensive analysis of data sources to develop a new model for evaluating and measuring performance.”
Davenport said the VCB worked with its marketing communications agency bvk to identify the measurable factors that directly impact visitation revenues and then used historical data to determine how these factors have trended over time. The team then developed business scenarios that demonstrate if and how these factors can lead to the VCB’s desired performance goals.
As part of this process, it was determined a scenario that is the most realistic to achieve the organization’s business goals for its coming fiscal year and then translated this scenario into the business objectives for the VCB’s 2009-10 integrated marketing plan. These business objectives, in turn, formed an organizing framework for the plan. In addition, quarterly measurements of key business measurements will highlight to what degree the organization is meeting its business objectives and what, if any, adjustments are needed in its approach to the marketplace.
“We wanted to narrow the focus of our efforts as much as possible in order to maximize our effectiveness in the marketplace,” added Davenport. “As a result, we have fundamentally altered the way we are approaching our marketing for the coming fiscal year.”
Davenport hopes to repeat the destination’s summer success story this fall, a traditionally slower time for visitation to the destination. The VCB has secured industry partners to host the second annual Islands FallFest promotion, which combines the area’s unique annual events and festivals with special rates and value-added deals for visitors.
The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel include Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Fort Myers Beach, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, Estero, Cape Coral, Pine Island, Boca Grande & Outer islands, North Fort Myers and Lehigh Acres.